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On the global crisis of population, consumption and climate || Bengaluru (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
47 reads

Questioner (Q): I am concerned about what will happen to me when I grow old. There are retirement homes one can resort to, but that is not a viable option to everybody. My mother, for example, got very sick when she got old, and if we had not been there for her, she would have faced a lot of hardships.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Are you like your mother?

Q: No.

AP: Then why are you comparing? Your mother paid for a dependent life. Do you first of all want to be dependent?

Q: No.

AP: Then why are you weaving stories?

Q: But my father, he was…

AP: He too would have been dependent. Why do you want to be dependent in the first place?

Q: No, he is not dependent. He is…

AP: Then why does he need you? He needs doctors and nurses.

Q: Yes, but…

AP: Are you a doctor?

Q: No.

AP: Then what would you do?

Q: But because he spent all his money on us, now he doesn’t have any left.

AP: Don’t do that. Don’t spend all the money on five kids. Keep something for yourself for your old age. In old age, you need medicine, not sons. And if you want a caretaker, hire a nurse!

Q: That’s right, because they both are living alone, and they are living a good life.

AP: How many sons anyway return from abroad to take care of their parents sitting in some native village in Uttar Pradesh? Does that happen? And why do you need to drag your life till ninety-five years of age? If you find that you have turned debilitated at eighty, switch it off. Do you really need to continue living for hundred and twenty years? Live a rich, fulfilled life. And when you find that you are on the verge of becoming dependent, then call it off.

Not one hair in your head is gray, and you are worrying about old age! Why must you turn so pathetically old in the first place? I am asking you. If you are healthy, then continue to live on, ninety, ninety-five, it’s okay, because you are still healthy and strong and on your own. But the day you find you are tied to the bed and dependent on others for every small thing, why do you still want to keep breathing? Call it a day. Done! Lived enough? Lived richly? I can retire now, can’t I?

Q: When it comes to the population of this country and the threat of climate change, is it not a sensible decision to move to another country where the population is lesser?

AP: Climate change doesn’t differentiate between countries. Wherever you go, the battle has to be fought. You can fight it here, you can fight it there. If you think you can fight it better over there, then do shift. As far as I am concerned, I would want to be in the thick of the battle; I would want to fight where the problem really is. Why escape away to some land where people are already more aware, more responsible?

The bulk of population growth in the coming few decades is going to come from countries like India. What would I do by preaching these things to the Japanese? Their population is already reducing. They will become extinct if I preach a little more to them! These things need to be drilled into Indians, because this is the place from where most of the world’s population growth is going to come.

Q: But the carbon footprint of India is way less than most other developed countries around the world.

AP: Sorry sir, look at the growth rates. What are you talking of? India is the third biggest emitter of carbon. You are probably talking of per capita emissions. Why talk of the per capita thing? After China and the US, India stands at number three, and in terms of yearly growth, India is number one.

We all want progress, you know. Every bit of that which you call as progress is carbon emitting. Every bit of that which you call as the good life is carbon emitting. A fellow comes from a small town to live in Bangalore; his carbon footprint probably increases five times, but you call it progress, you call it urbanization. A fellow moves from a small house to a big house; his carbon footprint increases four times, but you say it’s great. A fellow gets a higher paying job and gets two more air conditioners; he has done his share of damage to the Earth, but he will say this is progress.

Progress itself is the problem as long as there are so many people progressing. If you want to progress, then let there be a quarter of the people that there are; then you can have all these progresses. But you cannot have the kind of per capita consumption of resources that probably the US currently has with the kind of population that India currently has. But that is what we want: we want the population of India to be multiplied by the per capita consumption of the US. And that is catastrophic.

If you want the per capita consumption levels of the developed countries, then reduce your population to the level of the developed countries. You cannot have the population of India but the per capita consumption of Germany. Unfortunately, that is what we want.

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