Topic for Discussion : Environment v/s Development
(Posted on: 8th February, 2011)
Infrastructure development & providing basic amenities are the key challenges for any developing nation. Economic growth of the nation is also linked to this. Policy makers go for large scale, medium scale or small scale development projects to achieve targeted growth. Now-a-days most of the projects, particularly large scale projects are criticised by certain sections of the society. 'Environment' is the main reason for this criticism. This leads to 'Environment v/s Development' debate. Shri. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of state, Environment & Forests addressed this issue in his speech in September, 2010. (Read full text)
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What is environment? Every form of living and non-living surrounding us. The land to which we are fettered. The enveloping air, dancing water, all pervasive space. The benevolent trees, metals, minerals, microorganisms etc.
When we utter word “environment”, the general habitual perception says to us , environment is something which is outside phenomenon, nothing to do with us.
Our very body is not only the part of environment but the very environment itself. This very body is nothing but the flesh, water, air, space, fire and microorganisms.
So one thing is very crystal clear, the environment is not only the outside phenomenon but inside too. We are the environment.
Now what is development? The gradual evolutionary process encompassing the economics, the culture, the logical analytical reasoning, wisdom etc.
The development is an integral process involving innumerable factors. But in our modern society all the factors involved in the development boils down to economic development only.
Now let us clear the air around the economic development. What exactly it ls?
Modern perception about the economic development is that it is a life having all the basic needs along with all the other luxuries, present in the global society.
So how the issue of environment and economic development goes against each other? The dilemma is interesting.
First we will look how the economic development is happening in the world. What is the source of the economic development? We extract the food from the environment in the form of agricultural yield. We extract our shelter from the environment in the form of wood, metals, minerals, rocks, sand etc. Even all the other luxuries, are indirect / modified / synthetic / artificial form of basic environmental resources and produce.
So all the economic development is the result of extraction of the natural resources from the environment.
So the mathematics of the modern economic development is clear which is,
faster and larger extraction of natural resources from environment is equal to faster and larger economic development which is equal to faster and larger scale degradation of environment.
The equation itself explains why there is a deadlock between the environment and modern economic development.
We want environment to be conserved that is must. At the same time we want economic development, fair enough.
Now arises the burning question, that is, how to resolve this deadlock?
In my opinion, there are only two ways to resolve this deadlock-
either slowing the consumption rate in a way compromising the economic development. Given the competitive atmosphere of achieving the higher economic development at faster rate, this option seems to be moonshine.
Here, a balance could be made between the environment and economic development. Sometimes, the environment issues has to be compromised when larger economic development is at stake at the expense of minimum environment damage and at some instances, the development issues need to be sidestepped,
Where large scale environment degradation and livelihood security is in severe danger.
Industrialist, large scale entrepreneurs, economists, political leaders find this kind of balance hard to achieve, given the situation of competitive economic development scenario among countries.
The present trend is to compromise environmental issues more often at the expense of economic development. Often the environment issues are neglected over economic development, one of the reason behind it, might be, loss which environment degradation causes seems to be stretched over large span of time and is distant, hence difficult to sense and perceive. Whereas the result of no or less economic development is instantly visible and immediately perceivable.
Immediate loss of money is easily felt but the immediate loss of environment is not easily sensed, but the loss it causes, could lead to us to catastrophic doom.
Second way for resolving the dead lock between environment and development is innovation.
Innovation in the field on energy sector
If we can replace non- renewable and environmentally ominous energy sources such as coal, crude oil with the energy sources which are renewable and environment benevolent, large scale forest degradation which occurs due to coal mining will be avoided along with immense pollution they caused making life miserable. Greater amount of innovation is needed to make solar energy, fuel cell, wind turbines, hydrogen, helium, microorganisms based energy more efficient and less expensive and widely reachable to common man. Research is going on to bring the hydrogen economy within reach, so that we slowly slowly get rid of the petrol, diesel to run our vehicles which causes the disastrous pollution.
Innovation in the field on water
To save fresh ground water sources from depleting, there is a urgent need to transform the seawater into potable drinking water. The technology is available but it is expensive. The world wide research on water engineering is ongoing which will bring the technology within common public domain.
Innovation in the field on environment engineering
Industrial pollutants that are produced as by products, waste generated in domestic sector could be converted into no or less harmful substances by the grace environmental engineering. The research in the field should be encouraged, funded and evolved to net the industrial pollutants as well as general pollution.
