Right now, I don't care about climate change. Really? Exclaim many of my friends incredulously. Don't I care about the welfare of many future generations? In response, I ask my friends who I should care about more, a family with an annual income of fifty thousand dollars, half-a-million dollars or five million dollars. Most people do not even blink an eye before suggesting that we should worry more, much more, about families who earn only fifty thousand dollars per year. It is easy to calculate that with a per-capita growth rate of 2.3 percent per year, generations 100 years from now will be nearly 10 times as rich, and generations 200 years from now will be almost 100 times as rich as people in the current generation. That's why I don't care about future generations. Not as much as I care about the welfare of people living today, and those who are about to inhabit the planet soon.
Whether or not we care about climate change and welfare of generations in distant future, I do think that we should use our resources prudently, waste little, recycle, make investments in alternative and possibly renewable energy innovations, and learn to live frugally and simply. My reasons are practical, moral and urgent. There are over two billion people who live in poverty, who do not have access to a clean toilet or clean water, decent education or basic health care. I worry that we are not doing enough for them now. I have no doubt that generations in the distant future will be far more richer, have more comforts, will have more nutrition, live longer and enjoy more leisure, because of technological growth and continuing innovation spurred by human ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Yes, I am optimistic about the future. But I am impatient with our indifference and apathy towards our fellow human beings living today.
We are increasingly becoming used to the rhetoric that goads us into worrying about generations that will come hundreds of years from now but we conveniently ignore the plight of many in our own neighborhoods today. We must conserve and save not because it will stop the earth's temperatures from rising but because every time you avoid buying a bottle of mineral water, you save a dollar which can pay for school lunches for a child in India for several weeks! (Yes, really! Check AkshayaPatra.org).
I think, over time, we will figure out what is going on with climate change and how we need to deal with it. But in the meanwhile, we must do all we can to employ our limited resources efficiently because billions of lives depend on it -- today. It is unfortunate that we have bundled conservation with climate change. Those who express even a little bit of doubt about the complexities of climate change are silenced and labeled as being hostile to the ideas of conservation, thrift, and caring for the environment. It shouldn't be this way. Let us not forget that caring for the environment must include taking care of the most important and most valuable resource in our environment -- our fellow human beings.