We humans sure do harm the environment with our activities. But asking us to give up some of our sensual desires to save the environment is completely impractical. There’s a better way.
Anthropogenic activities sure do harm the environment. But I am rather appalled at some solutions (taught to schoolkids) which advocate abstaining from luxury and our sensual pleasures.
People will never give up their luxuries and sensual pleasures to save the environment. That’s not a solution. There’s a better way to do this.
As my summer vacation rapidly rolls towards its end, I’ve been busy drafting my Environmental Science Project.
Part of my research for this project involved pondering over documents and publications by the World Bank Group, the United Nations, WWF (not the one involved in wrestling, which I personally very much disgust), NASA, NOAA, WHO, and such other institutions talking freshwater, climate change and pollution.
It is my personal choice that I like quoting publications from authoritative sources. Being a school student, I am aware of many of my peers who would much rather, and do, quote sources that are essentially fit for a kindergarten class write-up, and the authenticity of many of their claims is worthy of being taken with a rather large grain of salt. But I stick to it, as I believe it to be good research practice.
Of course, Google baba is nevertheless indispensable, and I found it much more comforting to reach my sources through Google search results than through their respective websites. Consequently, I had to scroll through many such “kindergarten” sources that talk about water pollution. I took the liberty to take a glance at many of them.
After reading through much of the so-called “solutions” they propose, I am indeed very much inclined to lay down before you what thoughts crossed my mind.
Here in India, students are often made to study a compulsory subject commonly known as “Environmental Awareness”.
The introduction of this subject is a unique story in itself. It all began when M.C. Mehta, a renowned environmental lawyer, filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court of India and won. The judgment recognised that the “right to a healthy environment” is an essential facet of the “right to life” guaranteed as a constitutional right to all Indians by our Constitution.
Later on, this Court made it compulsory that all students be made aware of challenges to the pristine nature of the environment, and also possible solutions to the same, in order to “protect and improve the natural environment”. To safely ignore the many bumps on this road, this gradually led to the introduction of environmental education in schools across the country.
There is no faint inkling of doubt that the intentions of this direction are very much noble. Through this direction, the Court has recognised that the law lives in the hearts of the people – that the support and awareness of the masses is an essential component of successfully enforcing laws. In this instance, it is a recognition of the fact that awareness of challenges facing the environment is essential to protect it.
The “Kindergarten Solutions”
It would probably not be an understatement that many would be appalled at the possible “solutions” proposed to the existing challenges our environment is faced with.
This, however, is not a denial of the necessity of environmental education (EE). The books do a rather wonderful job of educating schoolchildren about challenges to the environment. It makes kids aware of how our activities adversely impact the environment.
And to quote Bertrand Russell, “To understand the actual world as it is ….. is the beginning of wisdom.”
Some good ones I came across almost everywhere, in many different forms; in my own words:
- Don’t litter about and throw garbage anywhere. Put them in their designated places: the proper garbage bin.
- Do not keep the tap running when you don’t need the water – for instance, while brushing your teeth.
- Don’t use detergents to wash cloths in a river, pond, etc. because it pollutes them.
- Don’t leave lights and fans on when you leave a room, when no one needs it.
There were many, many other such simple, yet practical and fascinatingly ubiquitous ways to take care of the environment. I too was a kid who studied EE in school (and still do). I remember having gone through many such examples, all of which I fail to recall.
That being said, I am rather dismayed by some other solutions proposed in the environmental education curriculum followed in schools.
These are the type of solutions proposed that I am against:
- Don’t use the shower while bathing because it wastes unnecessary water. Use the same, old, desi mug and bucket.
- Similarly, don’t use the bath-tub for bathing, because it uses a huge amount of water that is utterly unnecessary.
- Don’t use more lights than you need in your home.
- Left unsaid was that you shouldn’t have a pool in your home.
- And many, many other such solutions.
Subjecting these “solutions” to the tests of logic does not leave a flicker of doubt that these are indeed solutions. Very valid solutions.
