December 2009 was the reason for the largest gathering of all the nations (well…almost all) in the city of Copenhagen the capital of Denmark. 192 nations from the USA to the tiny Tuvalu (an island nation somewhere in the Pacific ocean) all gathered together for twelve days to deliberate upon one of the most controversial subjects of all times climate change.

In the last hundred years, man has experienced such a major improvement in the quality of life that the nineteenth century is now considered to be part of the dark ages. The advent of the television, air conditioning, automobiles, aircraft, etc. have created so much comfort for the average human being that all these are now accepted as the minimum required for a basic standard of living.  

However, at what cost? Global warming, climate change, massive pollution of earth, water and ether has altered the natural course of events so dramatically that nature has started protesting vehemently in the form of hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes. More is expected to come in the near future and in the search for an answer, the whole world gathered in Copenhagen to find a solution.

The only solution that was clear for all to see and which did not require much deliberation was for the world to agree to reduce the progress of industrialization to a manageable degree. However this is unacceptable because this would bring down the standard of living of everybody, particularly the wealthy nations.  So, for twelve days the nations fought bitterly as to who would be the ones to reduce the carbon spewing out into the atmosphere. The wealthy nations led by the US, who incidentally is also the largest polluter in the world by far, were demanding that the developing nations led by China and India should take commitments for reducing their carbon effluents and not only that should get their actual achievements verified by an independent agency. This was unacceptable to the developing countries who were clamoring that the developed countries should take large commitment and so the stalemate continued for eleven days.

On the last day of the summit when everyone thought that the last eleven days had been a waste of time and energy, the US President threw a bombshell. He announced to a stunned gathering of heads of states “I commit 100 billion (note billion and not million) dollars to be paid to the developing countries to facilitate them to reduce their carbon footprint”. Please note that he did not say that he would reduce his country’s carbon effluent. The USA has on an average 750 automobiles for every 1000 Americans compared to 50 for Asia and 10 for India. So, who is the largest polluter?

For the US president to take on any reduction in his carbon commitments would mean that he could not even consider standing for re-elections in the coming elections. The biggest beneficiaries of the oil consumption, the oil producers and oil refiners, would see to it that even before his term ended the President would be sacked. However, to pay a small “bribe” to facilitate the continuance of sense gratification by the Americans is quite alright. And rightly so, this gesture on the part of the President was widely acclaimed by the US Congress as well as the US Press as a landmark gesture by an American President to help the cause of the developing countries.

As Gandhi ji said, “There is sufficient for everyone’s need but to satisfy one man’s greed…the whole world would be inadequate.” Man’s quest for sense gratification has led him to exploit Mother Nature to extract from her the maximum without any commensurate returns. Global warming is one price that we are paying for it.  Unless and until we slowly and steadily move into reverse gear and return back to our roots of “Simple living and high thinking” the future will be filled with only suffering

We have to understand that the goal of life is not progress in our standard of living, but quality of living. A life that is enriched by fresh air, pure water, healthy food, and a stable ecology is the gift that we have to offer to our future generations. As devotees of Lord Krsna, we understand that everything is His energy. Using the resources optimally, avoiding wastage, minimising plastic, promoting and facilitating organic farming are some of the steps that we can take at an individual level to save the ecology. Charity begins at home.

Krsnanama Dasa is a Chartered Accountant. He retired as CFO of a MNC and currently serves full time in ISKCON Mumbai.