Katowice, Family Values and the Security of Planet Earth

The future indeed looks dim, very dim! But do we have to go by the flow? It is our duty to wake up and contribute our mite…

By Prof Soodursun Jugessur

We must realize that our personal welfare lies in the welfare of all life on this planet, starting with our family, society, and the world at large. In our rat-race for higher living standards, we tend to forget the harm that consumerism is causing globally.

Let us look at the problems we face. With modernization and the impact of technologies in our life, the changes have not always been in line with a spirit of holistic development, where material welfare is buttressed, supported on universal human values. Humanity has survived over the years because of family and social solidarity with the ethical need to support one another and share the resources of nature without abuse and waste. Unfortunately our ancestral values of family love and solidarity have rapidly waned as the years go by, with people greedily running after money and material wealth.

Of course our daily life has become easier with the advent of technologies. Pleasure has increased but real happiness has drifted away. Life expectancy has increased but diseases have also increased, especially with an ageing population that has, during their lifetime, borne the brunt of daily pressures and anxiety. Drudgery has decreased, but sedentary life has equally increased with many facing obesity. Travelling has become easier and faster, but pollution has also increased. The quiet rural life has rapidly changed to fast urban and city life where people live close to each other, but have no time to socialize. Individualism has become a real social facet. People are being regularly indoctrinated by messages that they have only one life and they must enjoy and live it to the full. What happens to the person next to them is none of their concern!

Old extended families have become nuclear families with hardly any or few children. Marriage as a social contract has given way to couples living together with full freedom. Parents are being left on their own, to fend for themselves, and with age, ending up in homes. Social strife is increasing as a result of the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, often ending in violence and wars. Crimes have become a regular feature of the news, with the youth ending up killing even family members!

1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty because greed has overpowered the spirit of sharing and empathy. As Mahatma Gandhi warned: ‘There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed!’ Out of the total population of 7 billion, 30% are malnourished and prey to all sorts of diseases. The global financial system is lopsided, paying lip-service to poverty alleviation. A farsighted American author Jacque Fresco has said: ‘War, poverty, corruption, hunger, misery, human suffering, will not change in the monetary system. That is, there will be very little significant change. It’s going to take the redesign of our culture and values.’ This is where the Sukhi Parivaar program is relevant!

Let us now look at our beloved blue-green planet earth. Ever since the 1992 United Nations Global Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), nations are being repeatedly alerted to the dire necessity to change their development orientation, reduce consumption of natural resources, move towards the utilization of new and renewable energy resources, and check global warming and climate change. Few really understand and are giving credence and priority to these recommendations, and are still running after accelerated economic growth. The logical mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle is being sidelined. Development is still being measured on the annual rate of economic growth. The GDP per capita is the overall king! And the concept of Happiness in terms of the Happiness Index is being laid aside. We need to be constantly reminded of the successful country Bhutan where the happiness index is highest.

Meanwhile global warming is increasing. From the 2015 Paris agreement to limit the average global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average temperature (12.5 Celsius) by 2025 to the recent Katowice COP24 conference in Poland this month, after two weeks of intense debates in the coal-tinged city, the conference still could not reach accepted resolutions. Very little has been realized, and global temperature is increasing faster as global emissions are rising more and more. The Katowice conference was to come up with concrete steps to avoid impending catastrophes. The participants merely agreed on the need for more ambitious climate pledges before 2020, and this left many NGOs ‘disappointed at the lack of more forceful language’. Developed countries have not met the target of voluntary contributions up to $100 billion per year in climate finance to poorer countries to enable them pursue their pre-2020 actions to reduce greenhouse producing development activities. Now the discussions have been postponed to next year’s COP25 in Chile.

Civil society is really concerned about the future. Some 65,000 people marched into Brussels calling for more ambitious actions on climate change by developed countries. In Katowice proper 3000 people were on the streets urging negotiators to ‘wake up’. They were carrying banners saying ‘clean coal is a dirty lie’. They protest about the use of fossil fuels which they say have to stay underground. Sir David Attenborough has predicted that the ‘collapse of our civilization’ is ‘on the horizon’! Gone will be the blue planet!

At 1.5 degrees Celcius rise in the global average temperature, the Arctic ice caps start melting and sea-level starts to rise. This is already being experienced as some islands in the Pacific have been submerged. Sea corals are bleaching, fish stocks are decreasing; insects that pollinate our plants are disappearing, with impending food shortage. If the temperature rise is 2 degrees Celsius, there will be severe global water shortage, and most coastal cities will get submerged. If we exceed the 2 degrees Celsius limit, which is likely to come by the end of this century, massive destruction of animal, plant and human life will be experienced. The greenhouse gases are fast increasing and causing more of this global warming. And developing countries like India and China are struggling to meet the agreed targets, while the USA does not believe in the agreement! The USA emits more than 12 times greenhouse gases than others. And we here are still banking on coal and heavy fuel for our energy supply when alternative sources like wind, sun, wave and biomass are available and need funding! A few windmills, a few solar panels, here and there will not meet the target aimed at. Such alternative energy sources need to be given the due policy priority they deserve.

The future indeed looks dim, very dim! But do we have to go by the flow? It is our duty to wake up and contribute our mite in alleviating this phenomenon of global warming and climate change. Even as an island we have a role. And that has to go through educating one and all on the hazards that loom ahead. That is why governments and families have to take cognizance of these, and this can be done through the practice of the Sukhi Parivaar program where the ethical, social and concerted development is achieved.

By daily sharing one’s achievements and failures in a spirit of communion, by constant dialogues, we can face both the social and environmental problems through understanding and solidarity. The daily evening dialogues before dinner offer us a real opportunity to play our roles properly, and change our mindsets for the better. We can then convince governments also. Changing mindsets can take some time, but time is running out! The ball is in our court!

For more about Sukhi Parivaar: www.sukhiparivaar.org

* Published in print edition on 18 January 2019

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