[Hi folks! I was off-blog for a long time as I was suffering from a serious bout of teaching. I am yet to be fully fit, but recovering. You can count on regular posts here from now on. That’s a promise signed in blood.]
Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “The earth can provide for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.”
The greatest sage of the modern times has been forgotten in his own country, not to mention the rest of the world. We haven’t accepted the minimalist lifestyle preached by Gandhi. Rather, we unquestioningly follow a lifestyle that helps industries grow, but tends to exhaust the limited resources of the earth. Let me give a few examples.
Our government pays lip service to checking global warming but quietly encourages the car industry. There is not even a thought to check the proliferation of fuel-guzzling sports utility vehicles (SUVs) run on diesel subsidized by picking the poor man’s pocket. The environment minister of the country, Jairam Ramesh said, “Use of SUVs and BMWs in India is criminal” (Economic Times, 13 November 2010). But his government carries on with the criminal activity, unconcerned.
On the other hand, we no longer have pavements in our cities to walk on. Pavements are hacked down to widen roads for the ever-increasing and ever-bigger cars.
Thanks to the eight-to-ten percent annual growth in GDP over two decades, the government coffers are overflowing. The government employee’s salary was doubled in 2006. Many government pensioners today earn a lot more than what they used to while working. The white collar employees in the organized sector too make a lot more today.
But we continue to spend only one percent of our GDP on education – one of the lowest in the world. We have some of the finest institutes of higher learning, and also the largest illiterate population in the world. The primary school system is in a shambles in India. We have many world-class corporate hospitals, but the poor in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere die for want of basic antibiotics.
There is a method in the madness. The economic model adopted by our government requires a huge middleclass with disposable income to support industry and commerce. People have to spend more and more to support industry and business to “grow”. In the process, two things are happening: the poor are largely forgotten by the policy makers, and we are using up natural resources thoughtlessly.
It is not new. The so-called first world has been following this economic model for long. Many social scientists have calculated the consequences of this use-and-throw economy on the global resources. There are credible calculations that show the earth just cannot carry on with the burden for more than a few decades.
How bad is the conspicuous consumption of the West? Here is a case.
Marina Bay Sands, a resort facing the Marina Bay in Singapore, is advertised as the world's most expensive stand-alone casino hotel. Besides the usual trappings of a luxury hotel meant for the super-rich, this place has a special attraction. The complex is topped by a 340 metre-long “Sky Park” and a swimming pool, set on top of the world's largest public cantilevered platform supported by three towers. At 200 metres (656 feet), it is taller than the Eiffel Tower. The Sky Park opened in 2010 looks like this.
When I first saw the pictures, it struck me as a great piece of engineering. And I also thought: Good heavens! Does one have to climb sixty floors to go for a swim? What next? a snow-capped mountain two hundred metres below the earth’s surface?
What do you think of the sky-park: an engineering marvel or a grotesque waste of materials and energy resources?
10 May 2011