Worth Your Salt

Punit Pania
4 min readApr 20, 2021

It has always intrigued me that the biggest industrialists in the world who are also the biggest polluters also want a patch of pristine green for their children. A dichotomy of knowing what the right, just and natural thing to do is and yet not doing it. Expecting the finest and most fair treatment for yourself but not extending the same to others, even when it is easy to do so.

It is postulated that people in positions of power, from corporates to governments are at least sociopaths, if not outright psychopaths. The only way to rise to the top being ruthlessness. But maybe we are all capable of such destruction, it is only a matter of opportunity. It is easy to pin the blame on the West’s linear view of time resulting in a countdown mode leading to greed. But the truth is we have been altering the environment since the first time we picked up a tool. And it keeps accelerating with technology.

Actions have consequences and more importantly, carbon footprints. We should think of it as our collective Karma. All of it quite literally affects the very air we breathe. In the strictest sense of the word, almost everything we do is unnatural, hence polluting. The latest in this series is uploading and downloading shit around the clock. It seems benign at an individual level but among the billions in world population, it adds up to glacial levels. Streaming alone is estimated to be responsible for 3 or as high as 5% of energy consumption. Even at the cutting edge of server and storage efficiency, your selfies and cat photos are costing the planet dearly. Food production and commodities could still be somewhat justified. Now it is our plain vanity that is eating up the environment.

And there is no end in sight. Our very existence and continued survival is contingent on destruction and cruelty. Many vaccines need adjuvants that are made from shark oil. The unimaginable brutality of the dairy industry is yet to dawn on millions of cow worshippers. And there are already microparticles of plastic in every last drop of water in the ocean.

Human stories of loss, survival and redemption will continue to emerge from the pandemic. But the story of the planet has always been one of continuing destruction. And we do not even have another planet to compare against.

So perhaps it is time to finally confront the greed and cruelty inside all of us. Perhaps, greed is all there is. But at least we would have accepted it and built a world on a truer premise. The lip service of sustainability and altruism is getting profoundly tiring. We can’t keep blaming it on the elite and a mythical Illuminati. The selfish murderous ape exists inside each of us adding up to a society that is oppressive and neurotic.

We keep hearing of great acts of charity and social service from philanthropists to individuals but nothing ever adds up to a rallying change. It used to bother me for years that despite my strong inclinations for art and minimalism I have never formally donated or volunteered for a ‘social cause’. Somehow ‘ do your bit’ always sounded like ‘pay your taxes’. A small punishment in exchange for continuing indulgence. As all systems crumble around the world and the internet lays bare hypocrisy to the point of boredom, I am finally coming to accept that true altruism does not exist. It never did. The biggest acts of charity also come from a very selfish place if not a PR tool-kit. The do-gooder in question would never do it if it didn’t make him/her look and feel good. Anonymous donations and charity without selfies are too few to be statistically significant.

And it is ok. Ideals need to perish because they are only feeding our delusions. By our own yardstick, all animals are deeply selfish but none are harming the ecosphere. Is it not time to take collective responsibility for the laughably epic mess we are in? Not as a dramatic ‘social awakening’ but at a deeply personal level. An acceptance of all the evil each one of us represents. We have outsourced our hypocrisy to politicians, our sleaze to Bollywood, our greed to Wall Street, our violence to industries and our guilt to court rooms. Then we protest against these very institutions to feel good about ourselves. No matter how noble a cause sounds, one must never forget that the desire to change the world and impose our will on it is what got us here in the first place.

Blood is on all of our hands. We have taken more from the planet than we can ever give back. No one is worth their salt. It is time to stop acting surprised and start acting responsible.

  • Punit Pania