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An Indian VOICE

Traditional Paths to Future Solutions

Reprinted from Consumers International.
Copyright 1997-2000 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute.

In urban India, consumer organisations are continuously alerting consumers against acquiring consumption habits promoted through aggressive advertising campaigns by multinational corporations seeking to replace or substitute our traditional patterns of sustainable consumption.

Packaging in India has always been biodegradable (i.e. leaf plates, clay mugs, etc.). Now disposable nappies, glasses, plates, and the like are being introduced. Eating habits are being targeted for replacement by packaged or bottled junk foods like breakfast cereals, pizzas and burgers. Traditional medicines are being pushed out of Indians' lives by allopathic drugs.

Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, recognised the importance of established patterns to local production and consumption in Indian lifestyles and tried to promote them. He acknowledged peoples' traditional awareness of their environment and their integration into its cycles. He warned that the choices offered to people through rapid industrialisation would bring rural migration, dislocation and poverty leading to unhealthy and rootless lifestyles.

Today, most Indian cities are testimony to the fact that unplanned growth has created havoc with urban planning and the environment. Cities have spread beyond their natural water sources, for example, creating huge markets for clean drinking and cooking water.

The need of the hour is to plan for a future where organic, biodegradable, ecologically-sound products are available everywhere at competitive market rates. India can play a pioneering role in this field, as our traditional consumption patterns have for centuries been grounded in sound environmental norms. If our ancient wisdom and time-tested strategies for survival on this planet were to be explored for their viability in today's reality, they would surely be helpful to all. Western lifestyles are increasingly proving to be short-sighted in many ways.

We see an urgent need to catch up with the Indian approach to the environment, rather than the other way around.

See related articles:
A Consumer Guide to Sustainable Consumption
Caring for the Earth - A Strategy for Sustainable Living

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