The current condition of our world is intolerable and our decisions made it so…
We are facing a ‘completely out of control’ global warming due to accumulation of carbon in our atmosphere and all thanks to our decisions. We are facing growing water scarcity due to exploitation, encroachment and pollution of our streams and rivers, again thanks to our decisions. We are facing acute traffic congestion due to ever increasing expanse of our cities and our quest to move more people, goods and services over larger distances.
Yes, all this thanks to our decisions and I could go on and on…
Even when we see the causes, our decisions only try to hide the symptoms and not just fail to address the causes but usually reinforce the causes. This is not because we don’t know the causes, it’s because we seek to make decisions using the age old habits of making decisions that we have developed over the years.
You may be familiar with the story of Nassirudeen. When Nassirudeen lost his key in front of his door in the darkness of the night, he walked over to the lamppost to search for it, simply because that was where there was more light!
Much like Nassirudeen, we hate to grope in the dark when we can find light.
Our habit of refusing to grope in the dark has led us to where we stand. We have let our decisions be driven by the light of politics rather than the darkness of our own efforts.
We have let our decisions focus on expediency rather than the sustainable world we desire. We have allowed our decisions to be left with people and organisations of power. We have let our decisions be driven by familiar solutions instead of the right ones.
We have chosen to hide symptoms, not treat the causes. In doing so, we have let go of the leverage we have to set things right.
In the process of letting go our leverage to set things right, many of us have actively denied our knowledge of the causes to our problems. Many others have expressed helplessness, shrugged their shoulders, wished things were otherwise, assumed that we can do nothing, and continued to leave our choices to power and politics.
Finally, The solutions always lie with the causes.
The solutions do not lie with people or institutions of power, they lie with us. The people or institutions in power can only institutionalize our problems to gain more power.
If we want to make a difference to global warming, if we want to ensure our water security, if we want to ensure our roads are not congested, we need to take charge of our decisions. They are much too important to leave to power and politics.
It is the only thing that can change the world.
When you take the responsibility of your decisions, slowly but surely, we will find our way through the dark. After all India is a republic of we the people, not political parties or political institutions.
Our decisions decide what we value. Our values are what shape our culture. It is our culture, not politics, technologies, or markets that will sustain us. Let us take our responsibility as we the people for our culture, our values and our decisions are too important to leave to political institutions.
Let’s not forget, the key cannot be found under the lamppost. It can only be found groping in the dark where we lost it.
So, the next time you believe you can protect or add trees to your neighbourhood to absorb more carbon, simply do so. Next time you need to buy something decide, if you can do without it, use something you already have instead, or borrow it from friends and family. Next time you can give up exploiting water resources by contributing to its demand or commercialization, take a stand. Next time that you invest in real estate that is “well connected” to transportation, decide if you would rather live where you don’t need transportation.
Next time you need to make decisions, don’t let the short term overpower your interest in the short now – the lifetime of a child born today or a hundred years.
As my friend, philosopher and mentor and the pioneer of sustainability, Donella Meadows put it-
“When everyone is so sophisticated
that they can’t believe it could be simple to be honest and to care
And everyone is so smart that they know they don’t count so they never try
You get the kind of world we’ve got.
Maybe it’s worth thinking another way
as if we cared and we made a difference,
Even if it’s just groping in the dark.”
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph