My Camera & My Chai – The Billions. Part The First

My Camera And My Chai
My Camera And My Chai


I am going to start this two-part post with a quote. I just finished reading a book called “Bill Bryson At Home” by none other than Bill Bryson. While I thought the book to be variable, there were some interesting snippets and facts in the book. Like some stuff about the redoubtable Karl Marx, which made me go “Huh? Really?”. And, some stuff about kids. It is a topic that I shall return to later.

Anyway, this quote is from the last page of the book. It is a long quote, and is well worth the read.

“One of the things most visible from our rooftop is how much energy and other inputs we require now to provide us with the ease and convenience that we have all come to expect in our lives. It’s a lot – a shocking amount. Of all the total energy produced on earth since the Industrial Revolution began, half has been consumed in the last 25 years. disproportionately, it was consumed by us in the rich world, we are an exceedingly privileged fraction.

Today it takes the average citizen of Tanzania almost a year to produce the same amount of carbon emissions as is effortlessly generated every two and a half days by a European, or every twenty-eight hours by an American. We are, in short, able to live   as we do because we use resources at hundred times the rate of most of the planet’s other citizens. One day – and don’t expect it to be a distant day – many of these six billion or so less well off people are bound to demand to have what we have, and to get it as easily as we get it; and that will require more resources than this planet can easily, or even conceivably, yield. 

The greatest possible irony would be if in our endless quest to fill our lives with comfort and happiness we created a world that had neither.”

This is a chilling end to a generally enjoyable book. Yet, it opens up two debates. Let me start with one.

These days sustainability is a big issue. It is every corporate CEO’s fantasy to be voted as some sort of Champion of Sustainability. However, I shall not dwell on them at this point now. I am not cursing them out. Sustainability is an issue that is critical, and to some extent we should be glad that corporate CEOs are talking about it. Bully for them.

Yet, whenever there are big global conferences on climate change (and, we don’t even start to understand this properly) – conferences that could be conducted via video to reduce emissions – the talks fail. The Western (or first world countries) apply pressure on the rest of the world (read third world countries) to reduce emissions and to step us their sustainability and climate change efforts. Reams and reams of material is produced. I attended a World Economic Forum Event in India (the one and only that I attended), and I downloaded all the presentations and reports that were generated. This was two years ago, when I was still active in the corporate world. I vowed to read them, and to make them a part of my internal campaign to “educate” my team. I never got round to reading more than 10% of them, and all the CEOs I spoke to had averages that were similar to mine.

However, when these political conferences take place, the West applies pressure. The rest of the world shows them their middle finger (politely), and tells the West that they should lead the way. Because, after all, consumption patterns are much higher in the West.

Then, the West urges the rest of the World to adopt their latest technology for renewable energy. Then, they cry because China produces it cheaper, and buggers companies in Europe. And, there is some suspicion that much of this is motivated by the idea to do business. To some extent it is.

There is some debate everywhere about where these huge solar plants should be placed, and  I remember reading something about this in Merrilee Mitchell’s blog.

And so we go around and around.

And, we produce more waste, and continue to bugger the only planet we have. So much for our collective wisdom

Read the quote again, before I go to part 2


  1. Great post Rajiv! I love Bill Bryson, I’ll have to check out this book. The way he presents tough information, like the quote above, is awesome. I think he does a great job of making it easily accessible/understandable to the general public. It drives me crazy when people continue to push issues like sustainability off and just expect younger generations to deal with it. That’s a terrible approach to take, forcing someone else to find a solution for the problems you’re accountable for.

  2. There seems to be fairly easy ways for most people in the West to significantly reduce their energy consumption. I hope 3rd world people never achieve our levels of consumption, for their sake. There’s something to be said for living a simpler lifestyle. Instead of them envying us, perhaps the world would be better off if we envied them, and tried to be more like them.

  3. Some important and eye-opening points you’ve brought to the surface, Rajiv, and I agree wholeheartedly with Alex Hughes regarding the unthinkable act of leaving this giant mess for the next generation. Although I’m not in total despair at this point because the world does have many clever and resourceful individuals who are making progress with sustainability and reusable resources. One need only watch a couple of TED talks to grow inspired with hope and to action.
    And Billy Bryson? One of my literary heroes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.