Innovation in the construction industry
Sand, rock, woods are the primary ingredients of construction industry. Extraction of sand puts immense burden on rivers. It is literally threatening the existence of rivers. Innovation is needed to replace the sand with some artificial environmentally degradable material. It sounds funny and impracticable but it is not. Given the ongoing technological research in the field on nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum chemistry , molecular programming this can become very much a reality.
And many more innovations are needed in the field where possibility of environment degradation and pollution emission occurs.
Along with all these innovations, we need to seriously overhaul our population graph which is day by day every increasing. Larger population means larger consumption which means larger environment degradation. Population need to be restrained to save environment. This is un- debatable. Stricter, tougher, innovative law and regulation is the urgent call of today to limit the population, in turn saving environment, in turn saving us!
|Prasad . Salian(11/02/2011)
Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change: A Critical Review
This article has been divided into two sections. The first section traces the genealogy of the environmental issues in International Relations ever since the 1970s. The second section provides a critical review of climate change, global warming and sustainable development as embodied in Kyoto Protocol, Bali Action Plan and Copenhagen Accord. The final and the third section elucidates the concept of Sustainable Development as emanating from the various environmental movements in India. The article concludes that the need to craft an effective response to climate change will require the concerted efforts of not only states, but also non-state actors, civil society groups and ‘new’ social movements.
Discourses on environmental management in International Relations first became pronounced with the Limits to Growth parenthesis in 1972. However, following the submission of the Bruntland Commission report, Our Common Future, which introduced the concept of Sustainable Development in 1987, these discourses have gained further momentum.
How do we map the concept of ‘Sustainable Development’ ever since it was first promulgated in 1987 and provide a plausible interface between environmental discourses and sustainable development? Is the notion of Sustainable Development a myth or reality? Further, is this notion equally applicable to both the North and the South? How do we address the issue of climate change and global warming?
This article seeks to address these questions and provide plausible answers to these vexing questions.
The limits to growth thesis first pronounced the environmental issues in a systematic manner. The Club of Rome (est. 1968) essentially proposed that there was a cataclysmic future confronting human society, as economic growth all over the world had a fixed limit. The Club of Rome’s ‘The Limits to Growth’ thesis (1972) stated that “present patterns of economic and population growth would have to change because humankind was reaching the limits of the Earth’s finite natural resources and carrying capacity”.1 This thesis argued that there is “a complex of problems troubling men of all nation’s poverty, degradation of the environment; loss of faith in institutions; uncontrolled urban spread; insecurity of employment; alienation of youth; rejection of traditional values; and inflation and other economic disruptions”.
This article proposes the solution that “a state of global equilibrium could be designed so that the basic material needs of each person ….are satisfied, and each person has an equal opportunity to realize his individual human potential”.
The UN Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in 1972 made an effort to control pollution and other environmental problems, and this is considered as a significant landmark in international environmental politics for the next nearly four decades. It recognized the principle of ‘global commons’ and held that the ‘common heritage of the mankind’ was the common responsibility of both the ‘North’ and the ‘South’. However, at the same time, the Conference asked the developed countries to assume more responsibility as compared to the developing countries to protect the global environment. It also led to the creation of UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which was supposed to coordinate the environment related activities under the auspices of the UN. Some global and regional environmental networks were established to control environmental problems like marine pollution and ozone depletion.
However, the Action Plan and Declaration of 26 Principles concluded at Stockholm as well as the developmental agendas included in them were never seriously adhered by the international community. Further, the UNEP was never successful in coordinating environmental issues between respective governments and the UN. This was also the period in late 1970s and early 1980s, when
(What is the impact of the different environmental summits being held in this regard, especially Kyoto Protocol, Bali Summit and Copenhagen Accord?)
Non-state actors, non-governmental organizations like Green Peace, World Wildlife Fund and Friends of the Earth became increasingly conscious of the need to protect the global environment, contain climate change and ensure human habitats, biodiversity and thereby ecological sustainability.
