When I was young, my mom always used to recite to me the famous Sanskrit proverb “Vasudev Kutumbakam” meaning ‘The World is One Family’ and I always wondered, how big our family is indeed. As I started growing up, I realised that my family, in the year 1804, touched the one billion mark, in another 123 years reached the two billion mark, and since then has only been growing at an exponential rate. No wonder we are already past the seven billion mark and are racing at high speed towards the next billion. What has been the impact of this growing family on our home, our Earth? For starters, there has been a marked growth in the consumption of resources and pollutant emissions. This is happening at a rate that supersedes the rate at which these can be reduced by any means like better technology. Us-HUMANS are profoundly changing the essential life-sustaining functions of the Earth. Therefore, it is imperative to find solutions that encompass reformist to radical ideas and motivate a transition towards sustainability. For this, some part of the family might as well have to take more measures than the rest.
Why so? Let’s understand using the Gini index-most commonly used to describe income inequalities. The Gini index of countries individually varies from 25 to 63, while if we consider the Gini index of the world is 75, which is higher than that of any nation alone. This means that the world is more unequal than any individual country. Studies have indicated that income is linked with consumption and that directly related to the impact that we have. Thus, global inequality is reflective of the impact inequality and that some of us will need to make more efforts at sustaining the Earth’s ecosystems than others.
I believe that our consumption levels need to be curtailed as per the planetary boundaries. Earth Overshoot Day being as early as August 22 makes this particularly obvious. By this, I certainly propagate to decrease the consumption of goods and services that can have a direct negative impact on the environment– like flying, driving, and even wasting food. It can also be complemented by increasing the lifespan of goods, adapting to a lifestyle that has the least requirement of physical travel via planes/ trains, reusing the old gadgets instead of buying new ones and even retrofitting of houses. These day-to-day changes need to be a part of everyone’s daily life. But then, of course, these cannot be forced from the outside and must come from within. Here comes the role of schools, religious institutions and even NGO’s. They are not just drivers to highlight the problems associated with a growing population, but also help induce sustainable solutions into society. It is therefore unfair to say it is all about population, and makes way more sense to see it with respect to consumption.
I would like to end with an example. When I was young, my parents bought me toys and clothes. When my sibling was born, almost 80% of the toys and clothes were used for him. And even after that, we did not throw many outfits. They are used as a cloth to clean the cars and other household stuff. This is a trend in many houses in India, and I believe this is true circularity being implemented even before the concept of circularity was invented. This is what we need today. We need to realise that we have one planet and limited resources; that all life forms are interconnected and that we exist because of each other-“Vasudev Kutmbkam”.
– Rupal Verma