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A sustainable parable 

A parable is a figure of speech that presents a short story, typically with a moral lesson at the end. News stories or real events can be likened to a parable in that they provide an instructive example or lesson, says Matt Minshall.

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Image: Adobe Stock | indysystem

This article opens with a parable about the situation of human involvement in climate change. It then showcases an example that shows contemporary understanding combined with a vision for the future.

Nature understood that too much carbon in the atmosphere would destroy her work. So she placed surplus carbon into "boxes" of safekeeping in the ground and the seas, allowing all flora and fauna to live healthily. Mankind’s ignorance and greed encouraged the smashing open of the boxes, and carbon escaped to the detriment of all. 

Nature has finally taught mankind that to survive, it must repair the boxes and put the carbon back where it can do less harm. But it is still a crisis that can only be fixed by making the world more sustainable. Sustainability in all things, from water and food, through housing and shelter, to industry and the economy, must be managed in a manner that at least allows parity of give and take between humanity and nature. 

Mankind cannot fight nature. A man made construction of a thousand turbine wind farm looks impressive and can produce considerable power when nature permits wind. But these have taken years to conceive and cost much to build, and although the technology will have its day, it will be relatively short-lived. Such a marvel is dwarfed instantly by a single cumulonimbus cloud produced by nature in a few moments -- a leviathan that can produce the same electricity as hundreds of hectares of solar panels and contains up to five hundred thousand tonnes of water.

There is an old Omani proverb that says: "Live near water and worry not of sustenance". There are many lessons from nature in this simple saying. Two of the most important ones are that first, water is the most important aspect of life, and second, it is better to live where the water is than attempt to override nature by taking water to where you wish to be. In modern terms, it means that if you wish to create an unnatural environment for habitation, then water planning is a key factor. It is also a lesson in common sense: where there is water, plant life will grow. 

Oman is a leader in the move towards sustainability, and Oman Sustainability Week brings together world leaders who understand the crisis and have solutions, and showcases Oman's forward-thinking approach to environmental and societal challenges and their emphasis on collaboration and innovation in problem-solving. Oman is showing how mankind’s current existence may be adapted to understand and slow the natural global warming that humanity has made into a crisis that may only be stopped by vigorous sustainability. This may allow mankind to survive long enough to learn once again how to live alongside nature rather than treating her as an enemy and an expendable commodity. Oman’s current and future ideas are encompassed in the 2040 Vision, one of whose pillars is an environment with sustainable components.

The expression "Give a man a fish..." is sometimes thought to be from Confucius China, but apparently it actually originated in the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century. Anne Isabella Ritchie, the daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote a story titled Mrs. Dymond sometime in the 1880s, and it includes this line: "He certainly doesn't practise his precepts, but I suppose the patron meant that if you give a man a fish, he is hungry again in an hour; if you teach him to catch a fish, you do him a good turn." 

The common sense here appears to be twofold. First is that to be efficient, you must look ahead, and second is that teaching is a vital aspect of development. The act of learning is, of course, more important than the act of teaching. "The acquisition of knowledge is from the cradle to the grave." Humanity must once again seek all knowledge of value, and this is a key value of what Oman Sustainability Week will bring.

Oman Sustainability Week also brings together stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and civil society to discuss sustainable development and environmental stewardship. The event features a range of activities, including conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and community engagement programs. Its goal is to raise awareness and get people to act on important sustainability issues, such as saving energy, reducing waste, and protecting biodiversity.

Oman Sustainability Week is an important milestone in the country's sustainability journey and reflects its vision to build a more resilient and prosperous future for its citizens. The week-long event gives people a chance to share ideas, talk about the best ways to do things, and make partnerships that will help drive sustainable development. It also highlights Oman's achievements in this area, such as the country's commitment to renewable energy and the protection of its natural resources. 

Oman knows that the move towards sustainability means change, in some cases a drastic departure from current comfort zones, and that it will take courage to make the changes. The more sudden the changes, the greater the effect and the more casualties. Although the climate crisis is current and urgent action is needed, change must happen in a manner that allows for a smooth transition. If this does not happen, the likelihood is that the key symptoms will be temporarily transferred from those with money to those without, and the inevitable downward spiral that creates is already apparent. Rather than focusing only on carbon emission reduction, there must be an acceleration in research and development into the alternative energy sources that nature will support to avoid the disabling of populations that have evolved through no fault of their own to exist in carbon-emitting societies. They must be helped out of the climate crisis without detriment. 

Oman’s 2040 Vision has identified this clearly. It has identified the key needs and looks to the long term while carefully but authoritatively addressing the current challenges in a manner that seeks equal benefit.

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