We need a second planet by 2030!


A Vedic Hymn to the Goddess Earth

                                                                                                                                                                             Atharva-Veda, XII,I

 Truth, greatness, universal order (rita), strength, consecration,creative fervour (tapas), spiritual exaltation (Brahman),the sacrifice, support the earth. May this earth, the mistress of that which was and shall be, prepare for us a broad domain!

 The earth that has heights, and slopes, and great plains, that supports the plants of manifold virtue, free from the pressure that comes from the midst of men, she shall spread out for us, and fit herself for us!

 The earth upon which the sea, and the rivers and the waters, upon which food and the tribes of men have arisen, upon which this breathing, moving life exists, shall afford us precedence ……….

                                                                               

The independent think tank,Global Footprint Network (GFN), insists that humanity is operating on an overdraft, having surpassed nature’s budget. According to its calculations,mankind would need a second planet to satisfy its hunger and dispose of the waste, as early as 2030.

I time travel back fifteen years to that weekend show of “Independence Day”, of that opening panorama of the low flying alien ship blotting the sun out, a technologically empowered species waiting to unleash, invade and take over our world and its resources. Are we also destined to venture out of our earth cradle on a similar mission?

As we welcome the seven billionth newborn into our midst this week, as our planet strains to host this level of humanity,many of us are left wondering whether doomsday predictions may yet come to haunt us. When Thomas Malthus forecast in the eighteenth century that our propensity to reproduce would outstrip our ability to sustain food and other resources,could it be that he was right after all and simply a few centuries ahead of the curve? While we might be able to stabilise the world population sometime in the  future, would the strain not become unbearable in the poverty stricken regions of Asia and Africa which face the fastest population growth?

Some of the red flags are already up. As Mathias Wackernagel of GFN says, “From food prices to the crippling effects of climate change, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means”. Many may see this to be uncalled for scare-mongering and would repose faith in technology and Man’s creativity to provide the necessary scallop. Similar to the way Industrial and Green revolutions proved the Malthusian doomsayers wrong in the last two centuries.

But as I reflect on all of this,I wonder whether we are not missing the woods for the trees. Is this devouring of the planet’s bounty, from forests, fisheries, fresh water to minerals and oil,due to the population getting added?  Or is it more due to the ravenous greed of the existing one?

Is the “flattening of the world” as Thomas Friedman aptly puts it, bringing those additional billions of the developing world onto that level playing field? And what happens when these billions start aspiring for the materialism of the west, for that “great American dream”? Kamla Chowdhury, Professor, IIM Ahmedabad, in her Earth Charter theme provides an answer, “We live in a world which has an obsessive preoccupation with growth and unlimited confidence in new developments. We have pursued the philosophy of cancer which grows and expands on its host, eventually killing it. We are behaving like the cancer cell, killing earth by using it ruthlessly and unsustainably.”

So what is the way forward? To heal the earth, I believe we need to heal the individual. The post industrial era ushered in a societal belief of the supremacy of Science and Technology and these became the only approach to knowledge and power. In the process we have become rewired towards greed, aggrandizement and become spiritually contaminated.Methinks we need to regain the moral and ethical values to take a holistic view.

  • Perspective shift towards technologies and innovation with a human face.
  • Societal values and Economics that would cooperate with our world and its ecology rather than exploiting it.
  • Spiritual positivity and sustainability in our thinking and actions.

Can we empower ourselves to adopt a new paradigm for development based on the above values? That surely would be the biggest turning point in human history.

“The world has enough to fulfill all our needs but not our greed.”

Mahatma Gandhi

In Learning………………                                                                                                                                                  Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgements:

  1. Global footprint Network : http://www.footprintnetwork.org/
  2. The World is flat A brief history of the  twenty-first century : Thomas L. Friedman
  3. The Earth Charter: Kamla Chowdhry.
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Wall Street protests and beyond: winter of our discontent?


 

 

Now is the winter of our  discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York;

                                                                                                                                         Richard the Third, Act 1, Scene 1


 

The Wall Street protests have now  gone viral to more than eighty locations globally. Different places, contrasting  paradigms but same underlying issues. The protests are focused on corporate greed, on rocketing wealth and income inequality, against booming bank profits  post Government bailouts, about average folks struggling to keep their heads  above water in a tanking economy. Banners read: “We are not merchandise in  bankers’ hands!” in Lisbon, “Why am I not  economically represented?” in Dublin. A mix of anger, frustration and disconnect are palpably on display.

As I watch the flickering images  on the news screen, my mind’s eye goes back to John Steinbeck’s “The Winter of Our Discontent”. It tells the story  of Ethan Allen, a former aristocrat, now fallen on hard times. As he struggles  to make two ends meet, he maintains high integrity and honesty. But family and  peer pressure makes him resent his lowly position, forces him to give up his  long cherished values and embark on a dangerous and corrupt path……

I ponder. Is the society at large similarly headed? Is this the twenty first century denouement of Capitalism? Or a clarion call for a deeper change inside each one of us?

To the detractors, Capitalism is a fundamentally flawed model with the sole focus on profiteering. Numbers take over from morality; we get obsessed with what is monetarily productive but socially destructive.

As Aristotle had said, “Man by nature is a social animal…………… and anyone who does not need to partake of society is either a beast or a God.” We have been genetically wired to share, care and give away but this runs counter to the capitalist theory of economic progress. We are thus getting re-wired to reward selfishness but punish altruism. So what are we morphing into- Aristotle’s Beast or his God?

Our sense of purpose and values get subsumed and even contradicted by those of our organisation. We get hijacked into believing that our life’s purpose is to be successful within the corporate world, achieve that beautiful house on the lakeside or aggrandize a stable of top end cars. Such externally imposed beliefs take centre stage and drown out our true values. Our thoughts and behaviour become hostage to these underlying beliefs and as we wallow in our self created materialistic cocoon, we can no longer “hear” our true inner self. We may have once held dear the value of “environmental sustainability” but may now have become reconciled with our organisation’s growth plans of iron ore mining requiring degradation of a virgin environment. In our youth, we may have believed in “equitability of society” but as CEOs, may be perfectly willing to maximize stakeholder returns by retrenching employees through automation and out-sourcing.

While a knee jerk reaction may suggest increasing taxes on Corporates and individuals, excessive taxation endangers initiatives and aspirations, the fountainheads of progress. Clearly a shift in our perspective is needed. Could we reward and support a culture of direct benefit flows to the immediate society and the environment? Can we create a great corporate culture with Purpose over Profit? Can we re-align corporate values more with our own individual ones? Can we light up the corporate sector with glorious values as under?

  • Express love and care
  • Service to others
  • Pursuit of truth
  • Quest for excellence and perfection
  • Improve the World

In the October 2011 McKinsey Quarterly report on “The second economy”, author W. Brian Arthur speaks of how the emerging digital economy is causing large sections of human jobs to disappear, never to reappear. How the future economic challenge would be to shift from producing prosperity to distributing prosperity, how it would become increasingly difficult to apportion future wealth through jobs.

As stakeholders, could we shift our perspective to accept corporate valuation based on non-profit values as above apart from profits? Do we have the conviction to change winter of our discontent to the glorious summer, upholding our core values of universal inclusiveness and fairness? Or would we choose to go along the path taken by John Steinbeck’s Ethan Allen?

“There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it……………. 

And this morning, I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution.”

Martin Luther King, Jr
.

 In learning…………                    Shakti Ghosal