Andy Pag’s a guy who traveled around Europe, Asia and the Americas for two years in a truck fueled by used cooking oil. He recently blogged about what he learnt and the lessons were not about sustainable energy and the technology that went into retrofitting his truck to use a more eco-friendly fuel. Instead, he learnt that unnecessary consumption is the essential evil we all need to fight. To quote, “So much of the things we consume and the way we consume them are entirely superfluous and actually serves to isolate us from the communities we are surrounded by. In developed countries it feels like a system that feeds and feeds on dissatisfaction, while persuading us its delivering quality of life.”
While in the West the life of consumption has been the norm for decades now, what does this new realization mean for people like us who live in the so-called developing world? We in India are still holding as our ideal the quality of life offered in the developed world. We aspire to 24X7 services like electricity, Internet, water, etc. We expect controlled interior environments, thereby adopting air conditioning and heating in a big way. We argue about why we shouldn’t aspire to the good things in life and why we should be expected to give these things up when the West has had it for so long! Which is all very valid and is the sort of argument that has gone round in circles for years at the climate change conferences since the Kyoto Protocol was signed way back in 1997.
In the end, it’s about lifestyle choices and if we think our personal sacrifices can save our planet, we should probably be making them. It’s also about the culture of consumption, a culture that constantly asks us to compare our lives to others and follow a comparative way of evaluating our lives and the comforts in it. It is this that deeply disturbed Pag during his travels. True change could happen if we “start to value quality of life over aspirational living standards”, he says. We need to begin, in India, by evaluating the immense damage done by an oversimplification of the climate change-global warming story and the myth that using technology to reduce our carbon footprint is the magic formula to safeguard our future. Pag’s experience debunks the myth and urges us to take responsibility for our choices. Not something we like, but do we have a choice?