A friend of mine recently shared this article on his fb. I generally don’t react to a lot of stuff these days. Somehow for some strange reason this one brought back the argumentative Indian in me and i ended up arguing a lot with myself about its contents :D.
The article was a general critique about the hooplah around the “Earth Hour”. What pissed me off had nothing to do with that. It was some of this stuff like..
“Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity”
“Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed”
The first one inherently assumes the goodness of the “material social advance“..Whether it is necessarily an “advance” or not is questionable in the first place! .. The last line is what irritates me the most i.e., “After all that’s how the west developed“. I think this is the new age “White man’s burden”. (Note: White is a metaphor for the “developed” he/she might as well be in the third world!). This assumption that third world has to rise up and develop like the west and that the way the west developed is the way forward for the rest of the world.. as if it is the ‘noble eight fold path’ irks me a lot. The reason why the third world today is third world needs no new explanation. Not too long ago these very countries had some of the biggest reserves of resources.
And best of all was this line.. i still do not understand the real meaning of this one.. except for the life expectancy stuff which perhaps is true .. though i haven’t really done my own research on this bit..
For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature.
But i really feel it is an extremely “myopic” view of “living in nature” .. perhaps the author comes from a mindset where the culture doesn’t have enough artifacts that reflect the glory of past well enough. I really don’t know. But anybody who knows the charms of the traditional ways of east cannot but disagree with this. ( Tradition does NOT mean some static edifice stamped and sealed thousands of years back which doesn’t change. Tradition does NOT mean some orthodox rigid system that resists change. For all that i know the traditional ways did “evolve” and “embrace” a lot of new things as time progressed)
I have blogged in the past few months about these very issues here, here, here and here and a lot many more! My blogging may not make an iota of difference to the ways of the world. But it is important for me that i think and if possible.. if feasible.. if doable act as well :)
The second painful aspect of this story is that a technological fix will fix almost all the negatives. It is like saying… if coal is bad .. go solar and lo! you are done! . This whole of attitude of considering this problem as having a “technological fix” shocks me. I am reminded of a long article i once read .. it is a very long article but some paragraphs did strike me hard coz i was thinking exactly that back then! .. a couple of paragraphs relevant to the current post here.
“… Build enough of the right kind of energy technologies, quickly enough, to generate the power we “need” without producing greenhouse gases, and there will be no need to ever turn the lights off; no need to ever slow down.
To do this will require the large-scale harvesting of the planet’s ambient energy: sunlight, wind, water power. This means that vast new conglomerations of human industry are going to appear in places where this energy is most abundant. Unfortunately, these places coincide with some of the world’s wildest, most beautiful, and most untouched landscapes. The sort of places that environmentalism came into being to protect.
And so the deserts, perhaps the landscape always most resistant to permanent human conquest, are to be colonized by vast “solar arrays,” glass and steel and aluminum, the size of small countries. The mountains and moors, the wild uplands, are to be staked out like vampires in the sun, their chests pierced with rows of five-hundred-foot wind turbines and associated access roads, masts, pylons, and wires. The open oceans, already swimming in our plastic refuse and emptying of marine life, will be home to enormous offshore turbine ranges and hundreds of wave machines strung around the coastlines like Victorian necklaces. The rivers are to see their estuaries severed and silted by industrial barrages. The croplands and even the rainforests, the richest habitats on this terrestrial Earth, are already highly profitable sites for biofuel plantations designed to provide guilt-free car fuel to the motion-hungry masses of Europe and America.
What this adds up to should be clear enough, yet many people who should know better choose not to see it. This is business-as-usual: the expansive, colonizing, progressive human narrative, shorn only of the carbon. It is the latest phase of our careless, self-absorbed, ambition-addled destruction of the wild, the unpolluted, and the nonhuman. It is the mass destruction of the world’s remaining wild places in order to feed the human economy. And without any sense of irony, people are calling this “environmentalism.”
So that is that. I do not understand those who worship the “boons” of the modern day post industrial societies. Neither do i really understand the new age environmentalists who feel that going solar may perhaps resolve everything. What i do understand is stuff like above or like the one’s spoken of by E.F.Schumacher or people like Gandhi-Kumarappa.. but the problem is that those who worship the former obviously do not understand the merits of this and we ended up where we are today. I think when i am 60 the world would be debating exactly these questions (In small pockets it already is! Perhaps it always was :P). So these are questions for my lifetime perhaps. I hope i can help in assisting in the efforts to provide some answers. But then again i have hoped for a lot of things already in the past few months :D .. Just for a quick recap.. the questions :)
Q1) Is the way the west developed in the 20th century the only way forward now for the third world? (I remember reading somewhere that we would need 6 earths if the whole world has to live like in the US ;) )
Q2) Is a mere technological fix i.e., a shift from lets say a coal to a solar based energy just enough to undo all the wrongs (if any!)
Q3) Does living in sync with nature really mean a life of penury, darkness, backwardness? (Whoosh! There goes centuries of human civilisation.. coz the 20th/21st century man has declared so :D)
PS: On a vacation of sorts now. So reading a lot of books, meeting a lot of friends, watching a lot of movies etc :)