By Raj Narayan

As Greta Thunberg upbraided world leaders for spinning yarns of eternal economic growth while ignoring the concomitant ecological depredation, the context that came to mind was a science fiction tale that haunted all those who watched it on the big screen over a decade ago. 

Thunberg, a teenage Swedish climate activist, was visibly frustrated and close to tears while reiterating that the present generation would ‘never forgive’ industrial and world leaders who thought nothing about the ecology while chasing their economic dream.

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away?

Greta Thunberg, United Nations Climate Action Summit, 2019

Looking away is what politicians and industry leaders have converted into a fine art. And the results could be more chilling than what Wall-E showcased upon release exactly 11 years ago. The movie was about using less, moving more and most importantly getting away from our computer screens. 

Wall-E (2008), directed by Andrew Stanton

The story, set in 2805 AD, tells the tale about humans leaving the earth on a long vacation as robots went about cleaning it of toxic waste caused by rampant consumerism and environmental neglect. The challenge faced by Waste Allocation Load-Lifter Earth-Class or ‘Wall-E’ and the robot’s love interest EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) sent by aliens to seek out plant life in other parts of the universe. 

Of course, there is only a small problem with the story. And Greta said so in her speech to the UN General Assembly in no uncertain terms. “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But, I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic.” 

If we do not panic, at the current pace of consumerism, Wall-E may become a reality within a couple of centuries itself. That’s sooner than most of us think, because that’s when our great-grandchildren would be inhabiting this planet. 

So, how are we helping reel-life become real? Let’s look at some of the factors that are contributing to making our planet the universe’s largest garbage hole… 

  1. Consumerism: The average US household now owns 300,000 items of which less than 10 per cent is in daily use. In India, the number drops to a third, but the usage pattern remains the same. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 says Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle waste generated by us. 
  2. Burgeoning Waste: Those of us who watched Wall-E may recall the mountains of waste that the poor robot is left to tackle. The situation mayn’t be as bad but the fact remains that pollution kills 9 million people a year and a WHO study revealed that 93% of all children now breathe polluted air. Consumerism: The average US household now owns 300,000 items of which less than 10 per cent is in daily use. In India, the number drops to a third, but the usage pattern remains the same. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 says Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle waste generated by us. 
  3. The Mega Corps: A lady in Chennai lost her life after being hit by a billboard. In Pune, four people got killed the same way. In Wall-E, these accidents become commonplace as mega companies cover cities with their advertisements and discarded products. Today just 100 companies are responsible for 70% of all greenhouse gases.
  4. Loneliness: The premise of Wall-E centered around empty connections that made the story of Wall-E and EVE appear more human. Research suggest that close to 25% of the millennials say that they’ve no friends.  Consumerism: The average US household now owns 300,000 items of which less than 10 per cent is in daily use. In India, the number drops to a third, but the usage pattern remains the same. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 says Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle waste generated by us. 
  5. Screen Trouble: The characters in the movie had their screens projected right in front of their eyes. The situation is getting worse in the present day as the average adult is said to consume five times more information on screen than those three decades ago. It seems binge watchers account for over a third of all electricity use in the US! Consumerism: The average US household now owns 300,000 items of which less than 10 per cent is in daily use. In India, the number drops to a third, but the usage pattern remains the same. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 says Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle waste generated by us. 
  6. Feeling Useless: And finally, all of the above brings in a uselessness and powerlessness in the workforce. A survey across the UK revealed that 37% of the Brits found their jobs meaningless, a number that could rise dramatically in the years to come as technology replaces jobs. Consumerism: The average US household now owns 300,000 items of which less than 10 per cent is in daily use. In India, the number drops to a third, but the usage pattern remains the same. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 says Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle waste generated by us. 

So, Greta Thunberg is voicing the fears that Wall-E had brought to our consciousness more than eleven years ago. Can we avoid the cataclysmic representation that the movie presented? 

greta thunberg climate change UN
Image source: @gretathunbergsweden

Well that’s up to the global leaders and whether a Swedish teenager’s plea is taken seriously. 

@OnlineObelix

Posted by repowerindia

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