By Uzair Qadir
The word sustainability has become quite fashionable in our times. However, at times, one gets an impression that this word is just a dilatory tactic to obscure hard-nosed realities. But discounting every kind of skepticism, sustainability, indeed, is the way forward. From an economics perspective, it, is the distribution and use of resources so that the resources can be used and shared by us and by the posterity as well. In the face of flawed and skewed development, there is the concern of inequalities and inequities becoming graver with the day. As per a recent report by Oxfam International, 8 individuals are controlling the wealth as is controlled by half the world’s population. This indicates that there is a dire need to have mechanisms in place that lay an emphasis on checks and balances.
Now coming back to the theme of sustainability, it gives everybody his/her due. It allows the monopolies and oligopolies to be punched down forever. Sustainability, in this context, leads to more democratisation and embedment of the values of collective conscience and non-discrimination.
The concept has very many facets: historical, ecological, sociological, economic, political and contemporary.
Historically, the very nature of sustainability has been quite nascent. It came into its formal shape in the 1980s. From the 16th century onwards, more particularly in the last one hundred years, there has been a mad race which has material mania as its centre of gravity. This has led to a few becoming astronomically rich but many driven into wretchedness and impoverishment. This process has led to the creation of an unsurpassable chasm between have and have-nots. In the process of creating wealth, ‘the few’ have given a fig to the needs and concerns of large swathes of people. Ushering in the concept of sustainability can rectify the silent historical tragedy unleashed by man upon man.
If there is one burning issue today confronting human civilization, it is ecological degradation. It has the potential to annihilate the basic human existence. Our patterns of development are so flawed that they have caused irreparable damage to the nature around us. To build bourgeoning cities, rather concrete jungles, we have wreaked havoc on the groundwater resources, rivers, wetlands, tribal lands and so on. Sustainability in the use of resources, coupled with geo-engineering concepts can help in prolonging the subsistence ability of the nature. Equitable distribution of the resources and owning up to historical responsibility can help inmitigating the crisis staring us in the face.
Sociological sustainability, another related concept is critical because it is in it that the crux of the intactness of our society lies. Better information dissemination, public campaigning regarding disaster management, diseases, education and so on can help our society be more resilient and resistant to the vagaries of different situations in time and space.
Similarly, economic sustainability is the reorientation of our economics to cater to the needs of everybody. Inclusion has to be inculcated in our policies and programmes. Nobody deserves a life of destitution. The realization that we all are one God’s children must dawn upon all of us in general. Economic sustainability can help in making us sensitive to the fact that ours’ is a world of 7.3 billion people rather than just 400 billionaires.
This blends into political sustainability which can help in making our political systems more robust and transparent. It can be brought by our political systems being made more accountable. Probity in public life is a quintessential quality. Electoral funding needs to be made more broad-based and more crystal-clear. Disallowing the people with criminal antecedents to come into the political fray can help in restoring the public’s confidence in the politics and inspire public-spirited individuals to come forward.
Sustainability, with time, has become more important than ever before. We have billionaires ruling us and the poor sent to wolves. Media has become unsustainable. 75 per cent of the searches are going to Google. Media is lot less freer and less democratic than it was. Anybody who tries to keep moral integrity at the heart of his/her profession is splintered out. This has led to serious misinformation and disinformation about serious issues. It is because of it that the poor and deserving are disadvantaged for eternity.
Therefore, it bears repetition that sustainability has become life-blood of our lives, individually, nationally and internationally. Without sustainability, all our argumentation and boiler-plate rhetoric is meaningless and lurking in thin air. Action, action is what is needed.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]