Heat, South Asia, Conscious Consumerism, Climate Justice and David Attenborough
Aug 2, 2022
Creating a sustainable future is my mission, and yet I can easily lose sight of how urgent climate change is. I was reminded when it was on my skin, perspiring through my pores and clinging to my clothes. It was hot in New York City in July. I grew up in India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Vietnam. Heat is my childhood friend, but last month was different. It was a July that threatened to become an opening act for a dystopian future. Nearly half of all human beings experienced a heat advisory warning. The daily lives of billions were affected, and the poorest on our planet felt the worst consequences. Summer in South Asia, home to nearly two billion people or a quarter of all humans, ‘tested the limits of human survivability’. Pakistan, where 7% of households own air conditioning, recorded up to 128°F. New Delhi, India is home to 20 million people and 25% of households with air conditioning, recorded 113°F. About a quarter of all humans spent months working, learning, praying and living in extreme heat. Children fell behind in school, wages dropped dramatically, deaths increased and babies needed urgent care due to hyperthermia. Dystopian heat has already arrived for billions of us.
It is hard for me to visualize living in persistent heat. I have the refuge of air conditioned spaces, cool running water whenever I need it, my child's education doesn't take place outdoors and my wages don’t depend on physical labor. That's why I appreciated the New Yorker article below. It's among the most vivid descriptions of life in South Asia this summer.
The U.S., where nearly 90% of households who need air conditioning have it, is responsible for nearly 25% of global carbon emissions. 70% of the U.S.’s GDP is fueled by personal consumption. That presents us a $12 trillion dollar opportunity to use our wallets to reverse climate change and mitigate its humanitarian impact. Imagine if every dollar we spent on goods and services perpetuated systems that alleviate poverty, clean our oceans, reduce carbon emissions and more. Everyday we make purchase decisions, from our morning coffees to our evening pajamas. To say that American consumers have the power to change the world would not be an understatement. Our ongoing commitments as conscious consumers ensure our decisions each day stack up over the course of years. Through our journey, we inspire others to join. And thus, the ripple effect across our planet starts to take the shape of justice, equity, dignity and conservation of natural resources.
I hope we never lose sight of our blessings, privileges and potential. We have great power in our wallets and as the old adage goes "with great power comes great responsibility". My wish for all of us is that we celebrate and wield our unique powers.
Signing off with ice cubes, hope and gratitude,
Shivika CEO & Founder, Veneka
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