Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Dark Night

Power condition in Bangalore has been pretty bad as it is. Sunday evening's storm has made things worse. For the last two days, we are facing long power outages at home during the night lasting for 2-3 hours. My little son Vigyan wasn't able to sleep due to the heat and mosquitoes. I stood there fanning him with a magazine for about an hour, non-stop. Seeing him in trauma is a far dearer price to pay for me than an hourlong torture of standing in dark, sweltering heat of the night, myself bathing in sweat, trying to comfort him with a medieval apparatus. Seeing him slide back into a peaceful sleep was more than a compensation.
But this post is not all about showing off what an affectionate father I was last night (though I can't claim that not to be in the fringe of the agenda). The main purpose is to raise an alarm from my personal side.
I think we have started scraping the edge of the precipice. There will soon be a sudden disappearance of earth from beneath our feet, and then will begin a sudden, fatal fall. The way weather has been off late, the uncontrolled shortage of power and water, basic necessities of civilised life, all these is somewhat too ugly, too regular, to be caprices of nature. I think we are in a decisive stage of our battle against our unplanned, uncontrolled growth as a species. And we are going to lose this battle!
And at every moment I see instances of how we have abused our surroundings. How we continue to do it, thinking that it's normal to do so. Thinking that worry about it is a sign of one's own morbidity.
At office, the instances are most rampant.
People travelling to office by car, all alone. Shame on all of you!
People who don't switch off their computers while leaving office. Shame on you!
People who waste tissue papers and water in the toilet. Shame on you!
People who waste food. Shame on you!
You, who are often good people otherwise, often you are my friend, my colleague -- you are the reason why last night was such a long dark night for me and my son.
A long dark night awaits. A very long, a very dark night. Then, we'll most probably not have the luxury to exchange pleasantries at cafe. There will no lunch and snacks to go together to, because there will be only so much as only either of us will be able to eat. Not you and me. It'll be you or me! In those dark times, we may have to avoid each other's eyes. For it's hard to look into the eyes of a person you are killing. We will soon be fighting each other. Killing each other. Just like beasts! Because there will soon be so little left to survive on, that we have to reduce ourselves to savage ways even to exist.
Meet you in the battleground. Meet you in the jungle. Meet you in the dark night.
I had written this post for the company internal blog. But found it relevant to be reproduced here.


Pritesh said...

Extremely relevant Sujit. I think it's time for us to start preparing for the downfall. I don't think there is anything we can do to stop or undo our abuse of nature!

Hasan said...

I might disagree with the reasons and the causes. However, I agree that it is the time for a change. The thing which is being discussed is the power (not political, but electrical). First of all, I would say that the source of power is not clean. You take a good sleep in the night under fan or A/C - it's the nuclear power or thermal power. Both of which are not clean source of energy. Cutting the power is saving huge amount of heat generated during the process. You should be happy that you are helping the nature by living 2 hours without power!

Frankly speaking, the whole question here is comfort. Whenever we feel uncomfortable, we start blaming each other - instead of finding the appropriate solution. How many of us use solar power for household electricity needs or water heating needs? Not many. It's the energy you are suffering from. Just use it. How many of us drive electric or hydrogen cars? How many are there clean fuel transport vehicles? Not even a single one. When computer system crashes, you don't shut it down. You try to recover. You delete the malfunctioning applications. The reason is that the job of computer is to keep functioning. Similarly, the job of nature is keep functioning and keep supporting life. The nature was not live-able and people have made it liveable. This is the reason for outburst of human population. Just think that 2 hours power cut has suffocated you. Our ancestors have been living in the same climate for millions of years - Fighting, suffering and dying. Do you want to live the same life. Go ahead!!

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Hm. Hasan Miya! You set me thinking! :) Indeed, I can't think going back to the minimal lifestyle of our ancestors.
...and true, no level of luxury is inherently wrong. It becomes wrong when complimented with an exploding population. Probably, if there had been a far few number of people on Earth, the present level of consumption would have been sustainable too.
From here, I have two questions:
- Is population growth inherently tied with growing afluence? This question has two parts: 1. Will growing afluence definitely be followed by a growth in population which will make it unsustainable? 2. Does our way of producing lifestyle technologies inseparably dependent on creating a population that, if given that technology, would make it unsustainable?
- Given the current state as the initial condition, which level of lifestyle would be sustainable, considering (probably unrealistically) that the population stays constant hereon?

Adding to the above, I have something to say about the questions you have raised about why we don't shift to all sustainable methods of living, like solar energy. From my perspective, if we don't do it, is it right to convict us as inconsiderate lot?
I would say 'no'. Many of us (I, for sure) take plenty of small measures to reduce my and my family's carbon footprint. I have no way of saying whether that's enough, since it depends a great deal on how many times, how many people duplicate that measure. But I go to quite some extent to make sure. I personally feel that there are side-effects to doing revolutionary things in such matters. People get put off and you are tagged as a social-activist (rendering all your attempts thereon futile to a large extent). I feel, there's some merit in keeping your actions of social change modest. One, it allows you to stay mixed in the crowd, giving you the chance of leading by example. The moment you give people a reason to believe that you are a social-activist or leader, they no more feel obliged to follow you. That's an irony, but true, I think. Little measures also have the merit of showing that there's no need to go too much out of the way to contribute. Just as little mistakes originated by some and duplicated by many has created such a crisis, it should be possible to originate little measures by some and duplicated by all which has the potential of saving the human race.

Well, I won't deny that I myself keep swinging between absolute despondency and optimism.

Shipra Agrawal said...

Although I understand that the purpose of your post was not to highlight your last night trauma, I did feel very bad about it, and would ask you to get "battery operated small portable fan" for Vigyan for the next time.

I myself often get thinking about abuse of resources from time to time, and make small efforts to reduce my carbon print. However, it is hard not to feel how futile those efforts are when we hear something like the recent oil spill in pacific. Or, when we see thousands of cars going on the same route every weekend with 1-2 passengers (eg San Francisco to LA), and still no plan of building a train route. I don't blame the people going by car, the only other option they have is to take a flight which is much much worse from the point of view of using fuel. I try to use as few polybags as I can, but seeing all the plastic packaged stuff at stores, and rampant use of plastic in disposable items, I am not sure any more how much those individual efforts can help. I am starting to believe more and more that those small efforts are only a feel good thing for yourself, a self-assurance, and they make no actual difference.