The Ailing Planet – Nani Palkhiwala – Introduction

Halt and Think!

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?


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!

  • 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
Questions and Answers
  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?
    You have just learnt 15% of the chapter. Do not give up. Many importantant questions are waiting for you. Master the lesson @ The Ailing Planet – Nani Palkhiwala

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