Just a word?

‘Sustainability’ must mean more than mere lip service.

Once in a while someone of importance comes up with a word or phrase that has others scrambling to Google or diving into dictionaries.

Then commences a flurry of activity ranging from speeches to promotional campaigns before one knows it.

There are gross distortions that arise from not comprehending what the definition implies. 

No surprises that “sustainability” is taking such a hammering since it was re-introduced in tandem with concerns over the Climate Crisis.

The veils of diplomacy and “nice to hear” verbosity wear thin and tattered.

At the grassroots level, especially in the third world.

The citizen doesn’t need to be taught about not wringing the life out of whatever sustains us.

Given the one-sided nature of digitization, the city-grown hybrids are positioned as the know-it-alls.  

The consequential deluge of planting trees gave way to recycling and now the three-pronged “reduce, reuse, recycle” theory.

Barely has this taken root than science throws up a new condiment. Growing more, planting more, breeding more doesn’t work in isolation.

On the contrary, all three have to be implemented in keeping with the way nature has designed it in the first place. 

The global know-it-alls have never been as badly exposed as they stand today.

Months after solemn if cantankerous negotiations leading to a tapered-down COP26 agreement, leading proponents are on a U-turn on their commitments.

The strongman of Europe, Germany, is turning back to coal to meet energy requirements.

Let it not be forgotten that Russia and India were lambasted for not agreeing to turn away from arguably the dirtiest form of fossil fuels.  

Germany — that had led to moving away from nuclear energy in deference to public demand have tried to stick to the ideal.

France, having not made any such commitment, is biting fingernails over the poor performance of its nuclear reactors.

India and Russia have thus been vindicated. Russia, as it turns off the taps to Europe, has made $97 billion in energy exports for all the sanctions the West has thrown at it. 

From electricity generation to energy, business interests have ruled supreme in third-world investments.

It had always lurked behind the main themes of COP discussions, occasionally peeping out.

It’s now brazenly clear: Softer aid decisions will be ruled increasingly by “strategic (read: Business) interests.”

Developed countries will seek to invest in electric transportation and renewables thereby promoting their business community.

That all renewable energy options will differ from region to region is a point that has to be taken note of by sovereign governments.

The clawing sensation in stomachs is that grandiloquent desires may outweigh ground realities.  

Donors or development partners inevitably point to infrastructure as core to any investment supportive measures.

The ravages caused by a nature fed up with insensible demands on it, is usually not listened to.

Cash-strapped governments take the easy way out to calamities.

Applying bandaids where antibiotics are required is classically evident in Bangladesh.

Countless billions have been spent in tackling the aftermath of floodings, when the money could have been better spent in consultation with local experts. 

The lack of will and knowledge are broad explanations to be read between them.

When was the last time the World Bank or others came clean with environmental assessments and redress to annual and unforeseen natural calamity?

One can argue as strongly the reluctance of governments to associate, in the planning phase, the thoughts of those that know their stuff.

That’s far better than bringing them in once the damage is done.  

Large populations in small-geography countries have to be fed.

Where agriculture is still the mainstay, experts have to advise better options than to simply over-exploit the land.

That too needs rest. Decisions of housing, industrialization, and investment cannot but be planned in integration. 

The days of isolated thinking are over. 

Genetically modified agriculture isn’t for physicians and nutritionists.

They realise the longer-term impact on health and morbidity.

Challenge the brightest minds with appropriate incentives to revert to organic growing, at least for the essentials.

There are good lessons from other countries about recycling and reusing. 

Sweden does it so well that it can’t find takers for disposal of ultimate rubbish.

Norway is working on recycling food waste into safe, edible alternatives. That’s where funds would be better focused.

For all the talk of sustainability, the private sector cannot escape its share of criticism. There are times when quality and quantity must work inclusively.  

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