Smart or clueless!

My work in the social development sector allows me an opportunity to be an audience to multiple initiatives across sectors. I have witnessed state government projects with multistakeholder involvement across the business, civil society and communities, collaboratives of business and civil society organizations, NGOs, etc., One common thread across all these efforts towards development is the lens of defining outcomes through economic and political benefits for humans (the formal initiatives in India shy away from bringing religious goals into the forefront — after all our country is ‘secular’ on paper).

A question that consistently follows my conscience is whether any project is worth implementing if there are no economic or political benefits to avail. All the strategic communication collaterals need to call out at least 5 key economic or political benefits. For example in a forest management project why should the state be convinced on the timber or non-timber product income, or the climate sequestration opportunities effective forest management begets. Can’t the forests be protected for their own sake?! Are we humans so confident of understanding the innumerable benefits our forests have to offer that we effortlessly flaunt the few obvious benefits on the paper! I can argue for pages after pages on why we should protect forests solely for the conservation of the bees! Why do multi-million/billion dollar initiatives feel the compulsion to root all human efforts in the narrow lens of economic and political benefits.

Human civilization is blessed with the ignorant arrogance of understanding the Earth’s, universe’s machinery. We go about our days with the pretension of holding the deepest secrets of the natural world. What will it take the humans to be tossed out of their reverie? Is it enough for the world’s biggest forest reserve to burn into ashes? Is it enough for a microscopic constantly mutating virus to raze down our economy in months? Is it enough for manmade concepts of nations and religions to inflict unimaginable suffering on our population? No! What more will it take for humans to acknowledge the glory of nature and natural systems and just protect the environment for its own sake? No more fancy limiting jargon in the strategic communication, please.

It doesn’t also mean that we understand how group dynamics evolve at a population scale. We all design and furnish projects and initiatives with the creators’ prejudices and biases with more often than not a timeline view of only a few decades! Much of the wisdom either in traditional community knowledge or rigorous academic research is ignored and the well-meaning ‘experts’ design it with less than holistic deliberation.

Some days of working in social sector are very tiring especially in a pandemic while you see the gaps in the design and delivery of public services but you are helpless in correcting them because of the factor of time and distance.