‘Green living’: Why I grin and bear it
This sweeping definition does grave injustice to survival woes of millions and deftly hides the seriousness of humanity’s failed tryst with nature.
Sustainability is a big and often intimidating word in large swathes of the developed world made smaller by the virtual nature of the pandemic. This sweeping definition does grave injustice to survival woes of millions and deftly hides the seriousness of humanity’s failed tryst with nature.
It also evokes consternation when corporations, riding high on electricity usage and cash power, tell me how and when to switch off those attractive appliances that they happily seduce me with — the gadgets, the intelligent television set, those white goods: the smarter they are, the more sustainable they can be even if they are power-hungry. I admit I buy them with a vengeance at times but I am certainly not sold on the corporate interpretation of the idea.
But the sustainability factor is gaining traction in the modern woke language, which I view as mere tokenism, hence I am cold to its entreaties. For me, it’s about striking a balance with nature and giving all creatures great and small room to breathe without spewing toxic human waste on them. “Leave those beasts and their habitats alone, nature has a way of getting if you mess with the way it works,’’ I recollect by gran’s wise saying from my years as a kid.
She loved taking long walks in the fields surrounding our ancestral home, where all kinds of crops were cultivated. “You see God in nature,” she would say as she prayed and walked as workers cut, threshed and harvested what the earth gave us. I believe it was a spiritual journey, a sustainable way of life that my dad and his siblings eschewed for the allure of the bright lights of cities.
He recently told me he shouldn’t have settled in a city. I could sense the regret in his voice. “We could still go back to where we came from — the farm, the greenery,” I told him.
The thought has now been planted in me, but it hasn’t sprouted into action yet. Sustainable living needs action — not jargon, that I find more toxic than what we keep throwing at nature. Those who preach and promote this way of life haven’t understood how remote it remains to the underprivileged in developing and under-developed nations: the poor and the farmers for who life is a daily struggle that is consumed by dual issues of survival and sustenance.
On the other side of the power equation are those for who the world has given enough. Since earth has become unsustainable for the living, they seek greener planets and plot fantastical journeys to space and beyond. The likes of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are okay burning up tons of rocket fuel that add to atmospheric pollution. And we laud their achievements.
They can be forgiven on the polluted, smoky trail to greener goodness. There will be peace on earth once the rich have ravaged the earth of its resources.
For me, it’s been a clash, a dilemma between sustenance and sustainability; and the hypocrisy of our age is showing; the stench of warped development is visible in the way we have brought this pandemic upon ourselves. Call me a socialist if you will, but I am a natural at saying things the way they should be said.
Saving the earth sounds nice and fits well with corporate social responsibility, but I find it uncharitable when rich, or developed countries and corporations tell the former colonised lot, and the poor, about carbon footprint. This, after they have trampled upon their earth’s natural resources and left a footprint we will find hard to erase for generations.
So, what should our personal legacies on sustainability be? The answers begin at home. Our less will add more years to the blue planet: from the food we eat, to the garments we wear, to the cars we drive, to the ways we package our possessions. Use them longer and use them with care. Eat slowly and chew your home-cooked food well.
We will survive longer by ridding ourselves of plastic packaging and those plastic expressions and statements.
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