Climate change has been one of the most pressing issues in recent decades, presenting an overwhelming challenge for scientists, and social, economic, and political systems around the world. The alarming rate of environmental and natural disasters in recent years poses a serious threat to the entire Earth.
While scientists have been warning about the severity of the issue for long, not until recently has it caught the attention of the public and politicians. This increase in consciousness has been changing how a society, in general, should define prosperity and the means to achieve it.
Greenhouse gasses are the major drivers of climate change. Ever since the advent of the industrial era, human activities have added an enormous amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, causing a rise in global temperatures. Energy-use is responsible for emissions of almost three-fourth greenhouse gasses. Growing thirst for cheaper fuel sources to meet the society’s unquenchable energy demands is causing emission-induced climate change. This has disturbed nature, leading to environmental calamities.
Energy is fundamental to life and for the development of human society. The history of human civilization has been categorized based on the way humans recognized and used energy. The ability to create and control fire gave humans a massive advantage over animals. The Iron Age, the Bronze Age, and the Copper Age were all distinguished by the amount and intensity of energy humans used for social transformation. From firewood to coal, and from petroleum to nuclear energy, humans have come a long way when it comes to harnessing energy.
But due to competition-driven globalization and open market economy a compromise has been made on the quality of energy. Fossil-based fuels for economic development flourished over the past 100 years. The downside of these 100 years of progress and prosperity is an unprecedented global environmental damage.
Learning from past mistakes, human civilization is slowly understanding the need of a “Carbon Neutral Society”. This would be a new era for humanity, a paradigm shift towards understanding the unity between ‘habit and habitat’. The Carbon Neutral Society demands strong political conviction and transformation at the individual, institutional, and societal levels. To achieve a green society, we need to adopt green energy and green conduct, which should be reflected in our thoughts and behaviors.
Has Nepali society gained the maturity to understand the concept of green society? How can our fatalism and modern social norms be transformed to meet the foundations for the creation of Carbon Neutral Society? What roles should politicians, government, academia, and think-tanks play? What are the indicators and influencing factors that guide this process?
A green society demands social transformation first, a paradigm shift in consciousness to feel unity with other living beings and the environment. A green economy is not for a society where only a small part of the population works while the remainder survives exploiting them. A green civilization demands society to work as one living organism. The communities which have understood this principle are transforming towards a greener sustainable society.
After decades of natural calamities and scientific evidence of even more environmental disasters, the modern scientific society’s sensitivity to make the planet liveable for future generations is rising. Such awareness is being converted into impactful outcomes through political interventions.
For a country like Nepal, the awareness level is still not mature. Several focused campaigns and targeted programs are still necessary to elevate the general conscience.
Kathmandu University has conceived a joint multi-disciplinary program called the “Green Society Initiative”, targeting transformation at three different progressive levels. This includes green thoughts and lifestyle at the individual level, a low carbon system and practices at the institutional level, and a sustainable economic ecosystem at the community level.
Broad participation from government, development agencies, private sector and civil society is necessary for a meaningful impact of this initiative.
The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Kathmandu University