Sustainable Communities (ID-23)

 

Sustainable Communities

MedhaJournal – Participant ID# 23

Being a person acutely conscious of the environment, one was struck by the topic given to write an essay about. Though it appears something “quite the right thing to be” in reality, it is tricky to deal with it practically. Oddly, the ‘sustainability’ piece of the topic – which is invariably always the favourite environmental cliché used – is not quite a problem; ‘communities’ is. Why?

The impacting-and-getting-impacted phenomena are largely concentrated in the urban areas: the zones that dictate money economy the routes it should take; the areas dictated by consumerism and waste in any form possible; the settlements that are aware of everything or nearly everything about the environment they have created or destroyed: yet are helpless. The places that are caught in the eddies of environmental whirlpools sucking them and the rest of the earth into the abyss of no-come-back. In these places, the institution of community is lacking. Even the cliques, that can be called little communities, are based more on the commonality of the minds and personal interests and less on the proximities of the people living within small areas. One is unfortunately, and powerlessly, part of this!

Having stated that, one has to come to the next reality: oneself. One’s primary job is thinking and, naturally, the murderous fear that one’s thought images – even those that get translated into the next subtle phase of word images – might virtually vanish, keeps haunting. To keep alive these images, it is crucial for one to present a workable means to translate them to reality – at the right time – if any effectivity is to be achieved.  This personal rhetoric and the discussion topic have a merging stream of similarity. The awareness of man’s responsibility for the degradation of the environment and the counter responsibility to preserve it is ever growing and many questions have been raised. Needless to say, many answers have been given. While some of them have been, fortunately, translated into reality at least in places, many continue to remain just questions and answers: mere images and, therefore, hauntingly frightful!

Images are good to increase awareness, nothing more. It remains the promised after life in heaven. But the karma to reach heaven is needed more than anything. A certain ‘Earth Day’ with a certain ‘hour without electricity’ in a year seem ridiculously contrived without any sincerity attached to it. The proximity one feels vis-a-vis ‘sustainable communities’,  has made it all the more difficult to feature in words the clarified picture of what could be a possible answer to create one. The reason is that, like thoughts, none of the solitary solutions would be solution enough. It takes an integrated approach to achieve even the slightest movement towards a more environmentally appreciable earth. An attempt is made, though.

Things are taking a turn to view things in the simpler light of past wisdom. This is favourable for its profundity. The use of wind energy, solar energy, bio-energy and other forms of inexhaustible and renewable energy sources have attracted keen attention and research in recent decades. The finer points are rather technical into which I dare not move. The point I have made note of mentally – and which I think is important – is that it makes great efficiency sense to utilize these forms in the most direct way possible: solar energy for heating and lighting, wind to pull up water, for drying and grinding grains and waves to rotate turbines. Simply put, the sunnier places should be able to cook using the sun’s rays and reflect sunlight to light up the deeper parts of the buildings until late into the evenings; the rotation of the windmill should pull up pails of water for the fields, possibly they can be installed in high-rise buildings – with suitable venturi contours to enhance wind velocity – and used to pump water into storage tanks and sails should be used (once again) to complement fuel to navigate ships. Further to these direct uses, conversion to and storage of electricity can be explored. Direct concept applications should be hurriedly implemented first and foremost.

As a thought on the side, in one’s view, the most efficient way to store solar energy and use it at will is by simply growing trees. Just a little care for a tree or two by each family – if not each individual – would provide more than we take for granted. Tree growing can be either out of personal interest in redeeming the environment or it could be a mass operation to have a forestry based economy.

Walking astride of energy, there ought to be respect for life. Wastage in any form is wastage of energy – be it life energy or physical energy. Food, water and actions among others are things that need to be prudently used. The concept has to be inculcated in the minds of the young and youthful not by ridiculous fear of the likes of: ‘Do it today to avoid suffering tomorrow’; ‘Otherwise God will punish you’ etc. but by reminding that life is precious and is meant to be honoured and respected and therefore that grain of rice ought not to be wasted. It is important to respect one’s own life during one’s lifetime. Why should one be asked to wait to watch if they suffer or visit heaven?

On the other side the famous three R’s are repeated – Reduce, reuse and recycle. True, the repetition has not reduced but are being reused and recycled in several forms. But practically, are we? The science of recycling can be explored in many many ways. They do not stop with merely melting plastics and smelting metals. What about all the bottles and cans – both glass and plastic; what about the tin containers and many things else. Instead of getting into a ‘process’ to make them reusable, why not design them to be reused with minimal work like sterilising and using them again, maybe? Other than the soft drink companies, one is not aware of others doing it. This is a suggestive beginning to explore eco-entrepreneurship possibilities.

Reverting to traditional architectures that are based on the needs and available resources of the locality would be very sane. Similarly, moving towards producing and consuming locally would have a huge positive environmental impact. Town planning and redesigning should take into consideration the regular commuting distance and time which are directly related to the environment.

Ethics and environmental concern are the same. Both are ways of paying obeisance to nature. Unless ethics are safeguarded, the environment would continue to suffer. We have to work towards moving away from the gross synthetic economy into the simple natural economy. Instead of GDP, it ought to be ‘Lack of Hunger’ that determines a country’s progress. For this, manual labour has to be given its due high value and returns. So long as this does not happen, the environment would suffer due to several reasons inextricably linked and interlinked, the most important among them being desperation and greed.

We can assume that the governing bodies would bring in laws and administrative machineries to make sure that all these happen. On the other hand, we can start doing our drop for the ocean. Teach our children that life is more precious than anything else and that no life is known to exist in the Universe except in the crust and atmosphere of the earth and even if there is, it still is extremely rare and therefore priceless. That the earth does not expect us to take care of it, but that we are responsible for taking care of ourselves and other life forms. That the awesome spectacle of the Universe, the bounty of the earth, the cleansing clear waters and healthy fresh air are cherished generation after generation and ought to continue for it is possible only by living things. We can show our children that ‘doing the right thing’ is eternally fashionable while everything else is a mere fad that is meant to fade away. We can teach them with a lifetime of conscious sincerity to our teachings. Then, and perhaps only then, the eternal human community would form and sustain itself and the earth with remarkable responsibility.

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