The Ailing Planet: The Green Movement’s Role
By Nani Palkhivala
About the Author
Nani Palkhivala was born in 1920 in Bombay to middle-class Parsi parents. His family name derives from the profession of his forefathers who had been manufacturers of palanquins. He was educated at Masters Tutorial High School, and later at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay. He was a dedicated scholar. At college, he earned a master’s degree in English literature.
Upon graduating, Palkhivala applied for a position as lecturer at Bombay University, but was not awarded the post. Soon found himself trying to obtain admission to institutions of higher learning to further his academic career. It being late in the term, most courses were closed, and he enrolled at Government Law College, Bombay, where he discovered that he had a gift for unravelling the intricacies of jurisprudence. He was an excellent barrister at his time.
Nani was taken critically ill on December 7, 2002, and taken to Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. He died on Wednesday, December 11, 2002.
More than ever the planet earth is losing its vitality and freshness. Due to human development activities, our earth has become highly polluted, highly irreparable and highly damaged. We have taken out petroleum, coal and a lot of natural resources from the earth. We have removed more than half of world’s vegetation and emitted large quantity of carbon and a lot of other chemicals. We have destroyed marine life and made rivers dry. Moreover our greed for more and more wealth resulted in depleting the protective ozone layer and invited all harmful rays to the earth’s surface. Besides, we have brought out a great imbalance between humans and the other species of the earth.
Summary in Points
1. First Nation-wide Green Party: established 1972, New Zealand
2. Worldview shifted from mechanistic to holistic and ecological
3. Realization that the planet is a living organism in declining health due to human impact on its natural resources
4. Sustainable development – Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs – key to human survival and prosperity in the future
5. We, today known as the ‘world’s most dangerous animal’, are custodians of the future.
6. Undiscovered species exist in large numbers but we may never discover their identity if we do not conserve their habitats
7. Lester R. Brown’s book ‘The Global Economic Prospect’ identifies four principal biological systems of the earth as fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands. They provide food supply and raw material for our survival.
8. Over-fishing and deforestation, coupled with uncontrolled population explosion, has led to the collapse of fisheries, disappearance of forest cover, conversion of grasslands to barren wastelands and the deterioration of crops.
9. We lose an acre and a half of forests every second and the World Bank estimates a five-fold increase in the rate of forest planting to cope with the demand for fuel wood.
10. Article 48 A of the Constitution – “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. Author laments that laws are never respected or enforced in India.
11. Fertility falls as incomes rise, education spreads, and health improves. Thus development which may ensure raised incomes, is the best contraceptive. But development itself is not possible without a control on our population explosion. More children mean more hungry mouths which implies poverty as well as increased demand on our natural resources.
12. India’s current population is estimated to be 1.3 billion while the world population is about 7.5 billion. Hence, we hold the major chunk of the world. The author questions whether we recognize this fact and are at least now willing to make a change in our awareness of the human impact on environment.
13. Era of responsibility – the awareness of our role and the need for sustainable development
14. Author claims that the industry must join the cause and work towards becoming eco-friendly just as Du Pont under the leadership of Mr. Edgar S Woolard.
15. We are tenants of the planet, and are required to keep it repaired and well-maintained for generations to come – Margaret Thatcher, Lester Brown
Our Earth is an enormous living organisman, of which we are parts. This is our planet, its destruction will make us all homeless. We are dependent on Earth and not the other way round. However, the thankless creature, man, is unconcerned about the dangers that pose threats to our survival. The article by Nani Palkhivala deals with the concerns of the environmentalists at this eleventh hour and talks about the new awareness that has dawned upon our race. A holistic and ecological view of the world has been brought into consideration. The Green Movement launched in 1972 has never looked back. There is a growing need of sustainable development, which was popularised by World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987.
Man is the most dangerous creature, as it was declared by a Zoo in Lusaka, Zambia. Human beings are taking too much time to realise the need of the hour. One of the members of Brandt Commission, Mr.L.K.Jha, raised a vital question, are we to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes and ailing environment? Mr. Lester R. Brown expressed his worry over the fact that our four biological systems are reaching an unsustainable level. The tropical forests, the powerhouse of evolution, as Dr. Meyers called them, are being destroyed causing extinction of several species.
