In Sunday’s Radio 4’s Something Understood programme, Mark Tully asked if climate change offers an opportunity for us to improve our lives. The cartoonist Pettit lists some of the consequences of moving to green policies and technologies:
He believes that not only would this lead to consuming less and respecting nature more, but also to finding a deeper relationship with nature and each other – as Helena Norberg-Hodge stresses in her talks about global localisation (eg TedX here).
Mark referred to The Poverty of Affluence: A Psychological Portrait of the American Way of Life, by Paul Wachtel, in which he suggested that our commitment to consumption is in fact an increasingly desperate attempt to replace the sense of community that our very growth has torn apart.
Selecting the industrial revolution as a starting point, as Christine Parkinson does in her forthcoming book, Three Generations Left? Mark discusses the prevailing economic wisdom of ever increasing growth, and ever increasing demand to feed that growth, with leading Indian economist Rajiv Kumar who referred to the consequences of all adopting the American way of life. In similar vein, the late Winin Pereira used to confound doubters by asking what would happen if every adult Indian acquired a car. Rajiv Kumar believes that economics can and must change to reduce our impact on the climate.
In 1998 I recorded Mark’s words in a broadcast which was part of the Independence Day celebrations: “It seems to me that India should have gone the way advocated by Gandhi – retaining and promoting rural self-sufficiency. 80% of its people live in rural areas – there are still 110 million peasant households”.
Mark acknowledges the benefits of human ingenuity which has led to so many technological advances and enhanced our lives. He considers how a move towards a new way of life might be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, while reminding us of a Native American Cree proverb that “only when the last tree has been cut down, the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will man finally realise we can’t eat money”.
His programme may be heard on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0783m43 for 29 days.