We, humans, have a great many talents. We are the species that evolved from four-legged beings to two, developed the capacity to reason and think, ascended the food chain and conquered the land, water, and sky. Among such majestic achievements, we also have another skill, of remaining short-sighted and in denial of things right in front of us. Cruising in a sports car among city lights as bright as the Sun, gorging sumptuous venison, and buying and discarding things at the flick of a finger is something that we are proud of- it tells of an individual’s stature and success. And why not? In a world organized on capitalist values, money is power, money is comfort, money is all. Years of living in such a mercantilist world of surviving on this economic model, we have become accustomed to disregarding the polluted air we breathe, the dirty water bodies and the mass of smelly garbage we pass by while cruising in that very car.
The issue of climate change is on our heads and we are still trying to brush it under the carpet. The carbon emissions rose by 2.7% in the world as compared to last year, and by 3.4% in the United States. Scientists say that if such trends continue at the present rate, the “global carbon budget” associated with a 2°C increase in average global temperature will be broken in the next sixteen years and the Earth will be in a ‘Hothouse’ crisis, in which catastrophic climate change will be locked in and irreversible. The alarming rate at which the ice caps are melting and raising the sea- water level, the constant assault by hurricanes and forest fires are not something happening in one part of the world, but such natural disasters are happening everywhere simultaneously. And it is scary. The threat is not a hazy sight in the near future any longer but is knocking at our front doors.
Years of constant debates and discussions on the need for conscious growth led to the concept of sustainable development to come to fore. As a result, governments across the globe included the principles of carbon taxation, eco-tourism and green trading among others in their policy mandate. However, abiding by these is a different story because businesses and governments would rather take the easy way out than incorporate such practices in their daily workings. Naomi Klein further says that the crisis calls for “shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades.” This means detaching oneself from the addictive culture of buying that the model has generated in order to foster constant growth, disregarding the humongous consequences and the ecological collapse it perpetuates.
Living in a world where capitalism precedes sustainability, it hides its pernicious effects behind the veil of a comfortable lifestyle. And people are either too scared or too ignorant to notice and care. Big corporations around the world refuse to part away from the capitalist model. The melting of the Arctic ice due to global warming is seen as a gold mine by oil companies, opening up massive additional oil and gas reserves to be exploited without regard to the consequences for the Earth’s climate. People in power like the United States President Donald Trump and the Tea Partiers going on about how the continued existence of winter proves that climate change is all a hoax. Even after the massive scare surrounding the Amazon rainforest fires, Brazilian president Jair Bolsanaro wants to focus on investing in the country’s agri-business rather than focus on the environmental crisis at hand.
Many different initiatives incorporating the values of sustainability like “conscious, breakthrough, mindful, woke” have emerged over time to reform the capitalist system, especially among millennials and Generation Z. They are cognizant and vocal of the environmental issues the world faces and are trying to adopt a more conscious lifestyle. But let’s be real. Installing power-saving lights, driving electric cars, recycling waste, transitioning to veganism and buying sustainable clothing are admirable activities but, by themselves, are not enough to solve the climate problem. To actually make a difference now requires a systemic change.
The Amazon fires did work as a trigger for the world and brought the climate crisis issue to the forefront. 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg united the world on the issue of climate change which led to the biggest climate strike that millions across the globe joined. It demanded the governments to prioritize and adopt environmental policymaking and treat the environmental crisis as an “epidemic”, rather than a mere inconvenience.
At present, the fate of humanity is treading a very fine line. If we don’t act now and consciously work together at a micro and macro level, the world will spiral into collapse. Supporting the cause by tweeting won’t solve the issue. The war against capitalism has been waging for years with no end in sight. It is imperative that our values, our behaviors, and our businesses realign themselves to think and act in a sustainable fashion, else the future seems bleak and a cornucopia of degradation and destruction.