An egalitarian techie in California looking for ways to contribute to the world and searching for folks of my tribe.
The Human Gene
Living through the pandemic has given most people a chance to slow down and reflect on the choices made in the world at both the micro and macro levels. The number of wars fought came down, car crashes, school shootings, bombings, air pollution, etc. all reduced substantially without a doubt. So was the pandemic good for us? Definitely not! But nevertheless, it is not rocket science to observe that the causes of all the above things mentioned have been wanton human ego and ignorance. Global warming is real. There has been a major shift in the natural cycles of oceans which is going to affect the entire human race. And well, nature will find a way to restore the balance eventually with or without us. But in this debate what’s not so evident is the steady and apathetic rise in Speciesism through the last couple of centuries.
Speciesism as in Webster dictionary:
prejudice or discrimination based on species
And guess who is our competition so far in this arrogance? NO ONE! All other species on this planet live with an intention of survival, while the mighty cerebral cortex of humans has catered to greed. Humans have single-handedly disturbed the natural balance at the cost of hundreds of thousands of species and millions of lives. We come to realizations only when a given species is on the verge of extinction. Then the GoFundMe's start, articles are written and a few hundred out of billions make it a point to get on the street for some groundwork to bring some non-paper and non-digital change. ACTUAL changes. But why do we wait until it is too late? Why doesn’t change come naturally to people when we have already seen hundreds and thousands of videos of wars, diseases, and people suffering? There are reasons for it, but perhaps the answer lies in another human folly: Ignorance is bliss.
Waiting for the Inevitable
There are several reasons why humans are resilient to bring changes. This can be extrapolated to all the possible paradigms of life, but here I am talking in the context of the ecological changes. Let me start the stating the primary one..
Fear of Death
Fear by its virtue is a survival instinct in any species and humans above any other are more conscious of life which makes fear a conscious process. Too much fear and we are thrown off balance, too little and we can become foolhardy. We realize the imbalance when something comes close to death. The headlines these days read.. The coral reefs are dying, the Amazon rainforests are dying, the Bengal tiger is about to get extinct, only 3000 rhinos remaining, and the list goes on.. All of these are true and unfortunately, this is what it takes to invoke a sense of compassion in us. The sole motivator for change is unfortunately the innate fear of loss. If only we are more aware of the fact that in either way we choose we are walking towards death every day and are here for an absolutely limited time, we would live more consciously and fully. Once we know how to do that for ourselves, perhaps it will come naturally to do those things for others, humans, or other species.
Distinction and discrimination:
When it comes to nature and ecology as is evident through observation, we have come to the turning point where we have extorted nature as a utility without realizing we are absolutely and completely but a part of it. It is the ego-centric mind that creates this separation. This separation is based on segregation imbibed in us over generations by the ruling class to keep us from getting united. There is a difference between distinction and discrimination. Cats, cows, parrots, and monkeys are distinct from us but that does not give us a right to discriminate towards them. The segregation is so deep-rooted that we found a way to feel superior even among ourselves. There is nothing wrong in seeing a white man different than a brown man or yellow man or black man, but everything wrong in seeing yourself superior. To expand on it, it is even better if you can see beyond it, but we often trick ourselves into believing how unprejudiced we are until the time comes to choose. Again, nothing wrong with preferences, but it is a long road of self-inquiry when we question where these preferences come from. Thankfully the tide is turning and we are seeing movements against racism, polarization, gender inequality, etc.
The Superior race:
The same arrogance that makes us feel superior as some race and discriminate, perforates to our superiority as species. Humans are more evolved, humans are more intelligent, humans are smartest, largest, highest, greatest, etc. Well a lot can be said about this and this can be a book by its capacity, but let me just say that a virus you are not even humanly capable of perceiving has wiped out 2.5 million people so far. Don’t tell me how we will eventually supersede it, it doesn’t matter and I am glad we did. But we need to understand that we are completely at the mercy of mother nature and the human ego needs to take a backseat, it’s about time. Else there will be no one left to have the last laugh.
Enough philosophy. Coming to the practical aspect of things, the biggest problem is our lack of perception in terms of the damage we may be causing. It is just one pound of beef, just one leaking faucet, just one cigarette butt I threw.. The list is endless. How can I be responsible for Global warming caused by the cow grazing and pooping in Brazil in pastures made by cutting down Amazon rainforests? And anyway it's a Brazilian cow, I have never even seen one alive! Also, I am just using my phone, how am I responsible for the bird numbers coming down just because someone says they MIGHT be dying because of the surge in electromagnetic waves? Anyway, not like some company will dismantle their cellphone towers simply because I stop using their service! Well.. the small changes we make are affecting us in a big way because there are 7 billion of us. It should be understood how the market economy works on supply and demand. The corporations producing that leather jacket did it because of the way leather is glorified and you wanted it. Conscious use of materials at a micro-level is necessary.
