3
 E              [Earth’s Environment on Edge]: An Critical Analysis


  Dr. Prashant Mehta, Assistant Professor, Faculty...
The idea may be hard to accept but the earth has never been in this situation
before. "The accelerating human transformati...
Analyzing the recent human history we can address this situation. At each stage
in the development of current society, the...
(Figure not to scale and Data from World Bank and the United Nations; photo courtesy of NASA)


Of these above mentioned f...
for coping with the results yet exist. Nor have we yet reckoned with the indirect
effects. In bringing about change we nee...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

E3: Earth's Environment of Edge: A Critical Analysis

1,040 views

Published on

It hepls us understand our Environment, its degradation and how we are bringing ecological systems to edge

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

E3: Earth's Environment of Edge: A Critical Analysis

  1. 1. 3 E [Earth’s Environment on Edge]: An Critical Analysis Dr. Prashant Mehta, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science, National Law University, Jodhpur Email: prashantmehta1@rediffmail.com In one sense earth’s environment has always been on the edge, and always will be. It is just that the shortness of our lives and the narrowness of our perspective on earth’s history mean that we are mostly unaware of change, which is transforming the environment all around us day in and day out. This in turn is putting pressure on sustainable ecosystem and matter cycles, to maintain equilibrium and maintain itself. Over millions of years of existence the earth’s environment has been on many edges. There have been big hits from space, the changing relationship and interaction between the Earth and the Sun, the slow movement of tectonic plates on the earth's surface leading to natural disasters like tsunami, major volcanic eruptions, recent earth quakes in Haiti with high intensity, global warming due to build up of gases in atmosphere which is resulting in melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, submersion of coast lines, threatning the very existence of small islands nations like Maldives, and last but not the least is influence of life itself. The tightly linked relationship between the living organisms and the natural ecosystem on the earth's surface, works as a single self-regulating system, tending to create and maintain the environmental equilibrium most favourable for all. Time and over again the earth’s environment has tipped in many ways, sometimes so violently that is has been detrimental to the ecosystem by targeting the system and transforming in unusual ways that cannot be comprehended.
  2. 2. The idea may be hard to accept but the earth has never been in this situation before. "The accelerating human transformation of the earth's environment is not sustainable in long term. The usual way of dealing with the Earth's ecosystem is not an option anymore. It has to be addressed as soon as possible by effective strategies and management systems to sustain the Earth's environment while simultaneously meeting long term social and economic development objectives. Although highly debated, a common definition of sustainability is: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." A more in depth definition was given by Roy F. Weston which states that: “Sustainable development is the process of change in which the direction of investment, the orientation of technology, the allocation of resources, the development and functioning of institutions to meet present needs, and aspirations without endangering the capacity of natural systems to absorb the effects of human activities, and without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and aspirations." Sustainability takes into account a long-term view of recognizing the interactions between the environment, social justice, and economics. These three factors and their relationship are often referred to as the triple bottom line is depicted in graphic3 given below.
  3. 3. Analyzing the recent human history we can address this situation. At each stage in the development of current society, the impact on environment has increased manifold. Hunter gatherers fitted easily enough into the ecosystems of cold and warm periods in the Pleistocene epoch contrary to this farming with land clearance changed everything. Exploitative increase in human population and its migration form rural to urban areas lead to environmental problems whose effects has transformed form local, or at worst regional, to a global level with severe implications. There are several problems which have pushed the earth’s environment to the edge. They arise from exponential human population increase (shown in figure 1 below); degradation of land by unscrupulous exploitation of nature (unlimited deforestation), Variety of toxic wastes, accumulation of wastes and its non or improper disposal, rapid Industrialization and Urbanization; Water scarcity, pollution, and its supply; Climate change with phenomenon like Acid rain, Green House effect, Photochemical Smog; Energy production and its indiscriminate use, and finally Destruction of biodiversity by spontaneous natural environmental phenomenon like pollution. Figure 1:
  4. 4. (Figure not to scale and Data from World Bank and the United Nations; photo courtesy of NASA) Of these above mentioned factors population issues are often ignored and so are issues of environmental degradation which most people are broadly aware of. This is apart from those who do not want to understand it leading to irreversible damage to the diversity of life on this planet. Coping with all or any of these issues requires two fundamental changes in ones mindset: 1. Recognition that issues exist 2. Our readiness to do something about them. This process is very slow may take some time. For Example: How ozone depletion was recognized and international action followed and so is the story of global climate change and its impacts. Newton rightly said “Every action has equal and opposite reaction”. Today innovative and inventive thinking (thinking differently) is the need of the hour. The problem goes to the roots of how we run our society and we attach monetary value to almost everything. But how do we give a monetary value for pollution of the atmosphere, acidification of the oceans, loss of a species and its habitat or waste segregation and microbial disposal of wastes? Thus we will have to bring in the factor of environmental costs where polluters will be compelled to pay for the treatment of the waste they generate. Definition of costs will require a new approach towards economics and above all towards how we measure things. Governments have a particular responsibility to determine what is in the public interest, and to use fiscal instruments to promote it. It is also extremely difficult for governments to take action outside a broad international consensus just like what happened in Copenhagen summit in 2009. Such action can look needlessly damaging to the national interest unless others do the same. We seem to have an exaggerated expectation of what they, and international conferences, can achieve. So at the moment neither public understanding of how and why environment is on the edge, nor the mechanisms
  5. 5. for coping with the results yet exist. Nor have we yet reckoned with the indirect effects. In bringing about change we need three things: leadership from above; public pressure from below; and usually some disasters to pull us out to achieve something on saving the planet earth and its environment.

×