Tomorrow is the world environment day and the fact that I am tempted to write about it today is extremely symbolic, because it is this awareness of tomorrow that holds the key to all environmental problems.
While green crusaders preach about securing our tomorrow, they fail to see a simple thing. All environmental problems exist purely because humanity is paranoid about securing tomorrow.Though they look complex, there are only two aspects of all environmental problems, i.e. impact of our energy consumption on the planet that has limited resources and the impact of byproducts of our energy use on the ecological balance. So, we need to understand energy-use pattern of humanity if we want to find a working handle for them.
At a very basic level, the actual energy need we have is 2500 kilocalories per day that we must get from the food we consume; so, if staying alive is the only agenda, all 7.5 billion of us collectively need only about 20 lakh crore kilocalories per day. This energy consumption is entirely in line with all other life-forms and hence it is part of the Sun-fed self-replenishing natural cycle of life on earth that is self-sustaining. But, what makes us different is that we use other sources of energy beyond food, and one interesting example is petroleum.
We use nearly 1500 crore liters of petroleum products every day. As petroleum has about 7000 kilocalories/liter, it amounts to a whooping 1 crore crore kilocalories of energy, i.e. five times than our actual survival need. If we add electricity and other types of energy we use, it is clear that each of us live for only 80 odd years, but we use up energy worth 800 years of stay on this planet.
It is likely that some part of this additional energy we are consuming goes towards production of food and other survival necessities, but its extreme lope-sidedness indicates that we are using far more than we need.
So, where does this energy get parked?
The answer of this question is possibly inside your pocket. Every time I look at a 1000 Rs. note that can buy more than 14 liters of petrol, I get a strange image of 1400 horses at work. As a car engine gets (very simplistically) us about 100 horse powers per liter, that is the power stored in this simple piece of paper.
With invention of this incredible power-storage device, we can now actually acquire and hoard as much energy as we want regardless of our need. As this device can hold energy without too much depletion, it allows human beings to expression paranoia about securing future at an unimaginable scale. So, with invention of money, we are able to construct a new life-form that can actually accumulate energy that can last him/her for a million years.
There is no doubt that money and concept of ownership has served us well till now. It has provided a potent fuel for our natural instinct of hoarding and fired us into a future of plenty. But, like all good things, money too has now reached a point where it’s collateral damage has started exceeding the gain.
As science has ushered in technologies that allow us to sit on top of the food chain and control the planet’s resources as we please, we need to change our worldview.
As a race, we need to shade our fear of tomorrow and stop securing resources for future use. We need to replace money and ownership concepts with something more balanced.
We already know that owning what we don’t use has no meaning. If we manage to inculcate that into collective psyche, the planet has more than enough for all of us and, if not over-exploited, it can recharge itself to provide for a great future for humanity.