By Amitabh Kant & Swayamprabha Das
Life, as we know, transcends many forms and is multi-faceted. In Indian philosophy, it relates to prana or the life-force, which refers to the in-between: sharira (body) and manas (mind), which serves as a link between the two. Ancient wisdom and knowledge of the interconnectedness of human beings with nature are embedded in Indian culture and traditional practices. This is also the base for the sustainable use of resources, based on thumb rules that allow for recovery, regeneration and reproduction, thereby strengthening circularity and oneness with nature.
The LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) initiative reminds us of our responsibility towards the environment and seeks to awaken our chitta (consciousness) towards self-preservation. This is only possible if we move away from a throwaway culture to conscious consumption, thereby reducing the pressures on our water bodies, land and soil, and improve the air we breathe and our overall well-being. Inspired by the flora and fauna around us, technology and innovations often rely on bio-mimicry to solve complex problems. We can refine our daily practices, through circular economy approaches—basis rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, and redesign—that will eventually minimise the sourcing of virgin material and reduce environmental costs.
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LiFE, with its life-cycle approach, intends to bring together individuals, corporates, and governments for rethinking life choices and redesigning our needs to reduce the pressure on our planet. Global traditional knowledge and ethos can provide solutions for rebuilding our relationship with our environment and adjusting our needs accordingly, and accelerating action for altering our consumption and production patterns that has eroded over time leading to biodiversity loss, pollution, and reduced resilience to deal with climatic vulnerability. This would entail nudging action at various levels and across numerous stakeholders (individual, public, private sector, communities). The road to achieving the SDGs has been disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, energy and food crises, and economic slowdown, among others. PRANA (Pact for Rebuilding, Accelerating, and Nudging Action)—a multi-stakeholder pact—holds the promise of rebuilding the road to recovery.
The solutions to what ails us lie within our traditional knowledge systems and local practices and the nuanced Nature-based Solution (NbS).
NbS takes cognisance of the valuation of ecosystems, innovations and institutions, and values the participation of local communities to promote the restoration of ecosystems. The evidence of traditional practices is found across the world, such as sacred groves (forests), rainwater harvesting systems (Balinese water temple networks), and water storage adaptation systems (Mayan lowlands in South America, the steep wells of India). Globally, several local communities continue to follow and adjust their harvesting and fishing practices that allow for the regeneration of ecosystems and revival of target species. Daily habits and practices such as the consumption of food on leaf plates and water in earthen pots still continue in many locales.
A conscious shift to practices that minimise footprints like sustainable transport (shift to public transportation, use of clean fuel), eating locally and reducing food waste, and reducing water and electricity usage needs more awareness generation. This would need integration and convergence across actors and stakeholders on a global scale. LiFE, through the G20 platform, offers an opportunity to build a global legacy. India’s G20 presidency is the ideal platform for spreading the word on LiFE and calling on the global community to collectively participate and act in the best interest of the planet.
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LiFE, under India’s presidency, while taking this discourse forward, can create a legacy that builds on the aspiration of developing and developed nations in equal measure. While India leads the global call for action, it will be crucial for G20 countries to arrive at a consensus and come together to further LiFE, which has the potential to balance growth with environmental protection.
It is important to sustain the momentum of LiFE even after India’s presidency. Establishing a Global LiFE Centre (GLC) driven by innovation and accelerated action can be a possible pathway. This centre can be governed/monitored by an international working group/task force/steering committee, comprising India and the Troika member countries and supported by the UN, international organisations and knowledge partners. The GLC can be instrumental in building a knowledge-sharing innovative mechanism that can provide continuity and crafted on the lines of an international knowledge centre, linking it with reputed universities and supporting the designing of innovative programmes across Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing states.
The SDGs on poverty, hunger, health and education, gender equality, water and sanitation, and energy demand that billions of people have their basic needs fulfilled. But goals focused on sustainable cities, responsible production and consumption, climate change, or life on land and underwater require that we temper our affluence in sync with the sustainability of the planet. We must place sustainability at the centre of our actions, re-cast policies, forge new partnerships and redesign lifestyles. PRANA for LiFE—founded on samman (respect), samvad (dialogue), sahayog (cooperation), shanti (peace), and samridhi (prosperity)—is bound to offer a thriving rich heritage for the future generations.
The authors are Respectively, G20 Sherpa and consultant, G20 Secretariat. Views are personal.