growing scientific evidence that our present patterns of consumption and
production are leading to massive disruption of the planet’s life
support systems, particularly of our climate and our living resources,
governments continue to hide their respective heads in the sand.
International treaties have been negotiated to slow down this headlong
race to self-destruction, but the foot on the accelerator pedal is
stronger than the one on the brake; the biggest polluters continue to be
the biggest defaulters.
long lag times between cause (emission of greenhouse gases) and effect
(temperature rise), the global climate is in for change no matter how
soon the economies of the world reduce their use of fossil fuels and
cutting of forests. The remnants from 150 years of profligate energy and
material use will see to that. Much of this change, which will in turn
lead to changes in rainfall, sea levels, frequency of natural disasters
and other unpleasant phenomena is widely considered to be unfavourable,
if not outright harmful.
While it is
imperative that our scientists, environmentalists and diplomats work day
and night to rectify this state of affairs, and bring about global
agreements and national policies that will reduce the future causes of
global change (i.e., to mitigate them), it is also now necessary to
evolve ways to live with and respond to the changes that will inevitably
take place because of our past and present practices (i.e., to adapt to
How do we
redesign our industry, transportation and agriculture so as to make them
less vulnerable to the climate changes that will take place? The name of
this game is "resilience". Making human activities more resilient takes
proactive thinking and advance planning. Industrial processes have to be
made less dependent on resources that will be adversely impacted by the
external changes. Agriculture, including the choice of crops and
cropping patterns, has to be redesigned to be resistant to droughts,
floods, pests. Transportation and power generation have to make greater
use of renewables. In other words, we have to strive towards sustainable
perhaps not surprising that any good strategy for coping with change and
disasters is not very different from that for preventing it in the first
place. Adaptation, then, requires much the same types of action as does
mitigation – because both depend on the adoption of sustainable
development trajectories. The motivation may be different but the action
required is often, and largely, similar.
becomes all the more important in a world where both population and
economic activity can be expected to grow for a long time to come –
probably for as long as we continue to have the inequities that
characterize the world today. As we hit against the limits set by
nature’s finite resources, we will find it more and more essential to
save, reuse, recycle our resources and simplify our lives.
But this is
not a popular insight, either among the affluent whose basic needs are
already met or among the poor who do not see why they should be deprived
of the things the affluent already have.
convergence between mitigation and adaptation is, of course, possible
only with the large scale introduction of sustainable livelihoods and
sustainable lifestyles – methods of production and ways of living that
are more in harmony than those of today with the imperatives of nature.
This means that appropriate technology and the other solutions being
pioneered by social enterprises such as Development Alternatives become
all the more important, not only for local communities but also for the