The fear hovers, what if the words, forests precede mankind and deserts follow, come true. And the reality is that India is losing its forests at the rate of 3.7 million acres a year. The Article 48A of the Indian Constitution provides that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country. To conserve the environment and to bring down the population of the world, which is 5.7 billion, Palkhivala suggests that development is the only solution. Fertility falls as the income rises, education spreads, and health improves. Nani supports compulsory sterilisation and defends it by saying that there is no other alternative but coercion.
The population of India today is 920 million, which is more than the entire population of Africa and South America. What is happening today is that rich are getting richer and poor are begetting children, which begets them to remain poor. Now the folks have realised what endangers our race. It is not about the survival of human race but the survival of the planet Earth.
It is an Era of Responsibility. The industrialists have to understand the present concern with most consideration. The view of the Chairman of Du Pont, Mr. Edgar S. Woolard is much appreciable, our continued existence as a leading manufacturer requires that we excel in environmental performance. Let us be grateful to mother nature and keep Margaret Thatcher’s felicitous words, No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease. In the words of Mr. Lester Brown, We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q1. Why is the earth said to be an ailing planet?
Ans. Due to the insensitive exploitation by humans for their survival and development, the earth has lost almost all its vital resources. With drying rivers, depleted and polluted environment and deteriorated forests and greenery, the earth is now breathing hard for its survival and thus it is an ailing planet.
Q2. What is the significance of Green Movement in the modern world?
Ans. The Green Movement that was found in New Zealand in the year 1972 brought a great awareness to the humanity. It taught us that we are just partners on the earth having equal rights to inhabit this planet as any other living organism has. Having learnt this, human beings worldwide stopped large amount of destruction that it used to cause upon the earth. People realized that the earth’s existence was threatened and began to do whatever was possible by each individual and each nation.
Q3. What did the most dangerous animal on the earth learn in the recent time?
Ans. Man is the most dangerous animal on the earth. He has learnt in the recent years a new lesson that he is not the master of the planet but just one among the rest of the animals and trees, plants and insects, who should live like a partner in survival on the earth.
Q4. What was the question raised by the First Brandt Commission? What does it suggest? What is the significance of this question?
Ans. The first Brandt Report raised the question, “Are we going to leave behind for our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes and ailing planet?” This question finds an answer in our minds but we quite conveniently forget this answer. It has been proved in the recent years that the earth is becoming hotter planet every year and another ice-age is under way. This question is still significant and will remain significant until the only schooled animal of the earth stops his war against the planet.
Q5. “What goes under the pot now costs more than what goes inside it.” Explain.
Ans. With a growing population and the pace of the global developments taking wings, the cost of food touched a new height, all time high. Amazingly, the cost of cooking-gas overtook that of food-grains, fish, meat and vegetables, thus the fuel to cook – gas, firewood and electricity – now costs more than the raw-food.
Q6. Why is it said that forest precedes mankind?
Ans. No animal on the planet earth ever caused damage to it but humans have been causing serious destruction upon the earth ever since he had evolved. By cutting down trees for his survival and development humans have established their monopoly over the other species. Thus, with the coming of humans, the existence of forest was threatened.
Q7. What did Lester Brown mean when he said that we have not inherited this earth from our forefathers, we have borrowed it from our children?
Ans. Lester Brown believes that the present population of the earth has no right to think that the earth is its property. Each one has to believe that he is having full responsibility to keep the earth protected from all kinds of misuse. He has to feel that the earth is place that he has to return to the generations to come. Brown further furnishes that human beings have no right to misuse the earth because we are accountable to the new generations after us.
Q8. How is human population explosion the biggest threat to the existence of the ailing earth?
Ans. Human population is the biggest threat to the existence of the earth. Though it reached a billion in a million years, another billion was added to the world population in just another hundred years. Every four or five days the world population increases by one million. The effects of this dangerous increase in world population are endless yet the most catastrophic one is our present struggle for existence.
Q9. What does the empty cage and the board in the zoo in Lusaka mean?
Ans. In a zoo in Lusaka there is a mirror kept in one of the cages that is said to be the cage of the most dangerous animal in the world. The visitor sees his own face in the mirror and realizes that he is that most dangerous animal. The message is that human beings have won the infamous other than that of a zoo animal. The board message conveyed is a warning to the most dangerous animal to come in terms with the earth.
Q10. What are the four principal biological systems? How are they the foundation of the global economic system?
Ans. The four principal biological systems of the earth are fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands. In addition to supplying our food, these four systems provide virtually all the raw materials for industry except minerals and petroleum-derived synthetics.
Q11. Why is tropical forest called the powerhouse of evolution?
