The world's energy supply is limited everyone knows and the supply is being depleted by ravenous, irresponsible consumption. These are well-known facts. And everyone is aware that Americans, especially, seem unable to voluntarily reduce their consumption of energy, despite the inevitable future.
Humberto Berti, Venezuela's Minister of Energy, said recently, "Americans have to control consumption. You have to make a real conservation effort. Forget about the big cars, the air-conditioned shopping centers."
According to Sheik Yamani, the Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia, "The United States should ration oil. They must take drastic action to conserve oil in order to forestall large price increases when OPEC nations meet."
President Carter has lamented that America's reaction to the energy problem has ranged from "panic" to "almost absolute apathy." Americans can no longer avoid saving energy, he says. "There are ways to have a good life, even a better life, without our wasting so much."
Already we have experienced inconvenience and even panic over temporary shortages of gasoline. Yet despite our own experience, the warnings of experts, and the President's call for restraint, Americans have no idea how to start living more simply. And the mad rate of consumption gets madder. Obviously, we are not seriously considering reduced consumption. "If you strip away the rhetoric," said one energy analyst, "the real American energy policy since 1973 has been to import more oil:'
Why are we unable to reduce our consumption of energy? The reason is, we are addicted to sense gratification. Of course, the body is made of senses, and a certain level of sense gratification is necessary. But when increasing sense gratification becomes the nation's sole and final goal, then American society becomes increasingly greedy, and the entire planet, with all its natural resources, living beings, and nations, becomes exploited, victimized.
True, the animals live a life of sense gratification, but human society is meant for something more. Even among the animals there is natural conservation, imposed by instinct and the laws of nature. If some bags of grain were left lying on the road, a bird would take only what it needs and go away, but a human being would probably grab all the bags more than he needs and then sell them. The human being has more intelligence than the animals, but when he misuses it simply for increasing his sense gratification he creates a disturbance in God's creation. His higher intelligence should be used for controlling his senses and for executing his higher, human mission of life.
American life, however, has evolved to one of strict hedonism: enjoy as much as possible for as long as possible. Americans are only five percent of the world's population, and yet we are now consuming forty percent of the world's natural energy . . . for sense gratification. Despite America's nominal Judeo-Christian background, our actions show that we do not honor the fact that everything in the universe belongs to God, and that we should take only what we need, according to our quota.
In order to satisfy our senses on as high a standard as possible, we have to deprive and exploit less fortunate people all over the world. We regularly resort to killing innocent animals and killing babies in the womb, just so that there will be no check on our sense gratification, either for the tongue or the genitals. But we have not created the world, with its ecological balance, its natural controls, and its limit of energy resources. God has created it. And His law cannot be defied for long. We have violated the laws of nature for a season, but our hedonistic, wasteful life is coming to an end, by nature's law.
What we need is a regulated life of controlled sense gratification and reduced consumption. But who is actually willing and able to give up sense gratification? To a hedonist, sense gratification means happiness, and to most Americans, conservation means giving up life's pleasures. So patriotic speeches calling on Americans to become moderate will not work. Truckers, for instance, are prepared to fight farmers over limited supplies of gasoline, and before Californians would ration gasoline, they just might watch their countrymen in the Northeast freeze. But if American society which is now on a path of hedonism and waste would turn to the path of self-realization, the problem of controlling consumption would be solved automatically. If our nation of pleasure-seekers is to adjust to a simpler life, we must first experience satisfaction on a higher level. The Bhagavad-gita (2.59) teaches this principle analytically: "Although the embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, the taste for sense objects remains. But ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, one is fixed in consciousness." Unfortunately, at present America has no scientific understanding of how a person can feel happiness beyond gross sense gratification.
Those who are following the path of Krsna consciousness, however, are experiencing this way of life simple living and high thinking and they offer it for serious consideration to persons concerned with the American energy dilemma. Experiencing the higher taste is something we can all explore as an energy alternative. Today, when the government is casting around for any kind of energy alternative, they would do well to investigate the subtle but realistic principle of the Bhagavad-gita: experiencing the higher taste, in Krsna consciousness. Only when we Americans can find a deeper satisfaction in our lives, a higher happiness than sense gratification, will we be able to live peacefully, without absolute dependence on cars, color TV, air conditioning, and so on. Only then will it be possible for us to tap the unlimited energy resources that lie within each of us. SDG