Common People Today Enjoy More Luxuries Than Sultans did!
"There is enough on Earth to satisfy every man's need, but not enough to satisfy even one man's greed." We need to keep this thought at the centre-pinning -- the hub around which we build our lives.
We are historically in a period when wants and comforts are confused with needs. Thanks to many decades of relentless industrial development and advertising, our psychology and culture is one of Endless Consumption and Insatiability.
Please let us take perspective: Each modern middle-class individual enjoys the level of comfort that was not available even to kings and aristocrats less than one century earlier.
What do we take for granted today?
Instant personalized communication
Rapid personalized transportation
Endless variety of entertainment options
Endless variety of foods and beverages
Endless supply and variety of clothing & personal possessions
Elimination of need for manual labour and repetitive tasks
Ask whether any of this was available to a Mughal Sultan, or to the richest man alive in even early 20th century. The answer is no. We are incredibly privileged to be alive today.
But we are not satisfied, and we want more. We crave for growth in the level of our personal gratification. This is not realistic in terms of the earth.
Why is this unrealistic?
Because privileges come at a huge cost that has been concealed from all of us. For billions of years, Planet Earth has taken carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and stored it away in the form of trees in forests, and buried vast reserves in the form of coal and oil. But ever since the industrial revolution, goods of various kinds have been increasingly produced through technologies involving combustion of these buried hydrocarbons.
Through massive deforestation and burning of hydrocarbons, we are undoing each year millions of years of geological processes! This is an accelerating process, in direct proportion to the growth of our economies, and growth in per-capita consumption.
Humankind has become a geological force that has released massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (besides hundreds of other substances whose effects on the complex web of climatic causes and effects is as yet unknown.) This is unsustainable.
The immediate effect of our collective economic actions as consumers and producers of goods is that an estimated 53,000 species of various flora and fauna ( 27,000 in depleting tropical forests alone) are being driven to extinction every single year. This is a rate of extinction that is in the scale of the one that occurred at the time of the dinosaurs' extinction. Clearly, the complex fabric of life on the planet, of which humankind is only a small part, is coming apart.
This is a clear indication that our planet is rapidly becoming uninhabitable. If we continue to ignore this clear writing on the wall, we do not deserve to be called Homo Sapiens. We will just have proved that we were a mindless technologically and economically driven species called Homo Suicidal .
What to do now?
In order to reduce our collective burden on the environment, we must adopt a new and different way of living. As individuals and as families, you are urged to tone down your pattern of mindless consumption, and establish new patterns of behaviour. You are urged to rethink the way you live and the reasons for which you work. We must cease to be driven by the compulsive urge to consume more, earn more and produce more year after year.
India has hitherto been the land of Simple Living & High Thinking. Let us adopt that paradigm of living once again.
Deep down inside, we already know that there is far more satisfaction in this mantra than there is in the endless quest of ever-higher levels of luxury and personal wealth.