The human society has evolved in a magnificent environment. Reverence to nature is inherent in our cultural ethos. The roots of ecological and environmental values are percolated deep in our consciousness. Our religion solemnly recognizes an enduring allegiance of humankind to the mother earth.
Our ancestors were simple-minded people. They looked upon nature with awe and respect, but with the passage of time, we became self-centered and in the process started destroying the natural environment. We tried to dominate nature, shape the environment to suit ourselves and use everything around to our benefit. We had no concern for the fragile balance of the nature. Only in the past two or three decades, some of the ominous signs of environmental degradation have started growing up.
The intervention (in the form of urbanization, industrial sprawl, developmental projects, mining, overgrazing, intensive agriculture, deforestation, fuel requirements, raw material for industries and other similar activities) has resulted in the crisis we are facing today. The major global environmental issues that emanate from such interventions include; climate change, energy and food crises, biodiversity loss and species extinction, biological invasion, land use change, clear cutting and deforestation, ozone depletion, anoxic water, water crises, acid rain, average global temperature increase, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, habitat fragmentation, resource depletion, pollution, nuclear fall-out, waste disposal management. Recurrent severe droughts and devastating floods, increase in frequency and intensity of cyclones and hurricanes, storm surges, coastal inundation, salt water intrusions and damage to coastal ecosystems are the other manifestations.
For the past few decades, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what earth can regenerate each year. It now takes earth one year and four months to regenerate what we use in a year, which suggest that our Ecological Footprint (EF) is 40% larger than what planet can regenerate. Humanity maintains this overshoot by liquidating earth’s natural resources. (EF represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources; a human population consume and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste). As ecological overshoot increases, growing ecological scarcity will increasingly influence and reshape our world map from 20th century distinction between developing and developed countries to one, of ecologically creditor and debtor countries. The all issues are part of a raft of ‘green’ issue that has implanted itself into both public conscious and public policy over the years.
Our planet is facing the crises of new millennium. Sadly worldwide debate with too many ‘divides’, separating groups of nations fail to promise such strong actions. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seem a distant dream. (MDGs are part of United Nation’s Millennium Declaration signed in 2000. ‘Ensure environmental sustainability’ is one of the eight goals to be achieved by 2015). The international efforts in mitigation of these challenging tasks are meager and largely biased aimed at protection of group interests. Only ‘weak political statement’ are anticipated, which are antidemocratic, biased and unacceptable with no firm target and no commitment to a legal treaty.
We must learn to live in harmony with nature. That is the philosophy of our sustenance. All the problems emanate from the quest for more and aspiration for better quality of life and limitless greed. Based on our cultural heritage and tradition, our resource utilization should be optimum. We must recognize our responsibility to conserve earth’s resources for future generation and to outline our moral obligation in the face of such crises. It is our moral responsibility to protect our environment. We must not show allegiance to the changing lifestyle instead must adhere to simple way of life. That is what our religion teaches us.
(Muzaffar Ahmad Shah teaches at GHSS Wakura)