“Aren’t we killing our Golden Goose like the man with a golden goose?”, he looked at his father intently.
Startled, his father looked back at him. “What do you mean?”, he asked.
“Doesn’t our rain, come from our environment? And then, isn’t the environment our golden goose?”, he stated innocently.
His son’s simple assertion set off a train of thoughts in the father’s mind. What was the environment? Was it really like the goose laying the golden eggs, as asserted by his son? Were we really being greedy, like the farmer in Aesop’s fables, and killing the goose?
He remembered learning that the ‘environment’ is where we all live, and ‘development’ is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. What, then, does the environment give us? What will it stop giving us, were it to be killed, like the goose in the story?
Then he remembered the pictures of the clean water in the rivers sent by his friends across the country.
Were these rivers the golden eggs of the environment? Even after spending billions of rupees, for over 30 years, the development that he believed in had failed to clean the Ganga and Yamuna. Just after a month of lockdown, was environment laying the golden eggs in the form of freshwater?
He remembered the sickly air he had to breath every day on way to and back from work. In just two weeks after lockdown, he had felt so alive breathing the fresh and unpolluted air! Was this another golden egg laid by the environment?
He remembered noticing the beautiful blue sky after a few days of lockdown. The clear sky was free of the haze of pollution. It made the day feel so alive and fresh! Was this yet another of the golden eggs of the environment?
He looked back at his son in admiration.
Then he remembered his daughter’s penetrating question when they had read Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland. “Is that why you are twice as busy this month, as you were last month, dad?” He had just read the part where Alice was told “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
Everything that he did for the development that he believed in had to be faster and faster to keep the world livable. Only a few weeks of slowing the world due to the pandemic, and the pundits were already talking about how much we had fallen back!
Wasn’t sustainability his ability to stay in the same place, even walk ahead without having to run faster and faster? If development required doubling of GDP, double digit growth, even growth, to stay in the same place, how could it be sustainable development?
He felt like the foolish Shylock from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice asking for a pound of flesh from Bassanio.
He felt that being determined to take from the environment was like extracting the pound of flesh from Bassanio. It was an assertion to take what we thought was ours by right. It was our indifference to the consequences, uncaring of how it may affect anyone else. It was regardless of the consequences, just like Shylock’s insistence on a pound of flesh from Bassanio. He felt shame.
Somewhere in the years of growing up and becoming “successful”, he had forgotten that the earth was our home.
It was the home he would leave for his children, and their children. Without that home, without its ability to have its rivers flow, its air breath, and its skies light up in joy, there would be no wealth on earth.
He realized that we had built our world into market systems, banking systems, health systems, education systems, even representation systems where the actors were participants of the systems with the purpose of exploitation, rather than support of each other and the environment that facilitates these systems. The values, traditions, and institutions we had built were the very ones that made our activity in our world unsustainable.
His children had caused him to recognize the environment. They had caused him to doubt the values, traditions, and institutions that he was a part of. If his children had such clear insights, had the values, traditions, and institutions he participated in made him lose his?
What, he wondered, would the values, traditions, and institutions of a sustainable world be?
How could we replace our existing values, traditions, and institutions with ones where we had respect and care for the environment, the world that was our home? If it could be obvious to children that killing the environment is the same as killing the goose that gives us our golden eggs, what will it take for this to be embedded in our values, traditions, and institutions?
Could he ensure that he would not be part of any actions that destroy the environment? Could he ensure that he would not be part of any traditions or institutions insisting on growth? Could he de-addict those who were addicted to GDP and the growth value?
What could be more important, he wondered, than our respect and care of our environment and to protect our common future?
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph