I want to focus on innovations that don't destroy our environment. So to me, durable goods are more important than disposable goods. To me, conservation is more important than consumption.Sam Pitroda.
Mining Belts in Odisha Turn Graveyards for Local People
(The Asian Age, 22 July 2017).
Western Ghats' biodiversity faces threat - IUCN report.
The Limits to Growth was a 1972 book funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and commissioned by the Club of Rome, It used computer models to simulate the consequence of interactions between the Earth's and human systems. The original version presented a model based on five variables: world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and resources depletion. The authors intended to explore the possibility of a sustainable feedback pattern that would be achieved by altering growth trends among the five variables under three scenarios. They noted that their projections for the values of the variables in each scenario were predictions "only in the most limited sense of the word," and were only indications of the system's behavioral tendencies. Two of the scenarios saw "overshoot and collapse" of the global system by the mid- to- latter part of the 21st century, while a third scenario resulted in a stabilized world.
It is clear that the overshoot and collapse has prevailed. It might be recalled that the term sustainable development' had come into usage much earlier based on projections of the world population stabilizing around 6 billion at the outside. At the time when these studies came into their own, sustainable development made sense presupposing that resources that were finite would be used judiciously to allow for regeneration and ensure that irreversibility did not set in due to over-exploitation. At a paper 'Demographic Dynamic of the 21st Century' presented by the author on the consequences of unchecked population growth at the Millennium Symposium on 'Science, Society and Human Rights' at Regina, Canada in August 2000 it was highlighted that sustainable development as understood decades earlier had become inapplicable by the 21st Century. Taking the example of India supposing that X square kilometers of eco-fragile areas could support Y number of people in the 1950s, fifty years later a great reversal had taken place: X square kilometers of eco-fragile area had shrunk to half or nearly one-third its size, while the population eking out an existence in the same area had grown exponentially, sometime as much as two or three hundred percent.
Without dwelling any further on that point it is evident that in India, China and many parts of the world the sustainability model of the earlier era is no longer applicable in its original form. One of the biggest problem continues to be the unchecked population growth in parts of the world that are least able to feed their population .The population growth rate in countries like South Sudan, Somalia*, Nigeria to cite just three among others still continues to grow at over 3 percent, even 3.5 percent; leading to a doubling time of 25 to 30 years. Taking the former two cases UN and other humanitarian agencies deployed to prevent starvation of the highly emaciated women and children have either not taken note of this aspect or have not considered it a priority. Had they simultaneously tried to educate the women on the need for producing lesser number of children and spent a portion of the funds for provisioning family planning aids the rate of population expansion would have come down. It is no longer the case that these hapless people desire more children. They simply keep coming with unfailing regularity. While certain nations might have cut off funds or reduced them for population stabilization activities cash rich multinationals could be induced to step in should the UN approach them. Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria are each in the throes of a man-made famine, with 20 million people starving to death. No humanitarian intervention has been possible. There has been little concern from the powers that be. Pictures on social media of rail-thin children evoke pity, but no action. (Op Ed news item: Worlds' largest Humanitarian Crisis is basically being Blacked Out by Western Media).Population growth that leads to destitute people moving to cities creates conditions that are dealt with further on in the paper.
The next aspects being considered relate to vikas or development that leads to destruction of ecologically sensitive areas. In like manner in other places the trend to bring in more and more people as tourists or religious pilgrims beyond the carrying capacity of the eco-systems has the same effect. The examples selected highlight their unsustainability.
The most important threats for humanity and all life forms on the planet are undoubtedly global warming and climate change. There are hardly any international bodies, countries or NGOs in this domain that are not seized of it. The numbers of international, regional and local meetings that take place on the issue are legion. One of the most urgent problems remains the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Many mitigation techniques from carbon sequestration to carbon credits among others are being considered to reduce carbon levels. That being the case it must be one of the most amazing conundrums that one of the simplest pathways to ameliorate the situation at little or no cost is ignored by world bodies and governments and by the numerous conferences taking place on the subject around the world. Simply stated, it is the heedless method of exploitation of natural resources (the most obvious carbon sinks) and the accompanying displacement of local communities that invariably takes place; mainly in the developing world and the pristine forest regions (where local communities have been living as pastoral societies engaged in gathering forest produce, using methods that they have practiced for centuries. The result is shrinking habitats still very rich in biodiversity. Most of these communities are to be found in developing countries in Africa, Latin America, Southeast and South Asia. They are that part of humanity whose carbon footprint even in the 21st century is extremely low, some time almost non-existent. This realization has either not dawned on decision-makers or governments and vested interests simply turn a blind eye to it. Numerous examples can be provided from around the world. A few of them fresh in the public mind will suffice. In Myanmar, the new government had decided to stop the construction of a mega-dam being built by China on the Myitsone River in upper Myanmar. The Chinese government having already sunk in a fair amount of money into the preliminary works was furious. It is to be hoped that the Government of Myanmar will stick to its decision and what is more halt the planned construction of mega-dams elsewhere on the Myitsone and Irrawady Rivers. Had the construction not been stopped what would have been the outcome. The Myanmar government would have earned money from electricity, 90 percent of which would have been sold to China. The hidden costs of these gargantuan projects hardly get publicized. It has been estimated that approximately one hundred thousand people would have been displaced. These people have already suffered due to clear felling of a sizeable forest area, as has been the case for the mega-dams built earlier. Some of the displaced forest dwellers and pastoral societies living in the area might have found work as laborers under Chinese construction bosses. The large majority would have been sent to other sites and put in shanty towns for perpetual ghetto-ised existence.
