The Initiative for Green Habitats represents a long term commitment towards providing solutions for the creation of Sustainable Built Environments. This blog attempts to provide an insight to our views, commentaries on our work, ideas that we are working on, and provoke thought where there are more questions than answers.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seeking an alternate world- Making sense of going green with respect to the modern day development paradigm

Times they are a changing. Boy, can you feel it or what? Never before in modern, post industrial times has the common man been so aware of changes in rainfall, temperature, freak weather... the list is endless. Every other day, we read about new records being toppled in the these very categories. Climate and weather occupy more and more space in our newspapers alongside burgeoning development, pollution, and infrastructure woes. The mood is sombre and sometimes on edge, predicting various doomsday scenarios. There are calls for action, change, and even questioning the very way of life that we have grown so used to.

Within this environment of climate change and demands to reduce emissions of green house gases our nations are preoccupied with pushing up growth indices in order to convince themselves, and others who they hope to attract investments from, that we are doing fine. If anything at all, the 2007-09 recession years have shown us that current models of development and modern day economics have serious flaws. This model implies that nations have to keep ticking to stay above. In other words, this means that we have to keep selling, keep consuming, keep producing, keep extracting, keep mining,.. to project a healthy rate of growth. Sales have to be better than before to ensure that a business is afloat, no matter if the consumer needs it or not. This has lead to a world of misinformation, exaggeration and titillation.We buy because we dread the fall-outs of not doing so, we buy because we feel that we are being benefited, we buy because we feel we are doing well and we also buy because we don't want to feel left out. Along the way we have grown to believe in these globally disseminated messages of size, gloss and finesse. Modern day economics have meant that we have lost, or are rapidly losing, any connects with the way we lived earlier. With that is the disappearance of traditional knowledge systems of carrying capacity- how much to take, when to take, how to give back and so on. What all this means is the struggle to resurrect ourselves from the graves of climate change is arduous. The important question is 'how can we maintain both modern day growth economies, and do less harm to the environment simultaneously?'

20th Century Economics necessitates increased consumption. Today's green initiatives are overwhelmingly about clean energy. While this is essential, you cannot forget other aspects of sustainability. The old adage, 'too much of anything isn't good...' is perfect to describe the situation. For the building industry to do well, it necessitates more building (whether we need it or not); the building materials sector too needs to keep doing better that they did last year to retain value in the market; this only means more raw materials needed and so on. The same applies to the Automobile, Fishing, FMCG, Textiles, and essentially every fathomable industry. We have already out-consumed natures bounty in many ways. Entire oceans of fish are vanishing, various ores and minerals have been 'mined' dry, forests have been gets clear where this is headed. The growth based valuation of modern day economics is sending us over the precipice.

So how do we see any credible green initiative in today's context? Essentially, it is about painting a picture of an alternate world. To borrow the slogan of the World Social Forum- "Another World is Possible".Are the answers all there? Gosh no! Each initiative is about exploring possibilities and building on promising ones. We need to stop looking for overarching solutions for current day problems, and rather find what is most appropriate to us in our respective regions. Some solutions may cross borders, yet many more would be specific and limited. As professionals, serious about seeking out alternate models of development, we need to  recognise what our roles are in the prevailing economy. We are either catalysts of change, slowing down the processes of decline, or, are charting new courses development wise. There are always the nay-sayers who would label such thinking as regressive, but they act as if there exists no other possibility.

What is important are the choices that we make. We need to constantly ask ourselves questions like, 'is this good for me in the long run?', or better yet 'Is this sustainable?' before we act on our choices. It is a tough one no doubt. This 'recent past' in the context of human history is also 'the memory of our times'. The challenge is unlearning the trappings of our lifetimes and seeking connects with the past and possible futures that would ensure long term sustainability. We have begun to get connected like never before... it is important we stay the course.


  1. Nice!
    "...seeking connects with the past and possible futures..."
    True. The best way to assure a safe future for ourselves is to look back and learn from the past. We forget that the present stands between the past and the future. But, alas! We are behaving as if we are pastless.

    1. Nice take Savita, "...the present stands between the past and the future." Various things contribute to this 'pastless-ness'- Break in vocal traditions, no storytelling, not understanding traditions and rituals (I am equally a victim of this), adopted alien built forms (that we blindly put our faith in), and so on. The situation is akin to several things, an addiction, brain-washing, and so on. Very tough to overcome, but one has to in order to see things clearly!