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Where Is This Useless, Meandering Talk on Sustainability Taking Us?
CB Writer, August 22, 2016

‘Why worry about minor little details like clean air, clean water, safe ports and the safety net when Jesus is going to give the world an “Extreme Makeover: Planet Edition” right after he finishes putting Satan in his place once and for all?’ – Arianna Huffington

Our edgy editor, sitting just a shout away, had sudden inspiration: Let’s have something—anything—on ‘what is sustainability’. Everyone keeps mentioning it, but it’s highly doubtful how many here actually get it. It doesn’t show much, does it? Somebody immediately find out who claims to be the expert in this field and ask him or her to write a two-pager. Today is the deadline.

On our five-person floor – said editor, service boy and an intern included – I knew the orders were meant for me.

Knowing the sustainability and responsibility grind inside out, I had two options to hurriedly finish this task. First option was to call a social responsibility or sustainability activist and request for a quick write-up. They would give a dozen reasons for us to believe that the planet is in trouble and saving it is serious business and that we have to be grim every day. It would be an easy getaway. Almost each media house has a bank of such expert write-ups.

My second choice was to pen it down myself, about all that I had seen, smelled, heard and felt about this ‘totally confusing’ sustainability content and these unsustainable lives we lived. And with such a short deadline, I could easily get away by writing anything under ‘author-requested anonymity’ privilege.

So, I am making this attempt despite the [not fully articulated] belief that since nobody can sustain life – cannot live forever, then why all this hue and cry about sustainable living. Is it an effort to live longer, to add a few more years in our planet’s life cycle, or is it just an effort to make our own life a bit more easy and comfortable?

Sometimes I feel that sustainable living is the last thing to be included in these never-ending, unfocused, biased, zero-resolution and stupendous aggression-filled academic debates where many self-anointed thinkers want to be seen to be making a ‘sensible’ point. More I read about socialists, capitalists, communists and economists, more difficult it becomes to understand these relationships betweenpoverty and natural resources andconservation and economy and politics and governance and…

And all this knowing makes me believe that sustainable living for the average individual – especially for the average Indian with average income and average ambitions – or even thinking of ‘sustainable living’ is an above-average task. When told about the few things that I believe are my bit towards sustainable living, the ‘thinkers’ laugh at me. However, I believe I am doing it all right – didn’t somebody say that if your ideas are laughed at, then most likely you are going the right way.

  • I shaved my head.

I did it solely for the environment. It was when I got to know that all shampoos had some soapy material that was mostly made from palm oil. I had heard about those palm oil crises and the more I read about palm oil issues on Google, the sadder it made me feel. And this sadness became grim when I read how all the shampoos from our bathrooms were polluting our lovely rivers.

The only solution I could see from my end was to let go of my voluminous hair. Of course, I feel better. I feel more aerodynamic; it helps in running that extra mile, shedding an extra kilo; and overall this bit lessens my weight on Planet Earth.

One more thing. Since it cannot be avoided in summers, I bathe once a week. It takes care of both water and soap. Winters are a blessing for sustainable lifestyle lovers.

  • I gifted my SUV to the Talibans.

Yes, you may say so. Talibs now have this weird sense of ‘rich’ authority. They boast about their big wheels, they bully the little cars on congested roads, and they also use that super stereo system to propagate their doctrine, thanks to my gifted SUV.

However, I am relieved. I did it solely for the environment. It was a gas guzzler, polluter and space occupier. And I really do not have that Talib heart to stand by its side to get clicked for Facebook pictures – making this peculiar ‘I have arrived’ statement. In fact, I arrive late as I ride a bicycle.

  • I starve, almost.

Once, this go-back-to-the-roots and live-like-apes propagator-cum-friend explained how every food that we bought in the city was grown by smart sales and marketing guys who used farmers as their tools. They injected crops with chemicals that made them grow faster, bigger and in large quantities. And when these crops looked attractive and little pests and insects wanted to eat them, the farmers pumped deadly poison to kill these innocent and hungry pests.

I realized that if I continued to buy the farm foods, a day would come when species of many innocent pests would be extinct. Hence, I decided that I must eat less to conserve those species. I also confess that I fast on a few occasions in solidarity with the dead pests.

I live on packaged foods and colas.

I know you all have stories to tell about how and from where most packaged food companies obtain their raw materials and what all they do during the processing, etc., to harm the environment or the food’s nutritious value. However, I do not care about that part. It is their business as they to do it for their own economic sustainability.

I will rather look at the good part. Every shop in the world that sells packaged food sells it in some packet. My friend from a charity takes them all to engage some poor women in making useful and fancy stuff with that waste. This stuff is bought by big-bindi, fat-beads-necklace South Delhi women for their cause-fashion statement. My friend says that she is ‘empowering’ women.

  • I wear nothing. Almost.

Once upon a time, I had over a dozen shirts, half-a-dozen pairs of jeans and trousers, many tees, and all that we wear inside. All of these were made of cotton. One day I woke up enlightened and went on the other side of fast and glamorous fashion. Cotton turned out to be the most polluting material. I dumped my wardrobe. Not that I am not aware of organic clothing, but my skin cannot take something so pure.

Did you say suede, leather, nubuck, fur…? Well, my ‘wearing nothing’ is inspired by my favourite Bollywood actress as she bared it all in solidarity with Peta. She did it for a day, and I do it.

  • I am not employed, nor am I an employer.

Ever thought like this? That unemployment is not a problem of opportunity, resources or means, but simply a problem of the individual’s will? No, I am not saying that those unemployed are not willing to get jobs; I am saying that those employed are not ‘willing’ to quit their jobs.

Imagine if each one of you were to quit your high-paying job. Those big companies who employ you and indulge in industrial expansion in the name of economic development will not succeed much in such a scenario, will they? The ones who can afford to put out Rs 100 crore ads for a Re 1 candy will not dominate. You will feel free.

  • I holiday in the summers.

Not because I get holidays in summers out of turn, but because I cannot afford air conditioners in the plains and renting a house in the hills is way cheaper.

Sometimes I compare the costs of shifting major government headquarters from Delhi to Shimla to the bills of air conditioners. Well, now that they claim everything is online and they are going hi-tech and all, why not pack each employee with a laptop and put them on a Roadways bus to Shimla?

Is it impractical? Didn’t the British do it in a no-Internet age? And isn’t the system still their legacy?

  • Vasectomy I got done.

Are you not aware of the resources-versus-population war? Well, with less than enough resources to sustain myself, how could I even think of being party to resource depletion? In any case, I did my bit for population control. In case you do not know, vasectomy does not affect orgasm.

Well, this is not it. I do have more to share about my bits toward sustainability, but the average attention span of most readers forbids me from stretching my luck. Also, my editor has got no time and I have not much interest in writing for free—I calculate my economic sustainability.

Hence, this is it.




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