Recognising the indispensable need for education in the struggle for sustainability, the UN declared 2005-2014 as the decade to educate towards achieving human development through three prongs economic growth, social development, and environmental protection. This was not meant to be merely educational in saving the natural world; it was proposed as a wider instruction to create policies and programmes that would instill the “values, behaviour and lifestyle required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation”.
As we approach the end of this challenging decade, it’s heartening to know that some communities have been engaging in responsible and sustainable practices all along. In the quiet, beautiful folds of Arunachal Pradesh, for instance, the local community has been following a centuries-old agricultural practice called jhum or shifting cultivation. The Apatani tribe of northeastern India combines paddy farming with fish cultivation, leading to an energy-saving economically efficient agricultural system.
In more recent times, the effort to build sustainable structures has given rise to the term ‘arcology’, a combination of ‘architecture’ and ‘ecology’, which refers to building ideas and principles that pay attention to sustainability during construction. Arcology was the basis on which architect Paolo Soleri constructed giant hyperstructures for people to live and work in, in a self-sufficient and environmentally friendly manner. Arcosanti is a town in Arizona established by Soleri to demonstrate environmentally conscious living that does not take advantage of the earth and its many resources.
As is often the case, self-serving shortsighted organisations sometimes pretend to appear environmentally friendly in the public eye. In reality, these companies do little to use resources and create products responsibly. Popularly known as ‘greenwash’ in sustainability-talk, these companies go a long way in slowing down the overall process of responsible living.
However, there are also several organisations and communities that take numerous measures to reduce not only their carbon footprint, but also their water footprint, which refers to the total amount of water used in the production of goods and services. Many efforts are also made to be involved in ‘carbon neutral’ activities, a term used to describe activities like planting trees, recycling water and waste and conserving power, that help cancel out the detrimental effects of GHGs (greenhouse gases) on the earth’s atmosphere.
The concepts of individual and corporate social responsibility go a long way in making communities conscious of both their individual and collective responsibility towards the planet, so that future generations may benefit from the many life-giving but finite resources of the earth.
Sustainability Lessons To Learn And Remember