I’m not saying they are not solutions. What I’m saying is that they are not ideal solutions.
The Problem With These Solutions
Upon further inspection, it is noticed that there is one common thread that binds them all. They are all opposed to living in luxury.
Before I proceed any further, do I need to strain my mind to tell you that humans are inherently sensual beings? We crave sex, intimacy, sensuality. We crave touch, that light breeze grazing across our back, someone running his/her fingers through our hair, the texture of the warm, cozy bedsheets on our naked skin, walking barefoot on grass, feeling the figure of our partner, the sights, the smells, and so many other wonderful, amazing things that are a treat to the senses.
On a personal note, standing under the shower, taking a long, warm bath just before getting into bed at night is the most amazing feeling in the world. I could spend hours just standing under the shower, enjoying the sensation of the droplets of water striking my skin.
I would love to live in a three-storeyed mansion with a pool, long glass windows, cool curtains, a huge living room and dining hall, reading rooms, exquisite bedrooms, and the like. And so would everyone else, if they could.
There is no power in the world that can deprive humans of their inherently sensual nature. We crave sensual pleasures, part of which is luxury.
So asking a human to stay away from luxury is akin to telling a cat never to run after a mouse, or asking a baby never to scream.
You may as well forbid the mountain pinesTo wag their high tops and to make no noiseWhen they are fretten with the gusts of heaven.
It is impossible.
There is yet another angle to this argument. Increasing luxuries humans subscribe to are a benchmark of human progress.
I think it is despicable if we are asked to abstain not only from our primal sensual pleasures, but also from enjoying the latest advances of humanity, all in the name of saving the environment. And, just in case you thought we have a choice, I think we don’t.
But Sensual Pleasures Do Harm the Environment, right?
Right. Of course, they do. I’m not denying that. Before I answer this question, let me give you another example to drive my point home.
Any person who regularly keeps track of the news would be aware that in recent years, R&D into so-called “smart” devices has mushroomed. We are increasingly talking of wearable devices, stuff like Google Glass, smart homes and thermostats, refrigerators that can take care of themselves, automated coffee makers (I would love this), digital assistants (remember Siri and Cortana?), the Internet of Things, machine learning, and the like.
We are standing at a major crossroads in human history: technology is all set to revolutionise human lives. Now, what if I told you to abstain from the aforementioned because of privacy concerns?
There is a growing body of people that is bringing into attention possible privacy concerns that may be associated with using these technologies. They can be (and are) hacked. They can be used to spy on you. Entities can harvest so much “personally-identifiable data” to get you know so much more about you. And so on.
You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t abstain from using it, and I wouldn’t want you, or anyone else, to abstain from using it. Boycotting mankind’s latest advancements would be detrimental to human progress.
The privacy concerns associated with so-called “smart” devices and the Internet of Things can be effectively mitigated by providing a proper legislative and technological framework that would respect and protect users’ privacy.
Similarly, the adverse effects of luxuries and humans’ sensual pleasures can be effectively mitigated by developing technology that would minimise their impact on the environment.
Green technologies are mushrooming today, and this is a great cause for hope. Governments across the world are setting up legislative and technological frameworks that are encouraging the shift from conventional, polluting technologies presently in use to “greener” technologies that pollute much less, or better still, don’t pollute at all.
So go ahead and indulge in your senses. Indulge in your sensual pleasures. Enjoy the sensations. Use the swimming pool and bathtub, but recycle its water. Use decorative lighting, but switch to less power-consuming ones, maybe LED lights. Go ahead and buy a mansion (if you can), but use green technology. Go and get an amazing new car, but maybe something like a Tesla.
Saving the environment is a fascinating thing to do. But let’s not do that at the cost of boycotting our primal pleasures and the latest advancements of humanity.
What Do You Think?
That’s my take on the situation. What do you think? I would love a lively discussion about this, just don’t go about abusing people.
Leave your thoughts in the comments below.