Innovating for survival
other night I watched with delight the launch of Sri Lanka’s newest TV
Channel, HTV or Heritage Television. The reason for my delight was that
its innovators had used modern info-communication technology as a tool
in presenting our traditions, culture, lifestyles and heritage to the
world at large.
The Kohomba Kankariya Shanthi Karma (traditional invoking of
blessings), presented on stage had still retained its authenticity to a
large extent and was the opening sequence of the event. Given a
prioritized positioning in the line up of channels on a leading
satellite TV network, Heritage Television’s programing content of ‘walk
about’ tours exploring our natural, cultural and social milieu and
events was both refreshing and a welcome change.
It also features book reviews and dialogues with eminent literary
personalities, not often seen or heard on most other channels.
Our own ethos
At a time when our entertainment presents us with imitations of
‘American Idol’, ‘Shop till you drop’ type ‘Reality TV’ programing that
often bring in aspects of the dominant western lifestyles not altogether
akin to ours, I salute and congratulate this innovative venture, not
only as a Sri Lankan, but as a citizen of Mother Earth.
Today, solid scientific evidence points us to causes of climate
change and the resultant global warming to be the unsustainable life
styles we indulged in over the past few centuries. We live in a world,
where we have little choice but to re-adjust ourlife styles, if we are
to ensure that the only planet we have for now, will survive the
otherwise imminent onslaught of nature’s wrath.
Countries the likes of Sri Lanka have a lot to present to the world
in unfolding sustainable lifestyles, where our heritage, culture and our
lifestyles were one with nature in a harmonious relationship, until we
sought to seek a model of growth most alien to us. In the post-war model
of western style growth, there were many technological innovations that
brought about efficacy and if used wisely, would have brought prosperity
to most on this Earth.
Greed against need
Instead, we chose to utilize that technology, in the main to feed the
greed of a few and only left the crumbs for the majority of people as
demonstrated in the 80/20 percent allocation of the world’s resources
between the rich and poor countries. Even inoculations and critical
pharmaceutical innovations were branded and priced at exorbitant prices
often beyond the reach of the poor. Glitzy and greedy ways took over
where substance and meaning should have reigned and we seem to have lost
our way with our lifestyles.
The quest to feed human greed with choice meant the production of
many versions of the same good or service. That same need indeed could
have been met effectively with less of that choice, saving on resources
and avoiding damage to the environment.
traditional folk dance form of Sri Lanka. File photo
came up with innovative initiatives like welfare schemes and indulged
in concepts such as corporate social responsibility, socially
responsible investment and took on greening initiatives to wipe out the
guilt and satisfy what was left of our social consciousness.
At this defining time in human history, we have an opportunity to
present and promote sustainable lifestyles based on the principle of
‘meeting the needs of all and not the greed of a few’ by rediscovering
socio-economic structures based on the ‘Sufficiency Economy’ model.
Instead of discussing the merits and demerits of carbon-credit funds or
other patchwork type solutions to the global climate crisis, the
upcoming Copenhagen Round must focus squarely on defining alternative
lifestyles if the world’s leadership is to make a real impact on the
issues at hand.
Seeking effective ways
The hypocrisy that surrounds the seeking of solutions to the climate
crisis is alarming.
I have seen leading global magazines and media outfits carry lead
articles or even full-fledged supplements on global warming and in the
same issue feature the most luxurious of luxury brands of products and
services in its advertising.
While freedom of choice and the power of advertising in sustaining
media houses is a given in the dominant cultural belief system , we may
need to reinvent and rediscover ways in which we can present and promote
what is useful and most needed to sustain lives at levels that will not
be threatening to the good health of Mother Earth. Info-communications,
nanotechnology and other innovations can serve humankind well, to seek
effective means of further conserving our resources within this proposed
framework of taking on sustainable lifestyles.
Out of the box
In the Sri Lankan context, it is time that we followed the cue of the
presenters of Heritage TV, and think of highlighting what is our own as
sustainable alternatives and lessons to be learnt, when the rest of the
world seeks models for future survival.
This certainly can not be done by ‘dressing the wounds’ when
‘surgery’ is the answer. We need to think out of the dominant western
model’s box and look inwards to seek ‘surgery’ for unfolding solutions.
Our festivals and forms of entertainment must not be bad imitations
of Hip Hop or Latino style dance forms, but a total immersion of what
our culture offers with its substance and meaning exposed to the world.
I believe that we need to rejuvenate places like Hikkaduwa with
re-engineered convention centre type activities that will have
consistent long-term relevance for the destination and its people.
When looking for the development of the East and the North for
accommodating visitors, we need to seek models that are based on ‘rooms
in homes’ type accommodation facilitation, instead of large hotels and
Such activities done right will not need centralized systems of
air-conditioning, sewage disposal, water and electricity supply, that
will add to carbon emissions and are wasteful. Instead, such development
will meet the discerning demand of most visitors both local and foreign
for meaningful interaction with people.
It also can bring direct benefits to communities and will be
sustainable even when the demand for the destination is affected by
pandemics, regional or global terrorism or any other crisis.
Being defiant and bold
It is time now for us to leave behind the ways of the dominant
culture to innovate our own ways, drawing from models of our own.
This in no way means that we should isolate ourselves from the rest
of the world or shun what is good in the now dominant models.
What in effect we need to do, will be to share a bit of our own
wisdom and ways drawn from our traditional way of life, to lead the
world with innovative ways to ensure our very survival on this, our