Ans. It is in the heart of the tropical forests where newer plants and animals evolve to more adaptable forms.
Q12. How is population responsible for the environment degradation?
Ans. With rising population, space that nature assigned for forests and animals. More population means less forests and animals. Unfortunately man’s first choice is nature and it is sadly vulnerable and an easy prey. When cities and megacities occupy the major portion of the earth, the ecological balance is said to be lost.
Q13. What does more children mean to the poor section of people of India?
Ans. Poverty is directly caused by illiteracy and lack of education. The illiterate and uninformed poor people of India believe that more children is more income. In fact more children means more responsibility and more poverty and an unhealthy family and individual.
Q14. What does Mr. Edgar S Woolard mean by assuming the post of his company’s Chief Environment Officer?
Ans. Mr. Edgar S Woolard, chairman of DuPont, an international manufacturer, by co-assuming the post of the company’s Chief Environmental Officer (CEO), stands a model for the owners and chairpersons of all the industries worldwide. He implies that the chief motive of an industry is to preserve the stability and life of the earth and profit comes next.
Q15. What are our ethical obligation to the ailing planet?
Ans. Human beings have the greatest obligation to the earth to safeguard this planet from all advancing deterioration and keeping it safe so that it can be handed over to the coming generations to inhabit here peacefully and in the midst of abundance.
Q16. How do you explain the concept of sustainable development?
Ans. Sustainable development is the kind development activities that meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This kind of development is expected to be undertaken without stripping the natural world of resources that the future generations would need.
Q17. How do fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands form the foundation of global economic system?
Ans. A majority of the world population depends on sea food for their survival while forests provide firewood, raw materials for production and timber for construction. Grasslands are the destination of cattle and herds of animals and without them, domestic and wild animals, the global economic system cannot survive. Each one is depending on the other while it help the other to survive. There are nations, except the gulf countries that depend on petroleum, that solely depend on forests and fisheries and croplands for trade and sustenance.
Q18. Is Indian constitution capable of safeguarding its forests?
Ans. So far, with all the measures adopted, the government has not been able to safeguard its forests effectively. India’s constitution is ostentatiously rich and effective but when it comes to enforcement, it miserably fails or it is not entirely successful.
Q19. Margaret Thatcher says, “No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy – with full repairing lease.” How is this statement significant today?
Ans. Everyone says, “it is my land” and “that is your land.” People fight for other territories and encroach the neighbor’s land. It is here what British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher’s observation gains importance. We are not supposed to occupy the earth considering that the planet belongs to us and that we can exploit the planet any way we like. We, on the contrary, have to extract the resources so carefully that the generation that comes after us will have a better land and sea, a less dense forest, cleaner water and clearer sky.
Long Answer Questions
Q1. How has the growth of world population affected the environment? Support your answer with suitable arguments?
Ans. The author Nani Palkhivala enumerates some alarming statistics to suggest how the growth of world population has tremendously affected the environment. The population which took a million years to reach the first billion took just another hundred years to reach the second billion. Another century passed it and reached the alarming figure of 3.7 million. Presently it is over 6 million and there is a huge demand on resources, natural or man-made. The resources worldwide are under a lot of stress and pressure. The four principal biological systems i.e. fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands which form the foundation of the global economic system and provide raw materials to the industry are facing a lot of stress. The human demands on these systems are increasing at a rapid speed. Hence, sustainability and productivity are both hampered. When this happens, fisheries collapse, forests disappear, grasslands become wastelands and croplands deteriorate. The need of the hour is to become sensitive towards the needs of the environment to get affected; we will leave behind nothing but an ailing planet for our future generations.
Q2. We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children. Discuss.
Ans. Earth’s resources are limited and will not last forever. In the twentieth century, there has been a revolutionary change in human perception. We cannot take the planet for granted. We are mere custodians. We have to take a holistic view of the very basis of our existence. The earth is a living organism of which we are parts. It has its own metabolic needs to stay alive and must be respected and preserved for the future generation. What is required is sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the destiny of future generation. There are four biological systems, namely fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands. They form the foundation of the global economic system. They supply us food and raw materials for industry. In larger areas of the world, these systems are reaching unsustainable levels. Their productivity is being damaged. The growth of world population is another factor distorting the future of our children. Development is not possible if population increases. In this era of responsibility towards our future generation, population must be controlled. Industries must become environmental friendly. Now many industrialists, politicians and writers have realized their responsibility in preserving the non-renewable natural resources for the future generation.