Tuesday, May 5, 2009


As we reach the end of something, it becomes important to go back and ask ourselves - why are we doing that we are doing? A course or active research at 'the intersection of energy, technology and policy' exists in recent times because we face a tricky situation whereby we run the risk of using up our rations, before it can be replenished. In the face of this never-faced-before problem, we collectively express our fears, with the coining of the term Sustainable Development. I, as my last entry on this blog, would like to present a few thoughts on this greater picture, the nexus of which with energy we now understand.

Sustainable development for most part, is a way of living, a sharp decision making tool and an evolutionary birthmark that keeps the species surviving. It is as simple as a poor farmer investing in his son’s education while he battles with repeated years of drought (research and development), as courteous as leaving the loo as clean as one found it (social awareness and sensitivity), as pragmatic as the ant saving for winter while the grasshopper danced away (farsightedness) and as eternal as giving a man the fishing rod instead of the fish (smart consumption and production). Sustainable development over the years have gained greater momentum in the micro level, from rural micro-finance scheme in Bangladesh, to harnessing renewable energy (micro hydro) in Iriri village in Solomon Islands, to waste management schemes with community participation in Rajasthan, India. Howsoever small their contribution to the global economy, it helps uplift the lives of the people in the societies where it is implemented.

These community-based success stories itself, prompts us to question, if it is possible to make good profit in a Sustainable developmental economy, or is it all about social service and charity? The answer probably lies in the Aristotlean doctrine of man being a social animal, Nash’s equilibrium of the good of the individual lying with the good of the flock and not with the misinterpreted notion of survival of the fittest (Darwin was talking about genes and not individuals fighting it out!).

The repartee isn’t complete without stating what isn’t sustainable development. Think of the smartest guys in the room, Enron, think of the great economic crashes (even the recent one!), think of devalued currencies of certain states in the recent past, think of the millions of refuges in Africa who rely on food programs of UN, think of blood diamonds and conflict zones. These are situations that could have well been avoided if at one point of time, we hadn’t been chasing wins (be it through GDP, stocks, money, dead bodies), without thinking of long-term consequences. The prefix sustainable serves as reminder to the goof-ups we have made over time, while in our pursuit of “riches”. It is also a pointer to the principle on which the most successful societies of the world are based on, equality of opportunity and growth.

So, in summing up, in the modern economic scenario, where the good of the flock is compartmentalized, where the hand doesn’t feed the mouth of the bearer, it is doubly important to ensure that while one part of the world thrives, other part doesn’t putrefy. Today in the wake of certain violent activities in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it is the added threat of short-term political turmoil, with the ubiquitous ecological stop-clock in the background, which confronts us. We need to solve the riddles of global iniquities faster, given, today, sound bytes reaches remote corners of the world faster than a loaf of bread, making one aware of one’s misery. Otherwise, the consequences can be fast and dire, as we have witnessed in recent times.

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