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Making life is better than making babies || Acharya Prashant, with XLRI (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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Questioner: I’ve been thinking about the future in the light of the current technologies and the recent pandemic. COVID impacted the economies worldwide and also made people realize that life is precious and nature can offer us only a limited amount of resources, thus reducing consumption at least temporarily. So, what is your take on the future right now? Is there a possibility of going back to a resource-based economy at some point? What role does technology have to play in the future?

Acharya Prashant: See, in the short term consumption will probably keep rising. But since you are talking of the COVID scenario, and you are talking of probably the medium term as well, the bigger picture is that the Earth just cannot sustain the kind of consumption we are exhibiting.

So, how do I look at the future? Well, mankind will be forced to reduce its population. You cannot continue to be eight billion, ten billion, twelve billion, and then say, 'Well, in the natural course of things, we are anyway going to stabilize at twelve billion.' Even eight billion is just too much; it is just too much by many times. Twelve billion is unthinkable. And you are talking of twelve billion when all these twelve billion aspire to have a per capita consumption similar to that of the United States.

So, what are we looking at? We are looking at a scenario where nations have the population of an India and the per capita consumption of a US. Now, multiply these two, and what do you get? Utter tragedy, right? Neither are we seizing to have kids, nor are we realizing that the good life does not consist of multiplied consumption. That’s how the world is living; that’s how even the development of countries is being indexed, no?—people in which country consume how much. And you use that, you take that, and then put stuff in descending order and say, 'Well, this country is the most advanced because it produces this much stuff.' That stuff could be nuclear fissile material, or that stuff could be coal and iron and electricity and electronics; but nevertheless, you know only one way to measure development, which is production and consumption. And when it comes to production, you are not merely producing goods, you are producing babies, too, at an alarming rate. I mean, ‘alarming’ is a gross understatement; it’s a very lightweight word.

I mean, what is COVID? Your population really has expanded so much. We are talking of vaccines in the popular conversation around COVID, we talk of how governments have failed, we talk of vaccines, we talk of WHO., we talk of China, we talk of the particular Wuhan lab. But no one talks of the fundamental underlying reason: why did man have to come in contact with that virus at all? We came in contact with that virus because we have expanded our population so much that we have to enter the jungles. We need land for every new baby that is born, and how do you get that land? You get that land only by clearing away jungles.

And our greed knows no sense. So, we fight with each other, and nations want to have an upper hand over their neighbor. So, what do you want to do? You want to have gain-of-function research which for namesake is for medical purposes, but a lot of it is actually for military purposes. Even if for just the sake of defense, still the purpose is military. You need to fight with the other because you want resources. And tomorrow, when even water will be in shortage, why will you not fight with the other? And when you fight with the other, then you don’t hold back your punches, or do you? Then you will fight with the other using everything that you have. As they say, all is fair when you in war.

So, that’s the thing. Unless there is this basic recognition—which you can call as a spiritual awakening—that the good life does not consist of conspicuous consumption, we are hurtling towards a great disaster. It is already upon us. You would have read that the temperature at the place where I am sitting was seven degrees above normal the day before yesterday. Now, is that normal statistical fluctuation? Obviously it is not. It is climate crisis, and we are going to see much more of this every passing month. I’m afraid the future is not at all bright the way we are going.

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