Friday, November 21, 2008

Internalizing Environmental Responsibility

I can see that it is getting progressively more and more complicated to "put your money where your mouth is" in the world of responsibility. As we "develop" ourselves, we generally get more and more "irresponsible" if we live normal lives, and unless you turn yourself into a eccentric ascetic, you might as well be ready to compromise heavily on what you believe in. I think a beggar in the streets of Kolkata is more environmentally responsible than I am, though I might consider myself the more "sensitive".

Living now in Austria for short time has reinforced the Western dominance in the world of environmental degradation and energy consumption. Agreed, most things seem unavoidable, but I feel that life in air polluted Kathmandu beats living in Austria in terms of environmental responsibility if calculated in terms of "per capita negative impacts".

I work in a cold cellar, with a heater on (I try to turn it off from time to time) and with the onset of winter, its also dark, so I use lights. Everything around me guzzles electricity, and the moment I walk out, I need to drive to go anywhere, mostly alone, as public transport is few and far between where I live. The mailboxes are always full of junk paper, which I would rather not have in the first place, and I need more energy to cook each meal, as I also have to drive to the grocery to bring the stuff back, usually alone in the car. Everything I buy has tons of packing on it, usually plastic, the fruits even have a small brand stamp, which I have to chuck. I could go on, roping in all facets of responsibility, but I think the point is made.

The one thing that I can appreciate is the waste disposal mechanism, where everything is sorted, recycled or vanishes out of view. I think, in Kathmandu, I produce less than one tenth inorganic waste than when I am here, except my waste in Kathmandu is probably on the streets, later taken away to ugly open dumping sites! On the trek, I probably produce very close to zero inorganic waste!

It is also true that one can live a "green" life even here, but I am just a normal person, wanting to live a normal live, albeit a slightly "greener" one.

Unfortunately, in this world, we are all moving towards the lifestyles of the west, and though one might think that "progress" is when Kathmandu will be like Vienna, I am glad I will probably not be there to experience it.


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