|More than we can eat - or afford?|
It would be interesting for students to learn about the mix of pagan pre-christian and religious origins involved in Christmas. What questions and views do children have about Christmas?
Christmas is the peak season for retailers. In the USA a quarter of all spending occurs during the season and Boxing Day has evolved into a shopping day with the greatest turnover of any day.
Chandran Nair's point is that if the Asian countries consumed goods at the rate of the West the results will be catastrophic across the globe as nations scramble for diminishing resources.
He feels that this issue is important as failing Western 'market forces' countries are encouraging Asian countries to consume more to help save the global economy. It will be like Easter Island on a large scale where competing tribes felled all the trees in a competition to roll their huge monument into place.
He believes Asian governments find them selves at a crossroads. They may take up the challenge to consume to the level of Western nations or take the responsibility of leading the world to a more sustainable path. It is message for New Zealand as well who, he thinks, could be a model of a sustainable community.
|Do they need the American dream?|
So, he believes, Asian governments need to reject the views of those who urge Asians to consume relentlessly - free markets, faith in technology and hope for the best is not a plan.
He is not arguing that Asians must remain poor , nor is he against economic development, or capitalism , or democracy. He is for 'contstrained consumerism', funnelled in a way that does not deplete the demand for resources that in turn depletes the environment.
Asian governments must prioritise and provide incentives to use fewer materials. Management of resources needs to be at the centre of all policy making if consumption habits are to be changed. Efficient public transport needs to be in place to replace cars and motorways - a lesson for New Zealand. This move away from today's extreme capitalism could mark the start of a new industrial revolution.
|How many cars are too many?|
To achieve this will require strong and bold government interventions especially to combat vested interests. Such measures must be supplemented by 'draconian rules' constraining consumption of a range of goods , particularly fossil fuels, fisheries and forest products. It will require massive investments in public infrastructure to give people the transport, water and sanitation, health and education services badly need in Asia. Food, security and safety must be a priority.
Chandran Nair knows this will not be easy particularly for countries influenced by Western economics who believe prosperity can be achieved through conventional forms of consumption driven economic growth.
Collective welfare and a 'hands on' state is preferable to the destructive current ideology of less government and a 'free for all' unbridled market economy resulting in few greedy winners and lots of losers.
He concludes , 'if the governments of the region can rise to this challenge, it will be the decision makers in Beijing, Delhi and Jakarta that will determine whether our world has a future - not , as it has been for the last two centuries, the capitals of the West'.
Cutting back on Christmas excess might be a start for us?
Maybe looking after the needs of all people, particularly those living in poverty, would be a return to the true spirit of Christmas?