Around eight years ago, when everyone else was speaking about ‘Sustainable Development’ I emphasized the need of ‘Sustainable Consumption’. I will put forward my own vision of sustainable consumption and the road map to achieve it.
Let me begin by looking at the global trends. Poverty, social and gender inequalities are increasing globally. The consumption of most affluent part of population influences the consumption patterns and aspirations of others worldwide. Another worrisome point is that the consumption pattern in the developing world is blindly following those in the developed world i.e. the affluent population in developing countries tends to adopt the lifestyle of rich countries, which is exemplified by the use of all kinds of gadgets, luxury goods and automobiles.
The gist is that the consumption trends in industrialized nations are assuming unsustainable high levels which will be followed by the developing world in their own time. Rise in the world population, decline in the forest cover and of freshwater availability and a tremendous increase in the demand for primary energy are causes of great concern. If the current consumption patterns continue, the ecosystem that provides us with renewable resources could collapse long before the world runs out of non-renewable resources. There is thus an urgent need to set up a firm agenda on achieving ‘Sustainable Consumption’ in the next few years at a global level.
What is sustainable consumption? To my mind it has to deal with the use of products and services that respond to basic needs and bring quality of life. It brings together a number of key issues, such as meeting basic needs, enhancing the quality of life, improving resources efficiency increasing the use of renewable energy sources, minimizing waste, reducing environmental burden and reducing health risks. But this must be achieved by minimizing the use of natural resources and emissions of waste and pollutants. Sustainable consumption has to be focused not only on the present citizens of the globe, but also on the future citizens, so that we do not, with our greed, tamper with the future generations.