Sustainability: Prosperity that preserves resources and limits emissions

January 12, 2016.

We are now in the midst of the penultimate session of this wonderful partnership summit (22nd edit and going strong). I am grateful to the organizers for giving me this unique opportunity. The co-panelists are persons with great experience. Those who have coined the words for this session have done a great job: it defines the existential reality of individuals, societies, nations businesses and international community.

Sustainability has many dimensions. The Hon’ble Samy Velu had referred to many such items as requirements of human societies. To state it broadly these dimensions are:

  • Economic
  • Fiscal
  • Ecological
  • Thermodynamic limits
  • Social acceptability
  • Individual’s freedom etc...

I can’t raise all issues. The more crucial word is Prosperity

Naturally we all agree and ASSERT that it is prosperity for all. Looking at the

  • Laws of science
  • Laws of economics
  • And many other dimensions of ecology.

I would like suggest that we need to consider the definition of prosperity as it applies to 7 + billion which will be around 10 billion around 2040. Of the current 7 + billion CONSUMPTION levels of about 2 billion are something to be appreciated as the achievement of science, engineering, business and globalization.

CONSUMPTION is needed for economic growth and to create & spread wealth. But can all other 5 billion have a target of having the same prosperity of the other 2 billion? Thermodynamics kicks in here.

  • All cannot have facial tissues for personal hygiene.
  • And bottled water
  • All cannot have the types of dress we have here...

I can cite more examples... No engineering marvel can give them to ALL without drawing water beyond means, cutting forests; and all other natural resources. Note: facial tissues are made of cellulose and need trees!

Also to ask the 2 billion to come down in consumption levels, will not be accepted.

Behavioral economics of hedonism kick in.

Also that consumption gives jobs of other 5 billion! There seem to be a PARETTO principle operating! A few per cent having all the wealth of other large majority!

So there is an urgent need to redefine PROSPERITY at multiple levels. Then benefits of science & engineering can reach ALL by fulfilling their NEEDS.

But that requires other “elite” ICONS celebrating these multiple level standards so that the 5 billion can feel self-respect.

That does not mean no migration between different levels.

That is INDIVIDUAL freedom for choosing levels of standards not SOCIAL PRESSURE created by current advertising techniques. One-Shoe-Fit all will not work...Local contexts are crucial. We need AN IDEOLOGY OF DIVERSITY.

I place this idea of multiple & diverse standards of consumption and therefore of products and services to preserve NATURE, & enjoying it even with 10billion people to come.

India can take a lead, as it is a civilization which has grown with DIVERSITY and thrives in it. Let us translate it into scientific and engineering specifications for matters of consumption & standards. That would help preserve resources.