Hope and Despair

A Fine Balance

T Vijayendra

In 1995 Rohington Mistry published a novel called 'A Fine Balance' about the poor in Bombay, set against the background of the Emergency. The title was a part of the sentence 'Life is a fine balance between hope and despair'. Today with a Global Emergency in the background, the website is doing a similarly fine balancing act of reporting between hope and despair about planet earth!

The term Global Emergency gained currency only in the last few years in the wake of alarming data about global warming and climate change. However it's useful to recall that the alarm bells were first sounded by Rachel Carson as early as 1962 with her book 'Silent Spring', a close look at the impact of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Then, in 1971 came 'Limits to Growth', a report by the think tank Club of Rome, which made dire predictions based on computer simulation of exponential economic and population growth with finite resource supplies. A similar case was made by William R Catton, who published his magnum opus, 'Overshoot: The Ecological Basis for Revolutionary Change' in 1982.

By the beginning of the 21st century, many people became aware of the dangers of global warming, although awareness about resource depletion and limits, to growth has taken longer. The reason is that while the effects of global warming have already become visible, the effects of resource depletion will only be seen in coming years. Also concepts like resource depletion meant saying goodbye to the economics of 'development' and, for that matter, the present economic system of capitalist and industrialism—a reality that most people would find difficult to accept.

By 2005 onward discourse on resource depletion caught up with the actual emergence of 'Peak Oil' and movements like Transition Towns. The financial meltdown of 2008 spread this awareness worldwide. In India, several individuals and groups have been aware of these since early 21st century. Our own group, which initially consolidated as 'Peak Oil India' and later named itself 'Ecologise', began with the publication of 'Regaining Paradise towards a fossil free society' in 2009. Several individuals : Suyodh Rao, Sagar Dhara and T Vijayendra in Hyderabad, Sajai Jose from Bangalore, Mansoor Khan from Coonoor and Shreekumar from Udupi got together in Hyderabad and launched the group 'Peak Oil India' appeared largely as a story of 'despair', partly why a year later we changed it to 'Ecologise'.

The rest of the story can be followed on '' which Sajai has been editing for the last four years—the first one year as, then three years as This has been a task of great dedication and abilities. Much kudos to him!

As we said in the beginning, it is a story of Hope and Despair—not just for our little group but for the world as a whole. On the one hand we get stories of Transition Towns, ecological villages in Russia, Permaculture, and a large number of similar initiatives all over the world including many in India which 'Vikalp Sangam' and 'Down to Earth' and others have been documenting. On the other hand, we see data about Global Warming and Climate Change worsening, the global energy consumption and CO2 emissions increasing and so on.

The despair part arises from the concern that ''All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again". The window available may be too small. Most experts talk of 2020 as the cut off point for climate change, the point of no return beyond which human action will have little bearing on climatic changes. It's unlikely that the global energy and resource consumption can decrease by that time or that the alternative movement can snowball. I do hope I am proved wrong.

So either we slowly get roasted in coming years along with other living things on earth (who are in no way responsible for this) or we collapse soon. The collapse will cause much misery to humankind but may save the planet and ultimately save life on earth. So, in my opinion the only hope is an immediate collapse of capitalism, starting with a stock exchange meltdown. It may not be impossible, given the antics of the world's arch-terrorist, Don Trump! And may be that will create space for the alternatives and there will be many more takers for them. Cuba, which has demonstrated great resilience and set the benchmark for a sustainable society back in the '90s will remain a shining beacon to all of us.

Personally, at the age of 74, I go to bad every night hoping to die in my sleep and wake up every morning hoping that today capitalism will collapse, starting with a crash of the Tokyo stock exchange. Why Tokyo? Because the Sun rises in the East and the day begins in Japan!

Vol. 50, No.19, Nov 12 - 18, 2017