A case for dematerialised lifestyles for sustainable living
According the Institute For The Future (IFTF), it will be a challenge to meet the material needs of 10 billion people on a planet by mid-21st century with increasingly limited natural resources. The current consumption pattern of resources is based on the flawed premise that well-being and quality of life is directly proportional to the rate of consumption of resources. There is overwhelming evidence that material comforts do not add much to the human wellbeing after a certain level of material comfort is achieved. Yet, our economic system across the planet is based on ceaseless production and consumption of materials.
As we rush to produce and consume the resources on the planet, at current rates, we have only 13 years’ worth of indium left, 42 years of lead, and 30 years of zinc. While we try to solve this problem with research in materials and technology, it will be simpler to pay heed to the fact that we do not need to consume mindlessly and incessantly to achieve wellbeing and dematerialize our way of life.
One of primary fears people have about dematerialisation besides reduced personal wellbeing is that it will reduce the number of jobs and therefore reduce the overall wellbeing of a society. Again this is a myth as many advanced economies such as Germany and the Netherlands have been growing despite a decline in their material and energy consumption.
For a country like India, with 1.4 billion people and still growing, on a limited landmass and limited resources, it is imperative that we look to dematerialisation of our society. We will have to revert to our culture and traditional values for inspiration. In our culture, every natural resource is revered and considered sacred.
A dematerialized approach to development could also help India leapfrog many challenges that the advanced countries face today such as waste generation and over dependency on imports to manage present lifestyles.
And with this approach we can create jobs that are compatible with a sustainable future. Jobs in areas of research and development, food production, servicing and maintenance of products (to make them last longer), education & learning and art and cultural activities. In fact, depletion of resources is a message for us to look to the next level of human evolution.
earth&us is working on inculcating behaviour shifts to reduce material consumption whilst retaining the elements relevant for quality of life.