While I am thinking about sustainability, I am desirous of not being predictive & obvious, break the typecast boundaries on contents and aspects that I would cover in this article. Sustainability applies to so many facets. At the very core, at its center, I believe sustainability is to ‘eliminate waste’, ‘ consume lean & least’ & ‘ cut the clutter’. Be it the environmental sustainability, business sustainability, or achieving a behavior DNA for sustainable growth as an individual.
I, therefore, want to share with you an incidence that I recall having happened to me about 30 years ago. That incidence happened to me just at the spur, unplanned and, far more than the transnational issue that I was attempting to get resolved, like a strike of lightning in the dark it flashed and showed me a path of staying focused, of cutting the clutter & getting to the core. Seeing & tackling the root straight without allowing the mind to get distracted or mesmerized by superfluous superstructures of the issues! I realized that day the first time, how all of a sudden seemingly some commonest of common instances possesses the potential of pushing us up on the maturity cycle!
I was a 20-year-old boy and the year being some late 80’s times, the exposure, the way of life.. were very different! For a small house that we lived in with a very few appliances that needed electricity to run them, the monthly electricity bills we would get wouldn’t exceed Rs. 100. One of such bills we received all of a sudden read an amount well in several tens of thousands! And, the task of going to the electricity board office and getting this sorted out got assigned to me.
As can one imagine, it was a chaotic and hopelessness triggering situation at that office. The office opened late, staffs were not to be seen, visitors already queued up, piled up and irritated. Being a young man I took it upon me to “change the world” – Took a frontal position and aggressively started representing the agony of all consumer-visitors who were there! In a little while as a starting symptom of icebreaker of success, the officer in-charge came out. Looking at the thin possibility that his push back or counter aggression may do any good, he started talking to me while all other visitors were scattered around me in a molecular chaos formation. Even before we talked about the actual problem (what array of issues the visitors were bothered with, and why should they be suffering so etc..) I pushed my first point on to him about the inadequacies of everything at the office, the brashness of staff, no space to wait, stand, sit, no drinking water, dust everywhere flying with every file, non-functioning ceiling fans outside the staff seating area etc. And, after taking a deep breathed wide chested big posture trying to sham a progressive posture, he started telling me that he has personally taken special effort to have got sanction for improvements. He went on to say that very soon this office will be expanded and all those basic facilities which lacked today would be available. I could feel in his eyes, in his voice, his body language a belief that he had conquered the crowd and pacified the tension that had got built up in the room. To his, and to my surprise, I said, “ don’t you think this is completely upside down ?” He looked puzzled and annoyed and murmured in a state of little itchiness worsened by complete ambiguity on my question. I said, “ look, this is a complaint office and if you are progressive, then don’t you think your ideal epitome goal should be to see how you can shrink and eventually shut it down one day rather than spending money to expand it and improve facilities !?” Even before I completed my sentence there was a noise of cheer, claps from the entire irritated, annoyed consumer crowd around me.
Till today I have no clue how that thought struck me so reflexively at that moment given that I was yet only a student with almost negligible experience to the outside world and, the exposure that a 20-year-old young man could at best have had in a place like Pune of the late 1980s!
After some storytelling, grins and laughter’s, coming to the point! The crux that I want to hint at using the illustration or metaphor of above-described incidence is that we often experience simple things being complicated or do so ourselves than, complexity being simplified. Sustainability to my mind is nothing complicated – It’s a combination of our behaviors, thinking, reflexive responses having got forced mutated to lose our connection with straightforward natural simplicity, that we are born with. We so often end up feeling great about that success after a lot of effort of finding what was in our pockets. Firstly we lose precious what we have up front, and later feel pressured to chase and search it by dropping sweat. We have become a society who only can know the worth of something after we lose it, we only are left with an ability to appreciate and applaud rescue heroes but can’t even notice avoidance or prevention; leave aside clapping for avoidance or prevention heroes. We, unfortunately, find ourselves at similar milestones today as regards sustainability. To guard, preserve, and conserve our mother planet is no rocket science – it’s all about living, go about our lives with a conscious basic wisdom. Avoid stacking up, over accumulation by letting needs and greed inflate, respect abundance in mother nature and respond by showing gratitude – not abusing the resources but consuming only as much truly essential. Respect and take pride in being thrifty, use things through the trail of tapering off multiple usage cycles – learn to use repair as a preferred option rather than glorifying the ‘use & throw’ way of living. Insist on using what can be recycled and, recycle till the time you can’t recycle further.
To un-complicate the complicated, I would only say if the womb of the mother lives and stays healthy if the mother keeps in good health, will a child be born healthy. A mother is a mother be it the one who actually gave birth to us or mother or even all mothers – The Mother Nature – Mother Earth!
It’s a gratitude to Her, unrelentingly conscious & responsible behavior in our own generations to come that we need to take the oath of consuming thriftily, recycle generously, adopt a rich and proud art of living lean & un-polluting! Just as the GDP, Sensex, Literacy index, Employment index, let equally, or even more and more prominently worry and care about enhancing and lifting Environmental Performance Index of our ambiance, environment in enlarging & expanding spheres of influence. Because, if the latter keeps rising and growing sustainably, only then all prior can exist!
Saandeep V Dandekarr
Exec VP – Procurement & Asset Mgt, Netmagic (An NTT Communications Company) & APAC leader