Read here the comment made by Dr Anant Phadke on the Vikalp Sangam e-group:
While I broadly agree with you on the overall point you have made in this piece, I would like to make a couple of points to put things in a broader framework.
You have quoted Gandhiji approvingly – “Gandhi said he was not against machinery that reduced drudgery, but against that which displaced labour.”. With due respect to Gandhiji, I would like to point out that though machinery by it’s very nature displaces, reduces human labour per piece of a product, by itself it does not cause unemployment. There is a difference between displacing labour and labourer. Any enterprise can use any machinery to reduce the number of people employed or can choose otherwise. In capitalism this choice is based on whether it will increase the profit and/or control of the capitalist. The problem is with this choice of the use of machinery and not with machinery itself. I am making this rather elementary point here because unfortunately this point is generally glossed over.
You have commented that “For the better part of human history, societies have practised self-restraint in their use of natural resources.” Let us also note that these societies had a very limited capacity to play mischief with nature, were incapable of causing climate change. It is debatable whether their relations with nature were shaped by their limited capacities or by their enlightened self-restraint. We, living under 21st century capitalism and statism desperately need restraint today for obvious reasons.
Yes, convenience can be a slippery road leading to laziness and wastage of resources and adding to eco-damage. Battery operated tooth brushes is a perfect example you have mentioned. However, most gadgets we use at home – mixer, fridge, washing machine, even fans and lights etc etc. are meant to increase convenience. Which out of these we need to stop using? I think, anything that can not be accessed by all humans on this earth for generations needs to be rejected, abandoned. The rest can continue. The demarcation between necessity and luxury is not always very easy to make. Universality and sustainability should be the definite dividing line. The rest is a matter of personal likes, dislikes.
All the talk about avoiding wastage, unnecessary consumption is currently applicable to only a small fraction of the society. For the majority, there is a need to increase consumption – better houses, more food items like – locally and organically grown – dals, eggs, milk, fruits, better health care, etc. Yet the larger point of value of frugality remains because once eco-destructive, unnecessary, wasteful consumption becomes the norm then aspirations, behaviour of the deprived also starts moving in the direction of this wastage as and when more resources are available. Hence I quite agree that we should advocate, practice frugality and the three Rs- reuse, repair, recycle. “