Local materials for sustainable living
When a wound does not get cured despite varied treatments, what do the doctors do? They study the symptoms deeply, get a basic understanding of the wound and try finding out the root causes. If this diagnosis works out well, they are sure to counter the disease at the starting point itself. All our best intentions and actions will fail if we fail to reach the source of problem.
This analogy applies to sustainable development equally well. Increasing number of studies from around the world are suggesting that globalisation is among the root causes for unsustainable development. This theory is yet to be fully proven and can be questioned putting the blame on the impulses of many developing nations towards matching the developed world and aspirations of millions of people to live the way rich nations live, which together can result in energy consumption and materialistic desires. However, the global market cannot be totally exempted from the blame, without which the nationalistic and individualistic urges cannot be met.
The modes by which unsustainable ideas get fuelled by the global economy are both subtle and strong.
Helena Norberg-Hodge comically points that oranges from 10,000 km away are costing less than oranges from 1,00 km away. No logical theory that we are aware of from historical times can explain this. Of course, we can thank increased production technology, instant communication, paper-less transfer of international currencies, insured global movement of goods and all such reasons that make the above statement true. However, the point is not about proving her observation, but about realising at what cost to nature we are achieving it all.
From an economics perspective, the construction materials we buy may cost less, but from an ecological perspective, making the product in one place and marketing it in another causes havoc to nature. It demands elaborate logistics for packing, transporting, marketing team, C & F agencies, insurance, internet connections, managerial staff, software and hardware for online records.
The embodied energy of the product at the destination cannot even be calculated by our present methods. Even if we manage to get the energy figures, most possibly it would be ridiculously high compared to local materials.
Building with products from far away Indian locations or from abroad may appear beneficial from cost, but would be disastrous from the climate perspective.
Globalisation also has cultural impacts, mostly on the negative side, as such localisation can ensure cultural continuity. The multinational market showcases investment to boost local economy or job creation, but it also siphons off local income back home and discourages local skills, draining the nation of its resources. As such, localisation is necessary to preserve nature, culture and economy.
It is time we critically look at localisation, understand why it is necessary for a sustainable future and then dovetail all our alternative ideas within this frame, so that energy consumption may reduce, wastage may get minimised and we get to live with lowered carbon footprint in the future.