The second example is from the tribal societies known as 'adivasis' in the eastern state of Odisha in India. Large-scale mining activities have taken place or are in the pipeline in areas where the adivasis live as they have lived undisturbed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Mining is also planned by mining leviathans in a pristine tract called the Nyamgiri Hills sacred to the adivasis from time immemorial. The damage already done by the bauxite mines has resulted in heavy pollution of the area: disease inducing toxins in the water bodies, where even the animals (although seldom recorded) that come to drink suffer as much as the humans. Protestors are routinely beaten up by the police and several killed. Compensation is offered. It has been mostly rejected by the adivasis who would not like their centuries-old traditions that hardly leave any carbon footprint to be disturbed. Selected leaders of the protest movements are likely to be made to fall in line by hefty bribes - standing operating procedure worldwide. Even the compensation to the adivasis will be increased. Again at what cost to the environment and the natural guardians of the environment, the forest-dwellers whose lands are expropriated. Two examples have been provided. They are representative of the tribulations of the indigenous communities displaced by governments allied to global mining lobbies bent upon destroying pristine tracts around the world. So-called modernization is being forced upon hapless people who have been the guardians of the undisturbed forest habitats so critical for habitability of the planet for future generations of humans and the flora and fauna that has managed to survive.
A word on the fate that awaits displaced communities forcibly removed from their land and way of life. They are resettled in ghetto-like shanty towns or even concrete blocks. Either way the disoriented elders spend their time bemoaning their loss while the youngsters drift into drugs, drunkenness, prostitution and the other ills of modernity into which they have been forced. Lacking survival skills for the new life that they are required to lead many of them move into cities into a life of crime or destitution in the hovels known as 'bastis' (in India) and 'favellas' (in Latin America). The lands that they have left behind are ravaged. Animal and bird life soon disappears due to the extreme pollution of the water bodies and the toxins that leach into the soil. Even in their marginalized condition their carbon footprint automatically rises in the city. Unsustainable economic development has not been stopped despite so many climate change conferences.
Capitalism capitalises on human greed. That's why it is termed capitalism. China and India will not forgo development, as they still have a long way to go before ameliorating poverty; leave alone eradicating it. The economic bottom-line of the largely unfettered corporate world must include an environmental bottom-line that will translate into ecological sustainability, if the planet is to survive. In the concluding remarks from a presentation at Basel before the 19th IPPNW Conference, (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) in August 2010 the author stated: "The large economies pushing toward very high growth do not seem to be concerned about future generations. The tragedy is compounded by the rest of the world that is undergoing recession pangs pushing for greater consumption by China and India. In short, nobody seems to be concerned about the future of the children or the coming generations. The world is heading toward planetary destruction here and now. China and India still want GDP increase in double digits when most of this growth is predicated on higher energy consumption levels based largely on abundant coal reserves, the burning of which is most conducive for global warming. In fact, the consequences of double digit or very high GDP growth in the case of countries with large populations are such that this high digit growth can be termed as obscene. China, overtaking the world's largest car producer, saw its passenger car vehicle sales zoom 47.5percent, from 5.7 million units in 2008 to 8.4 million units in2009, in just one year. India registered 24.5 percent jump in passenger car vehicle sales from 1.5 million units in 2009 to about 1.9 million units in 2010 in the domestic market. Should this trend, egged on by the rest of the world for greater consumption to underpin the global economy, continue for just 10 more years these two countries, without even counting USA, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria would be able to incinerate the planet by their scorching pace of growth, with attendant environmental destruction on a scale not witnessed earlier on the planet, well before the next nuclear-related mishap. It is time to take stock. Time is not running out for critical decisions that should have been in place by now; it has already run out. The human race is now running on borrowed time".