Environment-friendly lifestyle

By H H Mohrmen

In the run up to the World Environment Day celebrations in the state, the Government through the respective district Basin Development Units is organizing various programmes under the Meghalaya Green Mission (MGM). The goal, it appears is to catch them young. Hence schools are encouraged to start Eco Clubs, raise nurseries in the campuses apart from the usual debates, drawing competition etc., for students. These are important initiatives but what is crucial to remember is that environment conservation starts at the level of the individual.
While we have differences on issues we can at least agree on one thing and that is that every individual wishes to live a happy and peaceful life. People have their own opinions on what joy and happiness means, but there are at least two opinions on how one can achieve the two important goals of our lives. One opinion is that one can attain happiness when one can get all that is needed for a comfortable life. In this case happiness is measured by material things and how much luxury one enjoys. But the other opinion is that happiness is to be contented with what one has and the way one is.
There is a story of an investment banker from New York who went for a holiday to an island in the Pacific. While strolling on the beach he saw a fisherman enjoying his siesta. He approached the man and asked him why he is sleeping instead of fishing in the sea. The fisherman explained that he had been fishing since morning and had caught enough fish to feed his family and also to save for future needs. The investment banker asked him why he didn’t continue to fish? The fisherman replied that he already had enough and did not want more. The New Yorker told him to continue fishing so he can earn more money to buy a bigger boat and fish deeper into the sea. ‘Why do I need a bigger boat and fish deeper in the sea?’ ‘So you can earn more money’ the banker said. ‘Why do I need more money, the fisherman asked again?’ ‘Well, when you have lots of money you can buy ships, invest in stocks and enjoy life’. The fisherman looked at the banker and answered, ‘Sir, what the heck do you think I am doing right now?
The definition of capitalism that best describes the present system is by Ernst Troeltsch. It says, “The essence of capitalism is that the means of production (soil, machinery, or money) are geared to produce the maximum amount of goods at maximum rate of turnover for a free and anonymous market… This huge, all-consuming giant works with the property of the unknown owners, for the unknown buyers, motivated only by calculation of profit and favourable sales opportunities.”  Maximum production for maximum benefit is the mantra.
One day my daughter came home with a fancy T-Shirt which says, “I am not a shopaholic; I am just helping the economy.” This is exactly what the system wants us to believe, which is that by spending money and buying everything available in the market, we are helping the economy. The system would like us to believe that consumer is the boss; she has the choice and products are cheap in the market. It makes us want to possess everything available in the market because they are must have products. Consumers are even encouraged to spend before they earn and the market tempts them with offers like, ‘buy one; get one or two free.’ During off seasons the market offers the same products at 30% reduction and sometimes even 50%. Now how can they do that? What is the real cost of the products when selling them at 30% or 50% less still brings in the profits?
We live in the world which makes one think he/she is smart, fashionable and in vogue only if one wears branded stuff. That is why the brands pay film stars big money to advertise their products. In the process we are killing the local tailor in the neighbourhood. Till the late 90’s tailoring was a cottage industry in localities of Jowai like Panaliar, Looiongkjam, Iongpiah Loompyrdi and others. Almost every family had a sewing machine. They stitched clothes which local clothes merchants sell in the village market every week in Jaintia hills. Sadly, this is no longer the case now. Markets are flooded with ready-made dresses from outside the state. Now even the number of tailors and drapers in the neighbourhood have dwindled. Their job has been taken over by the bigger players.
Young people feel that it is classy and fashionable to eat fast food at multinational eatery outlets. Again this kills our ethnic cuisine because they are slow and infra-dig even if they are healthy. Dishes from other places are gradually replacing local food on the dining table. Even local crops are disappearing to give way to the newly introduced, exotic crops from outside.
Humans are seen only as consumers with a never ending appetite for new products. Hence we are brainwashed to believe that it is classy and fashionable to own the latest smart phones, tablets or other products available in the market and via online shopping outlets. Today it is not enough to have one dual sim-card smart-phone to look cool. One needs to own one or two more of the top brands! In the end who is benefiting from all this? The corporations of course! We are not helping the economy; we only make corporate houses richer at the cost of marginal producers.
Environment-friendly lifestyles may not be fashionable but they are a healthy lifestyle. I would like to share the ABC of environmentally friendly lifestyle. ‘A’ stands for attitude. If we want to protect and preserve our environment we need to change our attitudes to life. How do we want to live our lives? How and where do we spend our money? What kind of food do we eat? What kind of clothes do we wear? Do we eat to live, or do we live to eat? These are questions that we might like to ask ourselves if we want to live an environment- friendly lifestyle because whatever we do defines our attitude towards the environment.
The next alphabet ‘B’ stands for ‘basic’ or what I call getting back to basics. Environment-friendly lifestyles mean eating organic food because even if slow food is not fashionable it is healthy. We need to encourage organic farming and use local products to boost local entrepreneurs who use local resources sustainably. Healthy living means walking and doing as much physical work as possible.
Finally ‘C’ stands for Conscious living. Environment- friendly lifestyle demands that we be conscious of what we are doing or that we do everything with utmost consciousness. We should be aware of what we are doing. Even a simple act like deciding what we do with sweet wrappers or chips packets? Should I litter the place or should I wait till I find a proper place to throw it? Should we walk instead of drive or should we use public transport or pool cars instead of driving alone? Being Conscious is making the right decision, understanding that whatever we do will have its impact on the environment.
Environment- friendly living is not only good for our healths but it also helps the local economy because it benefits the maximum number of people in the neighbourhood. When the local economy grows, it helps propel the nation’s growth too. Helping local entrepreneurs may not produce more Indian millionaires in the Forbes magazine but it will reduce the number of farmers who commit suicide. Living an environment- friendly lifestyle is not easy but it’s worth it.

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