Thursday, February 12, 2009

Climate Change - Opportunities to Change

With urban areas becoming more and more vulnerable, migration will not be a long-term solution. In fact, it might become a bigger problem. People will be forced to come back to the rural areas. In this scenario of urban crisis, a self-sufficient rural economy will be the best solution in the long run. The rural economy has already undergone a drastic change – from a nomadic, barter system it has changed to a cash-driven, settled lifestyle bringing with it all the socio-politico-economic ramifications. The rural economy of the future will have to adapt to this changed reality, yet be rooted in the older, more sustaining strategies and forms of running itself.

Shifts in education also will have to be made. One of key factors in loss of traditional crafts and skills and thus local self-sufficiency has been education. An educated youth prefers a job in the city to practicing crafts. But over time education can bring about the required change to the rural economy. Instead of driving youth away from traditional skills, it could empower them to dynamize and modernize the local skills and set up local industries based on these skills.
True, it might not be possible or even practical to go back to a barter economy. But local economics will have to change. A system which is locally rooted, and which relies on local practices rather than control it, can help bring control back in people’s hands.It will be very important in the long-run, if we are to make the rural economy self-sustainable, for it to depend on local markets. An economy that generates and caters to local demand thus fostering local market will bring local growth and will be the answer. Instead of further creating large, unsustainable, urban centres with large ecological footprints, it might be useful to promote smaller, local, centres with urban advantages but with small ecological footprints.

Similarly social and communal identities and religions will have to undergo change. Communities are important to provide the basic framework to which an individual can relate with and identify with. However the definition of communities themselves will have change. It might be important to define ourselves not just by religion, region, language – we will have to integrate core values, forms of lifestyle, and means of making a living and growth also parts of the communal identity. (The ‘untouchables’, then will be the ‘exploitative’ means of growth, while a sustainable lifestyle can ensure one to become a ‘Brahmin’ - the original caste system which defined one by the work one did and laid out the rules and ethics within that frame).

Climate change promises to bring in new ways of thinking. It will not be enough to just ‘improve’ or ‘better’ old/ current systems by adding ingredients of ecological sensitivity, or low-carbon economy. It will have to be rooted in new politics, new economics, and new socio-cultural interactions and most importantly new values. The new-ness will have to based on the ‘movement’ that already taken place (we cannot go back to the past), but have its learnings from the old, traditional systems and values. It will have to intelligently combine social equity and justice with the personal need and ambition for growth. The newness might have to come from re-defining ownership, power, richness. It might be necessary to label exploitative and unsustainable forms of lifestyle as ‘poverty’ and a socially sustainable format as ‘power’, ‘security’, etc.

It is not enough to look at or change current policies, though it will have to begin here, of course. But if we are to survive, in the long run, formats of governance will have to undergo change. It might be necessary to shift from the dream of ‘global power’ to ‘local power’. Or at the least, the meanings of these phrases might have to be understood differently. Global politics, global power that are here to stay will have a role to play – but it will have to be more to moderate and ensure a level playing grounds, while the actual control, systems and formats of governance and growth will have to be left to local level.

It will need not just a socio-politico-economic change but also a deeply psychological change. (I would like to call it a psycho-spiritual change)

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