By Abhineety Goel, Ph.D.
Planet Earth – the majestic blue planet is home to millions of rich and diverse species and 7.8 billion people. To save the planet from extinction, it is not only necessary to focus on the recovery of the environment, but also to free humans across the borders of the growing vicious circle of daily problems of stress on resources. Only then can the interdependence between man and the environment survive in the larger system.
In the United States, the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring drew attention to the harmful use of pesticides (DDT) and its harmful effects on birds, animals, the land and humans. This sparked an environmental awareness that was further heightened by environmental disasters such as the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. Finally in 1970, for the first time, masses were mobilized together to celebrate Earth Day. . It is a day to appreciate, learn and respect the planet Earth in all its splendor. Today celebrating 51 years of Earth Day, this year’s goal is to restore nature.
Life on planet Earth is heading towards a tipping point – widespread loss of species and habitats, climate change, natural disasters, land degradation and growing insecurity of resources. The increasing pressure on environmental resources has only been multiplied by the complex political, economic and social policies and decisions made and implemented by global societies. Often at the expense of the environment.
Through her classic piece Silent Spring, Rachel Carson rightly asked, “What has everything been risked for?” Planet Earth evolved over 2.4 billion years to support life. With the growing threat of climate change and its ultimate societal implications, both socio-economic and political, humans have radically changed the nature of the environment through control and modification through massive resource extraction and technological progress and development. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic also comes to mind. Earth ethics deals with the moral obligation and right to continued existence not only of humans, a member of the biotic realm, but also of its other elements, including plants, animals and the earth.
In March 2021, the Global Trends report was released by the US National Intelligence Council, which is prepared and released once every four years. He prophesied a very dark future for this planet for the next 20 years. Earth is expected to be characterized by rapidly aging population in developed economies, while others, South Asia will account for the lion’s share of the world’s increasingly urban population, while exerting massive pressure on its resources to boost its economic growth potential at the same time. time.
Looking at the results of the past decade, the report further predicted the melting of the Arctic and an estimated range of sea level rise of 3 to 14 inches by 2040; extremely widespread heat waves, especially along the tropics, due to the intensification of sea surface temperatures; the escalation of natural disasters linked to intense weather conditions, human-induced land degradation, water stress (availability and accessibility) and loss of biodiversity, thus exacerbating food and water insecurity, threats to health human rights and increased migration.
In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published, apparently, “the most comprehensive report ever,” which underlined the urgency of taming human exploitation to prevent our ecosystem does not collapse. He noted that “three quarters of the terrestrial environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. More than a third of the world’s land mass and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to plant or animal production. Recent documentaries, including Seaspiracy, 2040, Anthropocene, A Plastic Ocean, Kiss the Ground, visually and vividly describe these anthropogenic effects on the environment.
In addition, innovative technologies will continue to be invented and disseminated more and more rapidly to the masses, thus threatening the existence of human morals and ethics by increasing the power imbalances created in global societies. With increasing insecurity and uncertainty over the next 20 years, global societies will experience more inequality, corruption and conflict.
However, all is not lost. Climate change mitigation strategies are being developed. Even though fossil fuels will continue to be widely used, but more importantly, the supply of renewable energy based on solar and wind will increase. With technological advances, research and innovations will shift to the development of geoengineering solutions. As the planet Earth warms, it will be urgent to develop solutions and technologies to eliminate harmful greenhouse gases and use them for different uses.
One such brilliant innovation is Indian Tejas Sidnal, who founded Carbon Craft Design in Mumbai in 2019. Developed by engineers and architects, his company manufactures carbon tiles, used as building materials, made with recycled carbon collected and processed from several sources, including the pyrolysis of factory tires. Another experiment based on solar geoengineering is advocated by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gate and scientists at Harvard. He proposes to send a big balloon into the stratosphere and release 2kg of chalky dust to block sunlight, reduce heating and slow global warming. This experiment is expected to take place in June 2021. Besides these innovative experiments, the abundant efforts of individuals around the world and in India are giving hope to humans. I hope to survive this doomed apocalypse.
However, these efforts alone might not make a difference. The health of planet Earth and the life it sustains depend on a complete but complex system of interrelationships. Hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere and biosphere – all interact together in a balance to support this livable planet. Humans have a reciprocal relationship with the environment and its resources. Obviously, in the past, when the environment thrived, human societies also flourished.
Global and national institutions are actively seeking solutions, but the younger generations must challenge and proactively engage in this crisis. On this Earth Day, restore nature by cultivating environmental education, develop a network of green spaces in urban cities, engage and take action to conserve the environment, thereby empowering marginalized societies facing to the daily stress of resources, plant trees, conserve soils in degraded ecosystems, adapt sustainably and the environment respectful consumer lifestyle, avoid non-degradable products such as plastics, comply with a mode of life based on renewable energies, research and develop innovative but sustainable technologies and projects to invest in local economies.
Inclusive, developed and healthy societies are essential to protect the planet. In addition to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, there is a growing need to strengthen and create effective governance of natural resources. Unless humans radically reduce their growing burden of exploitation on natural resources – whether marine or terrestrial, climate change actions alone will not solve the environmental crisis. In an increasingly economically and politically polarized world, growing poverty, wars and conflicts, health and the refugee crisis present a grim and gloomy picture of less developed societies. After all, biotic life, including humans, is bound to survive on a planet that is healthy, viable and sustainable for themselves and for generations to come.
(The author is Assistant Professor – Environmental Studies, FLAME University. She also holds a doctorate in geography from Texas A&M University, USA; masters and masters in philosophy from the Delhi School of Economics. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)