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I start to write this as I sit in a coffee shop in a mall in India. It's early August. The monsoon is ending, but it feels like the beginning. The heavens have favoured this parched land, and the earth and leaves appear nourished, refreshed and renewed. It has been difficult to avoid another spectacular deluge taking place on the other side of the world -- the dissonant downpour of the US Presidential election. I am protected by a loyal umbrella: my unshakable faith in humanity.
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What is essentially a paradigm--sustainability-- has been commoditized. It has been turned into a product or service that we need to buy or need more of! This is patently false. I also sense that it has resulted in a lot of confusion and disenfranchisement regarding making everyday choices that are sustainable.
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Somewhere along the way <em>vikas</em> (development) became a one-dimensional concept for many, focused primarily on individual or organisational progress (profit) and the inherent interconnectedness of all things, of life, was forgotten. We are meant to be living in the age of sustainability, and in this regard, India is certainly in its infancy. In conversations I have had with business leaders in the private sector, it appears that the word sustainability is not fully understood, has lost its meaning. To many, it has come to mean <em>being less bad</em>.
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An absence of a sense of ownership or understanding of these goals by individuals and institutions may become an impediment in the journey towards achieving them. So the question I found myself asking (as I'm sure many individuals and institutions have asked) is what do these SDGs (which are essentially vision statements) mean to me? What can I do? How does it align with me or my organisation's vision or commitment to sustainable development? Or, alternatively, how do I align myself or my organisation with these goals?
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a solid waste management facility in Mumbai. Within seconds of arriving I was greeted with the aroma of decomposing waste, some of which had been accumulating for months. Months! The waste was just sitting there, exposed to the elements, a veritable buffet for birds, stray dogs and every strain of disease known to mankind...