The Ailing Planet – Nani Palkhiwala


More than ever the planet earth is losing its vitality (life) 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 (plants and trees) and emitted large quantity of carbon and a lot of other chemicals. We have destroyed marine (fisheries) life and made rivers go 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.

Lesson Plan
  • At first we will see how human beings used to look at the earth and its resources. We thought that we were the masters or owners of this earth.
  • Secondly we will see how the human attitude changed for good, in the last century.
  • On the third page, we shall see how the earth is a dying planet and of course, we will meet the killer as well!
  • On the fourth page we will read about the pace of the destruction. We are losing all the resources of the earth!
  • Finally we will see why over population needs to be strictly controlled.
Opening – Green Movement & Sustainable Development
  • The earth is an ailing, dying planet. Human development processes have brought the planet close to a state of extinction.
  • Human beings are the most dangerous animals among the millions of other species that inhabit the planet.
  • We have been exploiting this planet recklessly (carelessly) by building cities, by clearing forests and by a number of other activities including mining, fishing, etc.
  1. What are our ethical/moral obligations/duties to the ailing planet?
    Human beings have the greatest obligation to safeguard this planet from all advancing deterioration and to keep it safe so that it can be handed over to the coming generations to live here peacefully.
  2. How do you explain the concept of sustainable development?
    Sustainable development is a way of development 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 need.)
  3. What was the revolutionary perception that Copernicus taught the mankind?
    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 does the author refer to as the revolutionary perception that the mankind recently learned?
    The mankind learned that the earth is not a planet that can be exploited for human greed. As per this new perception, human beings are, like the millions of animal species, one of the partners in survival.
  5. What is the significance of Green Movement in the modern world?
    The Green Movement that was founded in New Zealand in 1972 could bring 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 they used to cause upon the earth. People realized that the earth’s existence has been threatened and began to do whatever was possible by each individual and each nation.
  6. What does the empty cage and the board in the zoo in Lusaka communicate to the most dangerous animals in the world?
    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 are that most dangerous animals. The message is that human-beings have proved that they are more dangerous than the most dreadful wild animals.
  7. 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/hot planet of advancing/approaching deserts, impoverished landscapes and ailing/dying environment.
Next – The Planet is Dying

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 healthy. We don’t own the planet, not an acre of land. We live in a rented planet and therefore we have no rights to construction or destruction.

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/important 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. 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.
Next – The 4 Principal Biological Systems

We have caused the depletion of the four major resources – forests, grasslands, croplands and fisheries. Fisheries collapse due to over fishing. Forest disappears because the need for firewood and timber has considerably increased. The arrival of the humans marks the end of forests and the appearance of deserts. We are losing 1.5 acres of forests per second. Grasslands are converted to barren wasteland. Cropland deteriorates due to over cultivation and the construction of cities.

Questions & Answers
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. “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.
  5. How does over population cripple the balance of the earth?
  6. How does over-grazing and over-cultivation cripple the balance of the earth?
Next – The crisis is Population Explosion!

Biju John

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men.

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