The earth’s surface has become warmer causing glaciers to melt which in turn has increased the sea level. There is heavy rainfall resulting in floods in one region, and simultaneously extreme drought in another. Increase in the intensity and frequency of droughts and heat waves is causing crops to wither. Environmental scientists predict that if the same pattern continues there can be serious food shortages.
The natural world does not exist in isolation. Humans and nature are intimately interconnected. However, over here it seems as if we humans have assumed our dominance. Much of the devastation that is taking place is due to human activity. We live as if we are lords on Earth. George Orwell in the Animal Farm writes, “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing.” And this has led to a number of global problems.
The word ‘sustainability’ which is not a word that many people even want to hear, guides us to a middle way where humans and nature can survive together in harmony.
Organisations have set up a dedicated Corporate Social Responsibility department which when fails to deliver sustainable results speaks volumes of insincerity and hypocrisy. The negative impacts of business activity will continue to grow especially when the main goal is to make profits. The ambitious, yet impatient businessman is holding quite a short-term vision. He is focused on making more money and blinded towards depletion of natural resources. Blinded or perhaps, does not want to consider it as one of his imperative concerns. Decisions are taken without keeping consequences in mind. Oil spills, bottled water, Monsanto crops or lead content in cosmetics are just a few examples of corporate immorality.
Yvon Chouinard, Jib Ellison and Rick Ridgeway talk about this in detail in their article The Big Idea: The Sustainable Economy. They write that just because the catastrophic impact cannot be assigned to individual businesses with fairness, their costs have remained external to businesses’ accounting.
Today, when we have exhausted the Earth’s capacity to provide sustainable existence we need to address this blind vision. There is a need to re-think our values and practices, develop sustainable principles, redesign business operations and embrace sustainability.
We require preventive engineering and eco-efficiency!
The World Business Council on Sustainable Development explains that eco-efficiency can be achieved by ‘the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life, while progressively reducing ecological impacts and resource intensity throughout the life cycle, to a level at least in with the Earth’s estimated carrying capacity.’ Eco-efficiency highlights that the Earth’s estimated capacity is an important perspective here which must be kept in mind. It implies that there are limitations and they need to be recognised on a large scale.
Every year the world observes Environment Day and Earth Day where countless seminars, conferences, workshops, etc. are held to talk about the grim realities that we are facing today. No doubt that by holding such events a lot of awareness has been created, however, what’s disappointing is the fact that discussions and debates are followed by very little or no action at all.
Climate change is escalating, resources are becoming short, ecosystems are degrading, global economies are falling, and the world population is exploding. It’s about time we galvanise the awareness into action.
What can the businesses do?
• Increased Resource Productivity – getting more goods or services by consuming less material or energy.
• Design for Environment – using low waste, non-polluting, local origin construction material (if possible) to design environment friendly energy efficient buildings.
• Waste Reduction and Management – implementing the policy of re-use or zero wastage and vigilant management of industrial waste.
What can you do as a consumer and employee?
Use paper wisely, question where the raw material is coming from, be critical of factory farming, make educated buying decisions and support sustainable businesses.
Some argue that just because we will never be able to see the fruits of our labour in our lifetime, there is no point in taking an initiative. While they are quite right that it may take centuries to witness any positive impact, we must remember that we owe it to our future generations and of course, the planet which has been feeding and supporting us despite our whims and greed.
This must be done earnestly and ‘honestly’ because our economic viability depends on sustainable ecosystem!
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.