The Ailing Planet – Nani Palkhiwala

We study hard so that we get a good, ground-breaking degree. We secure a job with a degree certificate and earn $10,000 per month. We marry the best models in the locality and have children - one, two, three, four, or whatever. And then? We send them to the best schools, train them to get a better degree, say robotics or Space Engineering. What next? Sure that they will have enough oxygen to breathe and water to drink and fire to cook?

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Hi, Reader

This article is one of the best I have ever read. Read it carefully.

Summary

More than ever the planet earth is losing its vitality and freshness. Due to human development activities throughout the globe the 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.

Human beings are the only ones who attend schools yet they are the only ones who have learnt nothing to save the earth!

Bit/Bits

  • The earth is an ailing, dying planet.
  • Human development process brought the planet to the verge of dying.
  • Human beings are the most dangerous animals among the millions of other specie.
  • We have been exploiting this planet recklessly by building cities, by clearing forests and by a number of other activities including mining.
  • We have caused the depletion of the four major resources – forests, grasslands, crop lands and fisheries.
    • Fisheries collapse – Over fishing
    • Forest disappears – For firewood for cooking; with the arrival of the humans marks end of forests and the appearance of deserts; we are losing 1.5 acres/second
    • Grasslands are converted to barren wasteland
    • Crop land deteriorate.
  • For long we hadn’t been aware of our responsibilities to the planet’s health but the Green Movement marked the beginning.
  • The Green Movement corrected some of our incorrect judgment in connection with our understanding of the planet.
  • We are not the owners of this planet. We are not the bosses but partners in survival.
  • We should understand that it is our duty to leave the earth serene. We don’t own the planet, not an acre land; we live in a rented planet and therefore have no rights to construction or destruction.
  • Population control is the foremost remedy.
  • It is time for the most populated countries in the world – India the “worst example,” are we giving birth to more people or more burden?
    • It claims that forests are to be preserved but deforestation thrives here without any control.
    • India loses 3.7 million acres of forests every year. May be more?
    • In India there are “reserved forests” but most of these forests are virtually treeless.
Meaning of some important terms
  • Inter alia – Among the other things
  • Decimate – Destroy; kill; wipe out
  • Patrimony – Valuables inherited from one’s father
  • Endeavor – Attempt
  • Anguish – Pain
  • Bounded labor – Forced labour
  • Catastrophic – Dangerous
  • Sustainable development – Development without hampering the resources meant for the coming generation
  • Holistic view of the earth – Placing the earth’s welfare in the first place
Analysis
  1. Why is the earth said to be an ailing planet?
    Due to the insensitive exploitation by humans for his survival and development, the earth has lost almost all its vital resources. With drying rivers, depleting and polluted environment and deteriorating forests and greenery, the earth is now breathing hard for its survival and thus it is an ailing planet.
  2. “We have shifted from the mechanistic view to a holistic and ecological view of the world.”
    In the past, people were not aware of the pace of environmental degradation that the earth was undergoing.
  3. “It is shift in human perceptions as revolutionary as that introduced by Copernicus who taught mankind in the sixteenth century that the earth and the other planets revolved round the sun. What was revolutionary about the two shifts mentioned above?
    The two shifts mentioned in the context are the two discoveries – that the earth was not the center of the universe, and, that the earth was a living, breathing organism that need to be taken care of.
  4. What is the significance of Green Movement in the modern world?
    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 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.
  5. What did the most dangerous animal on the earth learn in the recent time?
    The most dangerous animal, man, 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, the safeguard, trustee of the earth.
  6. What was the question raised by the First Brandt Commission? What does it suggest? What is the significance of this question?
    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.
  7. “What goes under the pot now costs more than what goes inside it.” Explain. 
    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.
  8. Why is it said that forest precedes mankind?
    No animal on the planet earth ever caused damage to it but humans have been causing serious destruction upon the earth ever since they had evolved. By cutting down trees for their survival and development, humans have established their monopoly over the other species. Thus, with the coming of humans, the existence of forest was threatened and in their places humans constructed cities and megacities, always at the cost of these forests. As a result, forests are forced to surrender to deserts – that is, the green forests gave space for deserts.
  9. 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?
    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 a 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.
  10. How is population-explosion the biggest threat to the existence of the ailing earth?
    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.
  11. What does the empty cage and the board in the zoo in Lusaka mean?
    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 visitors see their own faces in the mirror and realize that they is that most dangerous animals. The message is that human-beings have proved that they are more dangerous than the wild animals.
  12. What was the question raised by first Brandt Commission?
    The first Brandt Commission raised a very serious question to the humanity regarding its obligations to the ailing planet. It asked if we are to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes and ailing environment.
  13. What are the four principal biological systems? How are they the foundation of the global economic system?
    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.
  14. Why is tropical forest called the powerhouse of evolution?
    It is in the heart of the tropical forests where newer plants and animals evolve to more adaptable forms.
  15. How is population responsible for the environmental degradation?
    With rising population, space that nature assigned for forests and animals is occupied by humans for their development and survival. 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.
  16. What does more children mean to the poor section of people of India?
    Poverty is directly caused by illiteracy and lack of awareness. The illiterate and uninformed poor people of India believe that more children bring more income. In fact, more children means more responsibility and more poverty and an unhealthy family and an impoverished individual and society.
  17. What does Mr. Edgar S Woolard mean by assuming the post of his company’s Chief Environment Officer?
    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 whereas profit comes next.
  18. 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?
    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, h ave to extract the resources so carefully that the generation that comes after us will have a better land and sea, more dense forests, cleaner water and clearer sky.
  19. What are our ethical obligations to the ailing planet?
    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.
  20. How do you explain the concept of sustainable development?
    Sustainable development is the kind of developmental activity that meets 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 its resources that the future generations would need.
  21. How do fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands form the foundation of global economic system?
    A majority of the world population depends on sea-food for its survival while forests provide firewood for cooking, 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 for survival. There are nations, except the gulf countries that depend on petroleum, that solely depend on forests and fisheries and croplands for trade and sustenance. Thus,
  22. Is Indian constitution capable of safeguarding its forests?
    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.

 

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