India Ecological footprint
Over the last few generations, lifestyles have changed significantly, and a culture of consumerism is setting in at a fast pace.
It is mind-boggling then, that environment minister Prakash Javadekar declared last week that Indians believe only in "need-based consumption" and shun "extravagant consumption", thanks to their "value systems".
The minister said this in Paris at a meeting of climate change negotiators from across the world. This meeting is a prelude to the important CoP-21 climate change conference there in December. He further added: "[Indians] have an ingrained sense of responsibility where wasteful consumption is abhorred."
Bigger footprint than world's average
The minister's remarks reflect ignorance of the increasing dominance of carbon-heavy lifestyles in India. Several studies of the country's resource use in the last decade indicate that our consumption is on the same path as that of industrialised nations. In fact, the well-to-do in India have a bigger ecological footprint than the world's average.
According to the Global Footprints Network, India's ecological footprint in 2011 was such that it needed 0.5 earths or two Indias to fulfill its resource needs. Of the total footprint, half is its carbon footprint.
This means that the nature of India's economy - which includes the 'lifestyle' Javadekar refers to - is such that it is heavily dependent on other countries' resources.
These charts tell the story. Notice how India's ecological footprint has increased sharply in the last decade, while no additions have been made to its bio-capacity i.e. nature's capacity to replenish our resources.
Alarming consumption of minerals
A typically sustainable, frugal lifestyle, as claimed by Javadekar, would have a larger share of naturally-occurring renewable materials and a minimal amount of materials that are extracted from the earth (such as metals and crude oil).
But the India growth story has been exactly the opposite. A pioneering study led by Simron Jit Singh at the Institute of Social Ecology, Vienna, profiles this change.
According to the study, India's consumption of minerals and fossil fuels, as a share of all materials consumed, was 60% in 2008, up from just 25% in 1961. This was compensated by a reduction in the share of biomass from 75% in 1961 to 40% in 2008.
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar claimed that Indians shun 'extravagant consumption'
This increase was commensurate with the growth in GDP - the pace quickened after the economic liberalisation policies of the 1990s and further sped up in the mid-2000s.
Singh concludes that these are worrying trends with an 'immense' impact around the world.
"If such national and local trends continue, the challenges for regional, national as well as global sustainability are immense in terms of future resource availability, social conflicts, pressure on land and ecosystems and atmospheric emissions, " he says.
Growth of luxury goods
This reflects directly in the kind of consumption in India, at least in the well-to-do sections of society.
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I totally agree! Using less plastic, buying locally grown produce, and not eating meat would definitely help! Have an awesome day. :)