Have Hope

Guided by personal ethics of ‘do more good’, Yuet Mee Ho-Nambiar has a long involvement with sustainability and community building activities.  Belief in the oneness of humanity and the nobility of man underpins her interest in matters relating to unity and social cohesion of communities, while her background in a finance-related profession focuses her interest to the area of inclusive economics and development.  

It is all up to Us

By Yuet Mee Ho-Nambiar

Part 1

Our eldest daughter was born in 1989 and we wanted the best of everything for her. Best of education, best of health, to grow up in an environment that would be conducive for her to live a rich fulfilling life. It dawned on me then that while we could offer most of these to her with much certainty, the environment she would grow up in was something we have little control over and was far from looking good and increasingly worsening. With that, my sustainability journey began.

The decades since then witnessed a trajectory of increasing environmental negligence and worsening social equity, ironically, on the back of the best of technologies and facilities with the capacity to provide us with comfortable lives. Which brings to mind what Charles Dickens said in 1859: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

The social and environmental degradation did not worsen because there had been no efforts to educate or to reform. In fact, we all have heard the innumerable conversations of policy reforms across the world as well as marvelled at the development of various technologies to tackle these issues. It is clear we know how, and have the means to, halt this runaway global crisis. So why are we here in such a crisis state? Why is reversing the trend not gaining the traction that it so desperately needs?

Anthropogenic climate change is not inevitable; humanity chooses its relationships with the natural world. We often approach the natural world as a reservoir of material resources to be exploited, the grave consequences of wExploring new patterns of interaction as one interconnected ecosystem will be central to the task of building more sustainable relationships with the natural world and among various segments of the global family.

The adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its social, economic, and environmental dimensions, grounded in the sentiment we all live on the same planet and therefore have shared concerns, has definitely bolstered momentum for meaningful change. A universal, legally binding agreement on carbon emissions seems within reach for the first time. But in order to progress beyond a world community driven by a largely economic and utilitarian calculus, to one of shared responsibility for the prosperity of all nations, such a principle must take root in the conscience of the individual.

Because it is us, the individuals, whatever our role or place in society, who implement the policies or ignore them, who participate in well-conceived programmes or continue patterns of life as before. As individuals, we take the initiative to embrace new attitudes and adopt new patterns of action or continue with business as usual. We all have agency and none of our decisions are without consequence.

Human behaviour and personal decision-making are therefore critical to the success of sustainability efforts, particularly through values, ethics, and morals. Changes in lifestyle will not be sustained if normative drivers of behaviours such as attitudes and beliefs do not shift as well. For example, consumption habits will not change if acquisition and accumulation of luxury goods is seen as symbols of success.

As the challenge before us is not only a technical one but also one of moral, it calls for the transformation of thoughts and behaviours to allow our economic and social structures to extend the benefits of development to all. Setting humanity on a more sustainable path will require transformation in attitudes embodied in social norms and patterns of action. Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in us, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world.

The views expressed here are solely that of the writer’s and does not necessarily reflect that of Weekly-Echo’s