Builders need to introspect
Are we ready for some bad news? The acclaimed guru of spiritualty, Thich Nat Han, recently opined that in the next hundred years, major catastrophe will occur to human civilisation. People who till recently refused to believe in the theory of climate change have changed to become believers. The slogan of three Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — has not picked up as much as expected. Just as the preparations are on for the climate change CoP (Conference of Parties) at Lima, parts of U.S. and Russia are reeling under unseasonal cold wave. Even Hollywood is producing movies like Interstellar, based on the hypothesis that some day in future humans would have consumed Earth’s resources, leaving it dry and dusty, researching to migrate to other planets. And here in south India, we have just witnessed the most unpredictable monsoon of recent years.
We all are aware of unabated production of goods, which demand complimentary spaces and services, all of which require advanced infrastructure, besides global communication. Facilitating this trend leads to increased movement of money across sectors, ushering monetary prosperity to those who are part of this cycle. To generate such money, Earth’s resources are increasingly consumed, creating imbalance in the ecological cycle. Simply stated, to restore the balance, we need to reduce production. Speaking from the construction industry, which majorly contributes and also benefits from the growth, the first step could be to reduce the embodied energy in all constructions. Simultaneously, we need to reduce the construction costs, energy consumption and life cycle costs.
However, this would mitigate the problem only nominally, for the hunger for more production would still force the construction industry to toe the line of global economy.
Growth-based economic models get pushed and supported by all those who benefit from it, and incidentally most of them are in decisive positions in society. Those who suffer from the inequity are not in dominant positions to reverse the trends. Given this contradictory situation, the real solution would lie in individual resolutions to reduce personal purchases, stop accumulating goods, avoiding unnecessary activities and try living without what we really need.
In a rapidly urbanising India, some of these ideas may sound impractical. With millions of Indians, especially the younger generation, aspiring to live a global lifestyle, it is expected that production, consumption, waste generation and energy depletion will increase exponentially. At present we just do not have any meaningful strategy to shelter half of Indians in cities by 2030, leave alone face the other ecological crises. Adding to this, the present national mood appears to be in production, for marketing them anywhere in the world, just like China has been doing. While charting this road map, we also need to realise the environmental implications of increased production, the way money market will play a larger role and how higher monetary affordability would fuel the hunger for greater consumption.
No wonder, Thich Nat Han is predicting a bleak future.