Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

Sustainable Development

The Earth is a little over 4.5 billion years old. The history of life on Earth began about 3.8 billion years ago, initially with single-celled prokaryotic cells, such as bacteria. Multicellular life evolved over a billion years later and it’s only in the last 570 million years that the kind of life forms we are familiar with began to evolve, starting with arthropods, followed by fish 530 million years ago (Ma), land plants 475Ma and forests 385Ma. Mammals didn’t evolve until 200Ma and our own species, Homo sapiens, only 200,000 years ago. So humans have been around for a mere 0.004% of the Earth’s history.

But the homo sapiens had one thing that other creatures did not have: intelligence to transform one thing to the other to accomplice a task or find a solution to a problem; and utilise/exploit nature. Call it technology.

The roots of civilization reach back to the earliest introduction of primitive technology and culture. Humans make the first tools from stone, wood, antlers, and bones some 10 million years ago.  Humans discover fire 1–2 million years ago. Humans first wear clothes in 25,000– 50,000 BCE. Earliest boats are constructed sometime in 10,000 BCE.  Humans begin agriculture and settlements in 8000– 9000 BCE. Agricultural Revolution followed, which marked a change in human history, as humans began the systematic husbandry of plants and animals. Agriculture advanced, and most humans transitioned from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle as farmers in permanent settlements. The hand-made bricks were first used for construction in the Middle East during 6000– 7000 BCE.

As farming developed, agriculture became more sophisticated and prompted a division of labour to store food between growing seasons. Labour divisions then led to the rise of a leisured upper class and the development of cities. The growing complexity of human societies necessitated systems of writing and accounting. Many cities developed on the banks of lakes and rivers; as early as 3000 BCE some of the first prominent, well-developed settlements had arisen in many parts of the world.

Iron was used for the first time in decorative ornaments during 4000 BCE. However, iron age began in 1000 BCE as it was widely used for making tools and weapons in many parts of the world by 1000 BCE. By that time wheel had already been invented (3500 BCE). From then on gradually man started inventing machines that made life easier by making tasks and chores easier.

By 18th century man was inventing machines and processes more frequently. Italian Alessandro Volta made the first battery (known as a Voltaic pile) in 1800. In 1801 Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented the automated cloth-weaving loom. The punched cards it used to store patterns helped to inspire programmable computers. In 1814 George Stephenson built the first practical steam locomotive. Between 1820 and 1830 Michael Faraday built primitive electric generators and motors. In 1880s Thomas Edison opened the world’s first power plants. About the same time Carrie Everson invented new ways of mining silver, gold, and copper and Charles Parsons developed the steam turbine. In 1908 American industrialist and engineer Henry Ford launched the Ford Model T, the world’s first truly affordable car.

In less than 250 years, an industrial revolution swept the world and it changed human being’s relationship with nature. Human being, who was dependant on nature for its survival and sustenance thought of mastering it. As technology progressed, anthropocentricism became the norm. Cosmocentrism took back seat, or summarily rejected. Human development happened at the cost of environment. Natural resources were utilised, as if the resources were infinite. Rivers were dammed, forests cleared, wiping out hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Minerals extracted. Fossil fuel burnt like there was infinite supply. Human beings went on an ever increasing consuming spree.

Natural resources, including materials, water, energy and fertile land, are the basis for our life on Earth. All of these were threatened by the wanton misuse and mindless exploitation.

And then, gradually Mother Nature began to react. Rivers changed its course. Rivulets and streams dried. The sea rose and cyclones struck with greater frequency and destructive power. Rain fall became erratic. Summer became harsher. So did winter. It was a warning bell.

Scientists could hear it, even as millions began experiencing it across the world. Scientists and philosophers could realise what was on the offing: apocalypse, unless the present rate and manner of consumption was contained. The world is already experiencing a severe potable water shortage. By the year 2025, an additional 2.9 billion people will strain tightening water supplies, and the world’s energy needs will go up 60 per cent by 2030, according to the United Nations. Fossil fuel will exhaust in less than 50 years. Large tracts of land will be gulped by rising sea.  The future of the planet seems dark.

Wasteful energy policies, overuse of resources, water supply shortages, global climate change, and deforestation are just some of the issues experts say need to be addressed for humans to achieve sustainable living on this planet.

To do these, we need sound policies and people who can frame and implement the policies. We need good leaders, who care for the future. We need leaders who frame or will frame eco-sensitive and eco-friendly policies for sustainable future. We need strong eco-sensitive leadership that can stand against the avarice of business houses to save the planet. We need leadership that can drive home this point in the mindscape of ordinary men and women and change their consumption pattern.

Media with its power to influence people and decision makers can and should play a major role in this.

Wear that old jeans..

One question that I am often asked, how we can contribute to the sustainability of environment. The answer is very simple. Reduce consumption. Go for minimalism. You don’t really need a dozen T-Shirts or ten pairs of jeans.

Before you rush to buy new clothes every festive season and/or every time an e- commerce company announce a big sale, consider this: textile industry is a bigger greenhouse gas emitter than international aviation and shipping combined. As you buy new clothes frequently (and data shows we are doing that. Between 2000 and 2015, the garment production doubled. People now use their clothes 36% fewer times before giving or throwing them away), consider its impact on environment.

So, wear that old pair of jeans a couple of months more. Don’t buy a new pair of shoes  or that new mobile phone unless you really need them, even if the offer seems irresistible.

Tailpiece: Party

Look, I am not a political person.

But I strongly feel there should be two parties in this country. One on Saturday night and the other on Sunday night.

(Courtesy: Social Media)


The author is a journalist turned media academician. He lives in Central Odisha town Dhenkanal. He also writes fiction.  English translation of his Odia novel Yamraj Number 5003 is being published shortly. [email protected]

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