De-growth advocates reduced production, laying stress on more equitable consumption of products across various segments of society. Some thoughts on sustainability from architect SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI
In the past when we were “less developed” and had only two models, the part of the car that malfunctioned was repaired and re-fixed. Now “developed” with hundreds of car models, we have started throwing that part away to get a new one. Imagine the future – forget repairing or replacing, we may simply throw the car itself away and get a new one! Such things are already happening in watches, fountain pens, cell phones and such others where we are forced to throw them for the sake of a small spare part. Getting anything repaired is becoming cumbersome and will never give us the best product, while replacing is seemingly the easiest.
Of course what we forget in all this is that replacement will consume more carbon resources than repairing; there are thousands of manufacturers to design the new, but hardly anyone to take care of the discarded and the idea of growth gets misunderstood as acquiring by those who can afford.
The theory of de-growth attempts to counter this position. It advocates reduced production, emphasising on more equitable consumption of these products across the various segments of society. Where we need to grow is in the direction of ecological stability, human well-being and resource equity. Society should live within its limits of carbon footprint.
Accumulating material objects and comforts is needed up to certain limits, but definitely should not be the focus of our routine jobs and hard work. Sufficient products for all should get priority over efficient products for a few, which can be achieved by innovation and technology re-directed accordingly.
The construction industry has been the opium for dream living, complimenting people for arriving at luxury, cajoling them to live what they financially deserve and supply the best from around the world. The lesser privileged are urged to reach the top, where the trickle-down effect continues to tease us, making us buy more and buy costly. The ever increasing cost of construction is linked to this phenomena, not directly but indirectly, where the prospective house owners are forced to shell out more money as every month passes by.
Design and building were among the human activities focused on comfortable shelter and not luxurious living. De-growth questions the latter, the recently emerging attitude in Indian homes and hotels. However as a theory, de-growth cannot be a common theory across time and place for all people. While the supermarkets have to de-grow, the small shops need to re-grow.
The widely travelled generation can go slow, but the younger generation eager to explore the world should continue and seek exposure. The rich may say it’s enough and stop earning, while the poor need to grow and catch up with basics of life. In this era where India is constructing large numbers of buildings everywhere, virtually in all big cities and small towns, it is time to question our attitudes. Theories of sustainability, like de-growth, are tools to that end.