Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The Challenge is not Adapting to a Livable World!
A Warmer Earth Still Could be Our Happy Planet!
by Uchita de Zoysa, Convenor – Climate Sustainability PLATFORM

The focus of our challenge on earth should not be diluted or diverted towards merely adapting to a liveable world. Even in a world with increased temperature, the future human generations should be able to find wellbeing and happiness. The adaptation challenge is not to compromise on a liveable world but to take necessary action to create prosperity in a changing climate on earth. The danger of the compromised approach suggests that we humans will suffer in a 2°C plus temperature rise. Humans have shown their resilience throughout history and should be able to make a warmer world into a happy planet. But that is only if we all can agree to give away with the current system that promotes consumerist lifestyles that may take us beyond a 4°C rise in heat that is not even suited for human habitation.

The problem lay within our inherited world of false ideals that we keep on passing to our future generations. We have been told that capacity building in life is for higher income and acquisitions, and that development would mean commitment to achieve such materialistic targets. Only a few nations on earth have experienced development in the market economy based development approach. For the past many decades we have been told that some countries are developed and that some are developing. I have waited over four decades to understand 'development' as it has never reached my country - Sri Lanka. Then I meet so many people from the branded developing countries, while travelling across the world and at conferences, and they too do not seem to have a clear idea and do appear to struggle as much as I do. I also associate a lot of people from the categorized developed countries, and they do not seem to have found contentment or happiness in the development given to them. While they have already had their higher incomes and acquisitions, it is puzzling to see why they are not content and happy in life. Now that the French and British governments have understood that the GDP based economic growth approach does not reflect the nation’s prosperity in the wellbeing of their citizens, perhaps the UN and USA can start appreciating those smaller Southern nations who have been rebelling to retain their sufficiency pathways to prosperity approach.

In these times of change, greening the existing industrial production system will not help green the economy and achieve climate sustainability. It will not take us towards a carbon neutral society and drive us away from the wasteful lifestyles. A new green world order has to be more authentic than making mountains of the green labelling and green procurement businesses. Such a new world order will have to make sufficiency based considerations more pertinent. Sufficiency can firstly reduce greed and want for over-consumption through a state of adequacy and contentment. It can also innovate on indigenous knowledge systems to produce without waste, more efficiently, become more self-reliant, and less dependent on external resources. The national economic crisis in 1997 is what lead the King of Thailand to officially pronounce a ‘philosophy of the sufficiency economy’ as the way forward in that country. Subsequently the Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan from 2002 to 2006 in the county, adopted sufficiency economy as their economic policy and explained that its goals are to achieve sustainable development and proper well-being for Thai people. It is a balanced development which took into account the economy, society, politics, and environment, aiming to make people in the society happy, self-reliant, and abreast with the world, while still preserving the Thai national identity. Just like in Thailand, many smaller nations believe in sufficiency as the way to national prosperity and wellbeing of their people and are involuntarily dragged into suffering through a global economic and governance system that thinks otherwise.

Those who have dragged us towards a state of climate change that threatens human existence on earth are now trying to discover a way for us to survive in a liveable world. This cannot and should not be the aspiration and determination of humankind. That is a compromise that we, as a generation, are trying to make on the lives of all future generations. While enjoying the offerings on earth today, we are planning a world of lesser enjoyment for the future humans. If we are only negotiating for a liveable world for our children and their children, then we are demonstrating intrinsically our selfish nature as a generation and it is simply fighting to get the best share for ourselves. Climate change has also provided the humans a historical opportunity to act as one species, and the act needs to be mindful this time.

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