I spoke with conviction that without a feasible model that generates enough money, there is hardly a soul who would like to invest themselves whole heartedly into the pursuit of sustainability, and this explained the lack of talent in this field despite good intentions.
What we have been brought up to do is follow small practices in our everyday life, the 4Rs wherever possible. However, when I was given a picture of what complete sustainability looks like, it freaked me out. It meant going back through the ages and living on hand-me-downs for your entire life. It meant living without producing any waste at all. Whatever comes out of the earth should go right back into it.
This is the picture that Padam Shri Ms Janak Palta McGilligan conjured in my mind as I spoke with her between her sessions and throughout her talk at IRIS 2016. I have been firmly advocating the sustainable development goals since the day they got adopted by the UN, however this made me stop and think about if I was sufficiently dedicated to the cause. I realised I wasn’t.
The question isn’t whether you stand for sustainability. It is how much are you ready to give up for it.
I never waste electricity or water, even for a second, sometimes to the annoyance of my friends who have no regard for nature. I stare at people if they litter – until they feel embarrassed enough to find a dustbin. I fight with my parents if they begin to throw something out of the car window – since 5th grade when I learnt it is bad at school. Our house was the first one to stop bursting crackers in the entire colony when I was in 6th grade and participated in a painting competition that was based on this theme. I hesitate to throw anything away until I am certain it cannot be used anymore. I am highly mindful of what I buy to an extent that my mom considers it necessary to shop with me so that I can have some comforts we can afford. Is this enough? I don’t think it is.
I am stuck in the path of negotiation where the only limits are those I put. Sometimes I try to argue myself out of the dilemma thinking that the world and the markets will adjust themselves to a state where humans still manage to sustain. This is nothing but self serving logic though and I understand this is not how things work. I am easily taken by any argument that proclaims apocalypse unless we adopt certain practices. However going the full way is too much. Our civilization as a whole has worked towards creating a comfortable environment and if we do not take full advantage of it, then it would be disrespectful to their genius.
Having said that, it is also not right if we are partial to our comforts when we take advantage of our progress. We should be humbled by nature – because we now understand its bounty much better than our ancestors. It is thus the pursuit of knowledge that I advocate more than anything else.
How much do I wish to give up for sustainability? Nothing at all. Sustainability needs to be sustainable in itself – not a communist concept which fails when it strikes against basic human nature. Nevertheless, if your nature is so noble, as was of the great person I had the pleasure of meeting, I wish I could be more like you. Your ideas add to the pool of knowledge that we are ever hungry for. For the rest, strike your own informed balances.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of Hiral Arora, an IPM IIM Indore student. They do not reflect the ideas of the institute in any way.