Environmentalism is largely believed to be a virtuous movement. The reason is that it is pro humanity, though that concept is lost to some by now.
The earth began as a seething mass broken off the sun and cooled down, it’s noxious gases carried traces of life, which, scientists tell us, evolved into life as we know it on planet earth. The earth is still changing, continuously eliminating one life while giving birth to another.
By environmentalism, if we mean that we aspire to save the ‘earth’, it is similar to the fancy of the frog who thought he owned the moon that was reflected from the night sky into his pond. The earth is not what we are saving, because our lives are a blink of an eye to the history of the earth, and what we do are scratches on its great surface.
If by environmentalism, we mean saving that environment which is the best for human life, then, yes, we have a valid goal to aspire for. After we ‘destroy’ the earth, as some extremist environmentalists like to put it, this earth will still rotate on its axis, day and night, but whether there will be human beings populating it is a question.
The Bhutanese national Philosophy of Gross National Happiness understands this fact, underlining that for human beings to be happy on this earth, we must cultivate that environment that best lets us live in peace.
Or, in other words, we must protect the environment as it is in order for us to be happy, mostly because the process of life is too complex to be understood even now, and we know that the natural world, now, is optimum for our survival, but we are not sure what drastic changes either due to human activities or natural phenomena will do to life for human beings on earth.
It is necessary that we move forward in every environmental decision and issue with this understanding.
Climate Change, our scientists say, is happening. It is happening fast, and humans on earth are causing it. The rapid change in climate will be dangerous to humans in many ways, the delicate balance of our ecosystem turned haywire with what we do.
That we need to act to reverse the changing climate, is not a question anymore. The debate has reached beyond that, into who must act, and just how much.
It is also a known fact that any person living a modern life adds to the carbon emissions. The more complex the modernity of their existence, the more the emission. The standard of living of an individual is directly proportional to the size of their carbon footprint.
The Bhutanese live in heterogeneous societies too. While some of us drive, eat and drink a lot, smoke, build, heat up our homes with wood, own factories and use products upon products, others live in abject poverty, in villages, still ploughing their fields with the help of oxen, and emit next to nothing.
While our per capita emission is a negative value, thanks to those people who emit nothing and the huge forest cover that sequesters carbon, it would not hurt to limit our excesses, or change our habits so that we emit less. Setting an example is always good, especially when we are told that we are one of the countries with the most to lose.
But while every country is fighting hard to keep emitting as much as possible, saying their economies will collapse if they stop, are we bending over backwards in our conservation attempts? Why protect our environment if it comes at the cost of economic development, if we are keeping our poor people who could gain from the forests from achieving their GNH?
Between humans and the environment, humans must always be the priority. That is the point in environmentalism in the first place.
Either we increase our emissions, because, clearly, we cannot stop an increase without also stopping progress, or we demand that the western world gives us new ways to develop without adding more carbon to the atmosphere.