PESSIMISM IS IN fashion.
Scientists, environmentalists and climatologists are claiming that
collapse is around the corner and civilisation is coming to an end.
Book after book tells us that we have passed the tipping point and
have reached the point of no return. The skies are saturated with
CO2 and the atmosphere is filled with greenhouse gases. We are told
over and over that whatever we do, we cannot reverse the rise in
temperature or prevent the sea from flooding London! What happened
to New Orleans will happen to New York. Global warming is here to
stay. The scenario of doom and gloom is expounded by experts and
We do not underestimate
the severity of the climate crisis. We respect the scientists who
are predicting a catastrophic future for humanity. We agree that
our present way of life, so dependent on the use of fossil fuel,
is hanging on a cliff edge. If we go any further we will fall into
the abyss. So the only thing we can do now is to take a step back;
let's call it "the point of return". We need to return
to a way of life that is free from damaging dependence on fossil
At present we burn billions
of barrels of petroleum every day for our food, clothes, homes,
heating, lighting, transport and entertainment. This way of life
is not only wasteful and unsustainable, but also very dangerous.
As Sir Crispin Tickell writes in his article, it took nature 200
million years to create the vast store of fossil energy that we
have almost spent in 200 years. The speed with which we are exhausting
fossil energy is incredible. Sir Crispin suggests a fundamental
shift in values and a radical return to a holistic worldview.
There is a word in Sanskrit
for the point of return: it is pratikraman. Its opposite is atikraman,
which means stepping outside our natural limits. Atikraman happens
when we break the universal law. Returning to the centre of one's
being or to the source of inner wisdom is pratikraman. These two
Sanskrit words provide a useful approach to understanding the current
human predicament and a possible way out. A profound introspection
is needed to examine the state of our psyche; we need to ask, are
we meeting our need or indulging our greed? Are we healing or wounding
In the context of climate
change and global warming, addiction to oil is atikraman and a return
to the energy derived from air, water and sun is pratikraman. One
way to begin our pratikraman is to stop and put a cap on consumerism.
We need a moratorium on motorways and runways. No new homes without
insulation. We need to put an immediate freeze on industrialised
agriculture everywhere in the world. Once we have put such a complete
freeze on the use of fossil fuel, we can start the reduction process
and the return journey to renewable resources. If we plan and manage
our return journey carefully we should be able to escape the projected
meltdown. We were able to repair the hole in the ozone layer by
reducing the use of CFCs; we should be able to mitigate the extreme
consequences of global warming if we can put an immediate cap on
the use of fossil fuel and prepare to make the return journey instantly.
To meet the challenge
of global warming, we need to change from being consumers to being
artists; we have to take refuge in the arts and crafts. As William
Morris advocated long ago, arts and crafts ignite our imagination,
stimulate our creativity and bring us a sense of fulfilment. Poetry,
painting, pottery, music, meditation, gardening, sculpting and umpteen
other forms of arts and crafts can meet all basic human needs; produce
beautiful objects to use, which need not require the use of fossil
fuel. Human happiness, true prosperity and joyful living can only
emerge from a life of elegant simplicity.
We are at the point of
return from gross to subtle, from glamorous to gracious, from hedonism
to healing, from conquest of the Earth to conservation of Nature,
and from quantities of possessions to quality of life. It is 'cool'
to be an optimist.