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Wednesday, 19 May 2010






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Can we go on defying nature and her ways?

This week Iceland volcanic ash is again unleashed over air-space in Europe. With it blowing off to the Sub- Saharan African continent during the past few weeks; the global media’s attention on the issue was lukewarm at best. Since the disruptions at UK’s airports this weekend, nature’s release of its wrath is once again gaining the world’s attention.

Immense threat

The inundated city, a testimony to man’s unwise acts. Picture by Sulochana Gamage

Mother Earth seems to be punishing us from both ends. At the bottom of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, now for several weeks oil is leaking from a drill hole of an offshore oil rig. The threat to all forms of life around is immense. Thousands of barrels of chemicals are poured on to the ocean to disintegrate the thousands of barrels of oil (‘Black Gold’) gushing out each day, in what may be seen as yet another valiant demonstration of the human might in fighting our own follies and the resultant nature’s wrath.

The very mainstream global media that runs weeks of focused programing when Climate Change summits and Earth Days approaches seem to treat these as ‘events’ and natural calamities like the many others we have witnessed. Damage will be ‘estimated’, compensation to human ‘victims’ be paid, accountants and auditors will ‘balance’ the books and once again, we the human race, will choose to forgive and forget.

Empty noises

The telethons for World Earth Day, Internet Bloggers’ competitions leading to World Environment Day, the many conferences and other talk shops, where lots of ‘noise’ is made and dollars spent, will continue to be held. The same TV channels that hold the telethons calling for frugal living are throwing at us advert after advert of luxury goods encouraging wasteful lifestyles. The same magazines that feature cover stories singing praises for Mother Nature feature adverts and articles that present the merits of glitzy ways that are sure recipes for unsustainable living.

The UN is re-examining the validity of the scientific evidence of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) allegedly for a few errant scientists in the UK and the US, have opted to engage in an email exchange where they claimed they doctored data, to overstate the problem.

Some call it an attempt by a strong conventional energy lobby to delay the implementation of measures to mitigate, taken both at Kyoto and Copenhagen. These when taken-on by several key developed world contributors to global warming, can indeed place heavy costs on these companies. Others welcome it as an opportunity to clarify and further validate the scientific evidence presented by thousands of scientists from all over the world.

Wrath unleashed

The sad reality here though, is that Mother Nature seems to be sad, discontent and angry. The melting of the glaciers has not stopped. The harsh winters, temperature rises, torrent rains, droughts, tornados, raging forest fires are all happening at more rapid frequencies than the humans have witnessed ever before. Pandemics such as SARS, Chicken Gunya, H1N1, Swine Flu occurred in closer frequency in recent times, suggesting possible correlation of these to climate change issues. While the UN’s IPCC probe may buy time for the world’s political and corporate leadership; increase of sea levels will go on regardless.

Time for rethinking

Perhaps it is time for us humans to once again revisit the growth vs development debate which first surfaced in the 1960s, and has been placed on the back-burner since. It is true that well-hyped but marginalized attempts are made to address the issue through the UN Millennium Development Goals and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, within a UN Decade for Sustainable Development which is on till 2015.

Nevertheless, the very core of mainstream global economic activity is still driven by a ‘Big is better’ and ‘Greed is good’ type dominant agenda. Action for reviving the troubled global economy had little focus on correcting the fundamental flaws that led to the current crisis.

Propping up failed business models with huge packages of compensation was the chosen way forward. There was hope that the fundamentals were to be re-examined and solid action will be taken at last year’s Copenhagen Round on Climate Change. That was not to be.

Look to fundamentals

Perhaps it is time once again, for countries in Asia, to strongly contribute to an initiative to take solid action on this front. The G-15 Group chairmanship perhaps offers an opportunity for our leadership to drive it. It is time now more than ever for us to revisit the Asian philosophies and ideas of the likes of the Buddha and the Mahatma as articulated by E.F. Schumacher in his work “Small is Beautiful” of the 1970s, on turning our radars on alternative economic, business and lifestyle models. In the wake of the evidence and the limited options mankind has on the global warming front, revisiting the very basic fundamentals may offer the solutions sought by the world at large, for its future survival and development.

Respect natural limits

What is important about small, self-motivated and sustainable models of governance of people, economies, societies and business is that they are all based on the premise of looking inwards at our own selves and not on using might and muscle, on getting others to follow dominant ways.

They are all based on sufficient social and economic principles of thriftiness, simplicity and good governance always shunning thoughts of excessive greed and unsustainable living, not only determined by one’s own economic might, but by natural limits placed by Mother Nature herself.


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