Sustainable development, in other words, means equilibrium of the entire environment. Here environment means soil for agricultural development, river water, use of mineral resources, etc. In other words, sustainable development addressed the needs of the developing countries to ensure biodiversity and sustain the ecosystem. We need to ensure survival of all living beings. ‘Survival’ and ‘development’ are the two major enduring concerns of the concept of sustainable development. Survival meant survival of lifestyle, cultures, plants, animals, human beings, forestry etc. In other words, survival meant survival of the entire ecosystem. Sustainable development meant development that is ecologically sustainable in future. The concept of ‘sustainable development’, entwining within it both ‘environmental’ and ‘developmental’ issues is now one of the key concern of the environmentalists.
The concept of ‘sustainable development’ was further reviewed in the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also referred to as the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The Rio Declaration, a byproduct of this Conference has “27 general principles to guide action on environment and development. They include principles relating to: national responsibilities and international cooperation on environmental protection and the roles and rights of citizens, women, and indigenous peoples”.6 This Declaration introduced for the first time the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, which affirms that developed countries have the primary obligation to protect the global environment, even though it is a common concern of both developed and developing countries. The concept of sustainable development as embodied in the Rio Declaration was reflected in a 400 page document called Agenda 21. It also included the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed by 153 states and came into force on 21 March 1994. Also included was the Convention on Biological Diversity signed by 155 states on 29 December 1993; the Forest Principles as well as the Convention to Combat Desertification.
There is a semblance of policy integration in the debate on sustainable development in the sense that one can find interfaces between social, economic and environmental dimensions of development. At the same time, our sustainable development has to ensure similar development for the future generations. Environmental protection needs to be interwoven with development paradigms. We have to ensure an equitable development order which is sustainable for the present and future generations. However, the current neo-liberal economic order, as professed by its ‘laissez-faire’ policy adversely hampers the growth of ecological and sustainable development. It is resulting in large-scale ecological degradation.
The excessive use of natural resources is leading to lopsided and uneven economic development. If the natural resources are not equitably used, it leads to uneven consumption patterns, which in turn leads to ‘global inequity and a global economy of waste’. The use of natural resources equitably will thus enhance the concept of sustainable development. Moreover, the solutions which are envisaged have to be used evenly and equitably so that our present and future generations are able to live and sustain the development paradigms unleashed by the past generations. A combination of Keynesianism and Nehruvian model of economic development needs to be evolved in India to ensure ecologically just and sustainable economic development. Sustainable development has to ensure that the poorest of the poor are able to live their lives with dignity, and without the shackles of poverty and unemployment. Instead of ‘free trade’ as professed by the neoconservatives, the state has to play an interventionist role. And, the role of this interventionist state needs to be supplemented by a strong and robust civil society. We can then pose an ‘alternative’ sustainable economic development, which is equitable and ecologically just.
The end of 1980s and early 1990s saw a renewed interest in ecological sustainability and saving the world from the ill effects of global warming and climate change, caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and CFCs. In 1988, UNEP established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), backed by an international panel of scientists, to address the problems emerging out of climate change. This resulted in the Framework Convention on Climate Change. This was followed by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, whereby the developed countries like the US, EU and Japan agreed to reduce their annual green house gas emissions to 8, 7 and 6 percent less than 1990 levels by 2008-12.
The Kyoto Protocol subsequently became the basis of further negotiations on climate change. Climate change is a highly contested concept. In the more immediate future, climate change is about power relationships and the intricate linkages to issues of economics, politics, security and science. There is thus a perceptible divide between the perceptions of the problem and those of the solution. Perceptions are by no means driven only by facts and evidence (as science tells us) but also by images, narratives and values which are unquantifiable. Historically, perceptions of climate change have been subject to high interest followed by sharp decline – a measurement of the ebb and flow of public attention. So far, global efforts lack answers to critical questions such as ‘which’ solutions will be acceptable; who will ‘support’ them and who will ‘resist’; the ‘cost’ involved, etc. The direction of this debate will depend on how deep public concern is and on whether people’s ‘needs’ diverge or converge.
In other words, much will depend upon some sort of mutual understanding and dialogue between the North and the South to break the climate change impasse. This debate is a legacy of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The most substantive question which has structured the debate on climate change negotiations is whether developed countries, where Industrial Revolution has taken place and who emit much of the green house gases in the atmosphere, should bear the primary responsibility. This question was the prime referral point in the Kyoto Protocol. The central principle in Kyoto Protocol, known as ‘common, but differentiated responsibilities’ assigns primary responsibility to the developed countries for greenhouse gases emissions. At the same time, it exempts developing countries like India and China from these obligations of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions as faced by developed countries.
