What The Hell Are We Doing ? At All ?

Three things I caught on the great expanse of the WWW recently:

The Home Project has one of the best made videos I've seen on the planet and its issues. Its long, at 1hr 33mins, but totally worth a watch. Am planning to screen it in our apartment clubhouse over the next week.

This talks about the problems of the planet from the point of view of how it got formed, why life flourished in and helped accelerate the changes that happened over 4 billion years and what the impact that the the last ten thousand years' activities are having on reversing those changes that support life. A sense of whats holistic, whats important as a species as opposed to what matters in the day to day of an individual, and why these are sometimes at loggerheads, is strongly communicated.

Along the same lines, a more direct call to action is made by the Story of Stuff. (At 20 minutes, this is a much shorter video though there's a lot of new vocabulary thats). There's a direct linkage established between our consumption patterns (and the reasons those exist) to the unsustainability of the model.

And finally, the Onion did a satirical take on most people's stated concern about the environment, and congestion. Of course we all want better air, cleaner rivers, less crowded roads. But there are so many others who could do that for us! Of course we know that air-conditioning ends up causing more heat which justifies more air-conditioning .... but right now its a little warm and I'd rather feel cool.

The choices - often for that extra bit of "convenience" - we make today have costs. And the costs may be mounting rather more rapidly than we as a species can afford to.

Delhi loses 10000+ people to air-pollution related causes every year, and 4% of deaths in the US are linked to the same. If those numbers came off air/train disasters, we'd be gunning for so many heads it would shake up governments. But hey, this is not really immediate, is it ? Its just that a huge percentage of our kids will lead sucky, unhealthy lives.

If now is not the time to take dramatic, drastic steps, I don't know where we're headed as a species. Sure, you can argue that "global warming" might have happened irrespective, but the amount of carbon we helped free up (mostly in the last 50 year - just 50!) from its trapped pockets into the atmosphere is something thats not happened "despite us". And its something thats likely to have a huge impact on life as we know it.

But then, no species survives indefinitely. Its just that some of the pointers (listed below) hint that we're playing catalyst towards our own end.
  • By the turn of the century, there'll be nothing left to mine!
  • The population has trebled since 1950 - I'm actually wondering if lower mortality having been achieved before education/sustainability will really kill us all, and achieve quite the opposite.
  • We continue to be carbon-derived energy dependent despite having realized its ills a long time ago
  • Individually - we cannot seem to take "a little more sweat" or a little extra inconvenience of any form to reduce our impact. This is seen in choices people always make as affluence sets in.
  • 2% people hold 50% of our wealth.
  • Most poor live in resource rich countries!
  • There may be no ice-caps left in the summers as early as 2015 (thats merely 6 years away!) or in the best case, by 2030 (our kids will be younf adults)
  • Freshwater reserves, rainforests which recharge them, wetlands which clean it are shrinking dramatically, and we haven't shown signs of stopping-it-right-now!
By some estimates, in another 10 years it will be too late to reverse what we've done. One does get a sense that natural forces are beginning to deliver us the natural equivalent of "one tight slap". Its proving to be so tough to shake off our inertia and move towards common goals of saving our skins. Right now, we're busy adding neon signs and gloss for individual selves in whatever time we have left.

We - are - so - screwed. And we do not even acknowledge it! I might sound like a prophet-of-doom-on-a-pessimistic day, but I think its critical that - starting now - we err on the side of caution. This is one issue where a 100% proof of causes and effects may be available too late.

Update: What really matters to Bangaloreans ... ?

1 comment:

Big Foot said...

You hit the nail on the head here!

Terms like 'Global Warming', 'Climate Control' etc have become fad terms. Many people think it's cool to throw in one of these 'hip' phrases when talking just about anything.

This can still be dealt with. How does one deal with apathy? On an average 1 out of maybe 50 people whom I might have spoken with has ever expressed a serious concern about these issues and the want to do something for it.

I was telling one of my colleagues about the recent news that while most parts of India are facing droughts this season, Kosi is still flooding on the Indo-Nepal border. His reaction to this, "apne ko is sab jhanjhat se kya lena dena?" sums up the mindset of the other 49 people.