Perhaps this would have been right at the top of the list right next to fear of death. A simple average man will always try to buy something cost-effective more than ‘eco-friendly’. Eco-friendly products are unfortunately becoming the brand of the rich which is a BIG problem. The cheapest products more often than not use plastic and some other raw material which are bad for the environment but good for the pocket. Why can’t it be both? Hopefully, we will come to pass that stage, but until then what can be done is striking a balance between the two. Can I spare those one-time 5 bucks extra for buying something more environmentally friendly?
Desensitization of our instincts:
Internet, one of the greatest gifts of the 21st century unfortunately has perhaps become a cause of desensitization to what would have been a major source of impact on the human mind. As mentioned above, we have been bombarded with footage of people suffering, people dying, animals and nature going to dogs and that has caused us to shift either in paranoia or apathy. Not to the extent that you may imagine, but what I mean is if 20 years back someone had seen ONE video of refugee children around the war in Syria, the impact would have been different. Considering this is done with an altruistic intention, the creators cannot be put to a fault, but the neutrality has to come through self-work and perhaps, less social media?
Advertisements are done not just by major corporations but also by small entrepreneurs who no one knows. It is like the road everyone has to walk these days. A small business just wants to make a few bucks out of the product they are selling. Then why are ads a culprit in any way? Well mainly because they give you a FOMO: Fear of Missing Out to people who don’t know. Well because marketing is as much about what you choose to hide in addition to what you choose to show. It is too much to expect the money-makers to be ethical when their priority is not necessarily ecosystem. The best way to go is to be consciously aware of what we see in an ad. Are they adding any value to your life? How long will you use that product? If you have the time over some weekend, go on and try to explore how that product is made.
What can I do?
Let us now list down some of the sustainable development goals which we can achieve at a personal level.
Organized mass movements:
I have been a big fan of movements like the ones in change.org, they might not hit the nail every time and might be used for nefarious reasons by some entities, but the best thing that has happened is they have shown people it is possible for some person in Thailand and someone in California to agree and come together for a common cause. Digital signatures might not always mean much but it's a start and they send a message. Let more positivity and intention flow.
Start with an inquiry about what qualifies as your most-used product, routine, or desire. Ask yourself if it is worth it? Is there a better alternative? What can be done if I don’t like something? Just to give an example, there are countless cardboard boxes of Amazon products in my house. Then there is a plastic wrapping inside them. Why is there not an option available to choose to opt-out of them? Can I do something to change that?
If you think about how to stop the deforestation that is happening in some part of the country, well great. Go on and see if you can do something about it. But it might just be easier to think in terms of small changes you can bring in your day-to-day life that may be impactful. Small drops add to the ocean.
Not everyone is making the big buck, but those who can should spend a few of them extra on buying and promoting sustainable brands for clothes, devices, etc. Reading up the white paper (metaphorically) also adds to our knowledge in making better judgements.
Add some more fuel to the fire:
Slowly but people are becoming more and more aware of the impact of small changes. Go on and explore how you can expand on those ideas. Planting a tree is almost priceless and well price-less. Go ahead and plant that sapling or seed, it might not be much but it is better than earlier. Also, you may worry about the longevity of it, don’t. That tiny plant is now capturing some life that did not exist earlier. Buy that bird feeder that will cost you a few bucks but might help to establish some ecosystem in the urban jungle that we live in.
If you take a broad-view of things you will realize how almost everything that’s natural and healthy will actually be economical, given that you know how to tame your ego and desires.
Sadhguru interview for GFX about sustainable fashion
Playing the Devil’s Advocate
Now out of whatever is written, I do not imply in any way that you have to stop living your life and go on sacrificing everything that you love and enjoy.
There is no way we can equate joy on a four-year-old’s face after looking at some toy, to the environmental impact it may have in making that toy.
Christmas trees and firecrackers are effectively wasteful and wanton but it cheers someone and brings people hope.
Airplanes are one of the major causes of emissions and yet, try and imagine life without the travels!
The point I am trying to make is that a little compromise on our part at times though, can immensely help in restoring some balance. If you can afford and store a reusable Christmas tree, maybe it is worth it instead of buying every year. If you can take public transport, maybe it will save fuel you will spend on the round-trip to your office. Everyone loves their car. Everyone loves their comfort. But maybe we need to get out of our comfort zone a bit so the future generation can have some of it.
Just remember, there is a way. There is always a way. If only you want to be the change you want to see in this world. Peace.