Nepal | January 23, 2021

Avoid wasteful consumption: For human well-being

BIR BHADRA ACHARYA
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We should learn lessons from the Western model of economic development and remodel it in our own way. We have to teach our citizens about the present wasteful consumption model and reintroduce a circular economic model where resources are optimally used, recycled and shared among the world population

I am a farmer by profession and nature’s worshipper by heart. Although what I am doing now may look insignificant to the readers in comparison to what the developed world is doing to save the Earth, I want to say that, unless you communicate with nature in a proper manner, the measures that we are taking will be costlier, not sustainable and even detrimental to nature.

Nature has given us so many resources for our well-being, but because of human greed, we are over exploiting them to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. We overly appreciate Europe and the US for their efforts to promote green technology.

Europe uses just 1.5 per cent of its domestic resources and US less than 5 per cent of its natural resource reserve. But they import all of their resource needs from China, the Asia Pacific, Caribbean and African countries.

China uses 150 per cent of its natural resource to serve the US and European markets. Europe gets its natural resource requirements mostly from Africa and the remaining from Asia and Australia. I am not sure if China’s natural resource use to sustain the single digit GDP growth is justifiable in the long run.

Is the overexploitation of the country’s resources to supply cheap goods to the European and US market justifiable? Europe and the US are saving their natural resource for their future generations, and Asia, Africa, Australia and the Caribbean countries are overly exploiting their resource for the benefit of the US and European population.

A study of the world per capita annual material consumption by countries (1970-2010) by the International Resource Panel (2018) under UN Environmental Programmed has revealed that, while Europe and the US use 20-25 tons per capita annual natural material footprints (imported from Asia Pacific and Africa), Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean use 9-10 tons per capita annually, and these countries host the world’s largest population. Thus, the luxurious lifestyle of the people in the richest countries is heavily dependent on resources extracted from the poorer countries.

“Material footprint” refers to the total amount of raw materials extracted to meet final consumption demands, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “It is one indication of the pressures placed on the environment to support economic growth and to satisfy the material needs of people.

The global material footprint rose from 43 billion metric tons in 1990 to 54 billion in 2000 and 92 billion in 2017—an increase of 70 per cent since 2000, and 113 per cent since 1990.

“The rate of natural resource extraction has accelerated since 2000. Without concerted political action, it is projected to grow to 190 billion metric tons by 2060. What’s more, the global material footprint is increasing at a faster rate than both population and economic output. In other words, at the global level, there has been no decoupling of material footprint growth from either population growth or GDP growth.

It is imperative that we reverse that trend.”

Because of the oil spills, plastics and chemical contamination of the oceans, there are numerous pockets in the ocean which are already dead, where no living beings can survive due to lack of oxygen. And this phenomenon is in increasing trend. Because of global warming, the Arctic ice is melting, and methane and other gases are released into the Earth’s atmosphere from the bio-deposits, which have remained underneath the ice till now, speeding up the global warming process.

Melting of the Arctic ice also means rise in the volume of the ocean’s water.

This may one day drown many coastal countries. All the havocs that we are facing today, including the corona virus pandemic, are because of the wrong economic model, which encourages maximum yield measured through rise in annual per capita GDP. The model is oblivious of the burden that it is exerting on the Earth’s natural resources, mental health of the young population, physical well-being and the social fabric of the world.

A debate is going on between the world leaders on containing global warming to 1.5 percent or 2 percent.

In my view this will be determined by the choice of GDP growth. At what percentage do we want the world GDP to grow? And simultaneously, what steps are being taken to reduce the rate of global temperature rise? Finally, we should learn lessons from the Western model of economic development and remodel it in our own way. We have to teach our citizens about the present wasteful consumption model and reintroduce a circular economic model where resources are optimally used, recycled and shared among the world population.

I do not even agree with the concept of urbanisation.

As a matter of fact, it encourages competition (with its damaging side effects), wasteful uses of resources, pollution, health hazards, unemployment, mental stress and much more. We need to develop suitable infrastructure in the countryside so that local resources are optimally used, and unnecessary consumption of industrial goods is avoided.

Why not measure the productivity of one hectare of land through the nutritional values that it generates rather than its economic yield? The health benefits that we get from the production of the land will surely deflect the economic value of the production in the long run. Together we can do so much for the betterment of this Earth. Let us try to lead the new world order by opening our third eye and showing the right and sustainable path of development to the whole world while at the same time preserving nature and the human species from collapsing due to overstress on Earth’s resources. Our spiritual knowledge blended with Western practical thinking can do wonders to make this world a beautiful place to live and thrive together.


A version of this article appears in print on January 06, 2021 of The Himalayan Times.


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