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the ailing planet Chapter Sketch
This newspaper article is a sad commentary on the gradual deterioration of Earth’s environment. Our planet is no longer a pleasant place to live in. Fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands need to be preserved and
protected. The article suggests that we should try to limit the rise in population
and stop the perpetuation of poverty. The Green Movement, started in 1972, is the only hope for the survival of this planet as well as that of the human race.
the ailing planet summary
The chapter is based on an article written by Nani Palkhivala. The article was published in the Indian Express on 24th Novemer, 1994 and raised the issue of environmental degradation of the planet.
The Green Movement
The Green Movement, which started nearly 25 years earlier than the publication of the article, is one of the most important movements that captivated the entire human race. The movement gained popularity in 1972 after the creation of the world’s first nationwide Green party in New Zealand. Since then a revolutionary change has been seen in the perception of human beings. There has been a shift from the scientific understanding developed by Copernicus to a holistic and ecological view of the world.
For the first time, there is a growing worldwide realisation that the earth itself is a living organism. It has its own metabolic needs and fundamental processes which need to be respected and preserved. With the Earth showing signs of declining health, humans have realised their ethical obligations to protect and preserve the
planet for the futher generations.
The Concept of Sustainable Development
The concept of Sustainable Development was popularised in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. It was defined as the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future generations. In other words, we should pursue development without emptying the resources the future generations will need.
Man and the Other Living Species
A cage in the zoo at Lusaka contains a mirror with the notice that reads ‘The world’s most dangerous animal’. This along with numerous efforts of many agencies across the world has made human beings come to the realisation that they should live in harmony with other living beings of the planet and not seek to control them anymore. Scientists till then had listed 1.4 million living species on Earth and believed that about 3 to a 100 million species still remain unknown and endangered.
Earth’s Principal Biological Systems
The Brandt Commission was one of the first international commissions which dealt with the question of ecology and environment. It had Mr LK Jha as its member. The First Brandt Report raised a question of how we want to leave our planet for our successors.
Mr Lester R Brown, in his book, ‘The Global Economic Prospect’, points out that the Earth has four major biological systems. They are fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands. These four form the foundation of the global economics system. Besides providing us food, they provide nearly all the raw materials for industries except minerals and petroleum derived synthetics. In many parts of the world, humans are over-exploiting these systems due to which their productivity is hampered.
The unsustainable and excessive demand has resulted in deterioration and depletion of resources leading to the breakdown of fisheries, disappearance of forests, deterioration of croplands and turning of grasslands into
barren lands. Overfishing for protein and deforestation to obtain fuel for working are some examples of these excessive demands.
A consequence of meeting these excessive demands is the extinction of many species and the increase in the land area covering deserts.
Mankind Destroys Forests
The unsustainable dependence of these systems has a drastic negative impact on the forest area. The ancient inheritance of tropical forests is now eroding at the rate of 40 to 50 million acres per year. In addition, the growing use of dung for combustion deprives the soil of an important natural fertiliser. The World Bank estimates that a five-fold increase in the rate of forest planting is needed to cope with the expected fuelwood demand in the year 2000.
James Speth, the President of the World Resources Institute, revealed that we are losing the forests at the rate of an acre-and-a-half a second.
Article 48A of the Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of the state to make efforts to “Protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. Unfortunately, such laws are neither respected nor enforced in India. A report by the Parliament’s estimates committee highlights that India is exhausting 3.7 million acres of forest lands every year. The large areas of official forest lands are virtually tree less. The actual loss of forests at present is about eight times the rate presented by the government data.
The Menace of Overpopulation
A three year study by the United Nations found that the environment is in a critical state in many of 88 countries investigated.
One of the most prominent factors for such a condition is the growth of world’s population. Mankind took than more a million years to reach the first billion in 1800. Another billion was added in 1900 and 3.7 billion was added in the twentieth century. As of 1994, the world population was at 5.7 billion with one million being added to it every four days.
In 1994, India’s population was estimated to be 920 million, pointing to the need of giving population control the top-most priority. Development can be the best contraceptive, as with increased income, education level and health, fertility falls However, with rising population it is impossible.
The increase in population also increases the economic gap, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The increase can’t be dealt with forceful control of population, hence leaving the only choice to be between control of population and never ending growth in of poverty.
Era of Responsibility
The new holistic view of the world towards the environment has began the era of responsibility. In this view, the concern has shifted to the survival of not only the people but also the planet. In this ecological view, the world is seen as an integrated whole and not a collection of parts.
Industries play a central role in this new era with business’s excelling in environmental performance. The chapter (article) ends with the words of Margert Thatcher and Mr. Lester Brown stating that no one has a
freehold on earth and that it is not our property. We need to keep the resources and the environment intact for the future generations.
The given page numbers correspond to the pages in the prescribed NCERT textbook.
|Holistic||Complete and comprehensive|
|Ecological||Concerned with the relation of living |
creatures to the environment of a
|Metabolic||Related to a chemical process in living|
things that changes food into energy
and materials for growth
|Ethical||Connected with beliefs and principles|
about what is right and wrong
|Unsustainable||Not possible to replace|
|Way to control population|
|Beget||Give birth to|
|Coercion||Use of force|
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