The festive season has been ongoing for a few weeks now first with Dussera and then of course, Diwali. All around us we see messages and advertisements about sales, presents and gifts. I was scrolling through Instagram last week and noticed how many prompts I received to buy new clothes or to participate in the festivities which somehow involved buying. Driven by curiosity, I went looking for articles which could explain this connection between Diwali and gifting. I found this rather interesting article from two Diwali’s ago that speaks about how India’s consumption rates shift drastically around Diwali. It hinted that our economy and shifts in growth were dependent on our consumption.
This observation is of course not a new one or a unique one. Our country’s growth and development, its economy and our notion of flourishing all are connected to our consumption, our usage. This too is furthered in how we see development on the whole. A lot of the conversations do pit development against nature. Economists have been suggesting that it is not possible for India to reduce its emissions. As recent as September 2021, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, former ambassador to the European Union and China, and a climate negotiator said in an interview, “India’s current and historical per capita emissions are very low and these will increase for the next few decades as we pursue our sustainable development goals. A national 2050 ‘net-zero’ commitment would undermine these goals, especially poverty eradication and human resource development. Given our national circumstances, a national net-zero target for 2050 would be a deeply flawed response to the climate change challenge, in addition to negating the aim of poverty eradication.”
He is not alone in this argument as experts advised India to not commit to this, especially as we were prepping to head into the Climate Change Summit (COP26) where we made commitments to achieve net-zero target only by 2070. These all point us towards the need for us to reimagine this binary and what environmental destruction takes us towards when we see it as part of the development trajectory of every country.
In a piece in Yes magazine, Stan Cox asks some of the questions around this dichotomy and charts a way forward for us. Stan writes, “Given the alarms being raised by climate science, high-consumption societies cannot achieve ecological healing unless we practice an unprecedented degree of collective restraint in resource use. Adapting to that new reality will require that we set aside the pursuit of growth in order to end ecological destruction while still ensuring sufficiency for everyone. That can be done—but only if material resources and products are valued not as ends in themselves but for their essential role in securing fulfilment and well-being.”
Even as many world leaders make inadequate commitments in response to the climate crisis, it remains to be seen if even these commitments will be matched by action. Action that will protect our natural resources, our biodiversity and our environment from further crises.
Throughout this month, we will be in our social media spaces trying to explore and understand this dichotomy and what we can do as individuals and communities to respond to this. We hope you will join us in these conversations.