Rabid consumerism continues to wreak havoc on the planet as a whole. The results of this environmental rape and exploitation of natural assets is increasingly obvious right here at home in Pakistan where, unless you are extremely lucky indeed, it is next to impossible to walk anywhere without there being some kind of none-biodegradable garbage under foot, chocking gutters are blowing in the wind.

Members of the throw-away society, this is the vast majority of the population that has reached 180 million and is still expanding rapidly, think nothing at all of purchasing processed ‘gunk’ and throwing the wrapper on the ground wherever it is they happen to be at the time and, shamefully, one cannot simply blame an absence of rubbish bins - although this does not help one bit - as people automatically drop garbage on the ground even if a bin miraculously happens to be present.

Neither can one lay the blame purely on children as adults do this too and, as has always been the case, children follow the example of their elders. Littering, it appears, is an integral part of the national psyche and there is no difference between urban and rural areas, or even between the educated and uneducated sections of society.

This thoughtless poisoning of the earth, on which all life depends for its existence, is just once facet of how the human race is actively committing collective suicide via a multitude of methods: irreversible wastage of natural resources, increasing dependence on chemically processed food, widespread use of agrochemicals both above and below ground, deforestation to fuel the provision of consumer items across the board, atmospheric and water pollution from factories manufacturing consumer goods of an edible or otherwise nature, large-scale reliance of goods with built-in obsolescence and all of the aforementioned combined are just the very tiny tip of an extremely worrying - to the thinkers amongst us – iceberg; although ‘iceberg’ is, perhaps, the wrong term to use as, thanks to escalating climate change, these are rapidly disappearing along with the rest of the world’s natural resources too.

As a nation, we are rushing, blindly, in mad haste towards disasters on many fronts at once. Greed for consumer goods, often not even needed, driving us towards a self-constricted precipice from which, once we fall, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to climb back and yet very few people appear to give a damn and, a high percentage of this minuscule segment of society which does profess to care, do not, by any stretch of the imagination, practice what they preach as they still must have the very latest this and that or whatever gadget or designer outfit happens to be ‘in’ at the time and those who don’t are castigated for being ‘behind the times’.

This pathetic scenario is not just a Pakistani disease, but is global. And the result, unless societal mindset changes and changes fast, will be devastating as it will completely delete life as is currently lived by so many - not by all as there remain millions of ‘disadvantaged’ people, who have not yet managed to climb high enough up the financial ladder to join in this madness and they, agree or not, are the lucky ones as they still know how to survive on whatever little they happen to have.

Against this nightmarish picture, it is, however, good to know that there is a small - but growing - movement struggling to open the eyes of consumerists as wide as they can possibly open. But, unlike other such movements that have failed because they try to ‘force’ others to follow suit, this newer movement - which is actually based on ancient practices that are updated to meet modern needs - encourages by being a living, breathing and thriving example of how it is perfectly possible to live sustainable lives, in beautiful homes, in perfect harmony with the natural world or, at the very least, what remains of the natural world at present.

This is the world of ‘Permaculture’ or ‘Permanently sustainable culture’ to explain it in a broader sense. It is primarily based on living sustainable lifestyles that are totally compatible with the environment in which one lives and works.

Homes, beautifully and extremely practically designed in line with localised climatic requirements, are constructed from natural, locally sourced materials with solar, wind or biogas for power provision and incorporate as much ‘green technology’ as is possible.

These homes, many of them architectural gems in their own right, do not turn into ovens if, for some reason, the power disappears as they are designed to take full advantage of any breeze that blows and rooms, completely unlike modern ‘boxes’, are spacious and airy as, in hot climates, they need to be.

Outside the house is, of course, the garden - be this large or small or just a terrace of some kind - where every single square inch of available space is put to use in the production or organic food of all kinds, shapes and sizes. And, with knowledge and understanding of nature, in all its forms, food is produced throughout the year with as many permanent, in preference to annual or seasonal, crops as possible are grown with minimum use of water.

Food is healthy and primarily homemade. Recycling is the name of the game and consumerism for the sake of consumerism does not exist even, believe it or not, if the adults of the house are out there working hard in the competitive world of whatever their specialty happens to be as, it goes without saying, that cash money is still required.

This naturally balanced lifestyle is what we should all, if the human race is to survive, be moving towards and moving towards it now will help make the future a better, sustainable place, for all.

 The writer is author of The Gun Tree:  One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban. Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com