In the Kyoto Protocol (1997), Bali Summit (December 2007) as well as in Copenhagen (December 2009), the developed countries led by the US regarded the issue of global warming and climate change as a common problem with regard to both the ‘North’ and the ‘South’. The developed countries refused to toe the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, and in turn forced the developing countries to shoulder similar responsibilities as was being exerted on the developed countries with regard to climate change. This has resulted in a complete thaw in climate change negotiations, with both sides – North and South sticking to their respective well-cited positions. The crucial question was how to break the deadlock and ensure a more rapid effort to arrive at some mutually agreed amicable solutions and conclusions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007 highlighted that “warming of the climate system was unequivocal, as was evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level”. Climate change negotiations have consequently been mired by hegemonic interests of the US and its move to dominate the course of negotiations. It is obvious that the Copenhagen Accord has disappointed many sections of world public opinion that had looked forward to an equitable and viable global plan of action to combat global warming. While the Accord commits its signatories to keeping the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, it does not specify any global plan of emissions reduction that would enable this goal to be achieved. The BASIC nations (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) also agreed to abide by the Copenhagen Accord and also asked the UNFCC Secretariat to hold six meetings of negotiators this year, so that the process could end by December 2010 in Mexico City. The developed countries have to take primary responsibility to combat climate change.
How can we counter ‘hegemonic’ discourses of environment and sustainable development? How does the notion of ‘sustainable development’ emanate out of the contemporary new social movements and primarily the environment movement? How can we re-envisage a ‘counter hegemonic’ struggle against the offensives of the globalize North? How can we remove the dichotomy between the ‘North’ and the ‘South’? How can we ensure an equitable economic development which is sustainable for the present as well as future generations? This section seeks plausible answers to these questions and elucidates the concept of sustainable development as emanating out of the various environmental movements in India. It is in contrast to the discourse on ‘globalization’, which hypothetically assumes that the world has become a ‘global village’. The discourse of sustainable development reflects a complex interplay of the two narratives of both ‘development’ and ‘sustainability’. Even though the discourse is extremely varied and large, I will critically analyze the notion of sustainable development, as emerging out of the Bhaduri-Phatkar model and Kalpavriksh (an environmental NGO). How can we establish a counter-hegemonic struggle against the offensives of the globalised North?
The discourse on ‘ecological modernization’ and ‘environmental governance’ is quite dominant in the literature emanating out of the globalised ‘North’ and is in every sense ‘Western’. It homogenises and hegemonises the linear relationship between environment, sustainable development and environmental governance. Environmental movements that focus on grass-roots activism and are emerging from below need to be consolidated in the quest for an ecologically sustainable world. These grass-roots environmental movements are primarily ‘humanist’ and ‘universalist’ in their aspirations. The model enunciated by Amit Bhaduri and Medha Patkar lays stress on ‘industrialization’ that is sustainable and equitable as an alternative to the current neo-liberal model of economic growth.
However, Ashish Kothari, who is with the Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group assumes that even though the Bhaduri-Patkar model, “could well lead to equitable development for all humans, it may not be so benevolent to other species that co-inhabit the earth since it may ultimately not be sustained by the earth”. Kothari assumes that it is a misnomer that equity will lead to sustainability. On the other hand, what one would propose here is what we need to restructure the Nehruvian model of economic development, so that it not only leads to sustainable development and democratic politics but provide the ‘space’ for the environmental movements to thrive.
There is always a huge cry about the uncontrolled development at the cost of environmental pollution & degradation. However, this issue is confined just to talk, read & write in real life! The ‘Environment’ has become a hot topic of debate, from political point of view also. When there is always an issue like ‘Environment V/s Development’, while talking & writing, everyone supports the ‘Environment’. However, when it comes to the actual behavioral part, the ‘Development’ is supported, deliberately or unknowingly.
In the conflict of ‘Environment’ and ‘Development’, it is always observed that, any one side is so extremely supported that, the other side is not at all given importance. However, both ‘Environment’ and ‘Development’ are equally important. ‘Development’ should not be stopped just for the protection of ‘Environment’ and ‘Environment’ should not be degraded/ polluted just for the sake of ‘Development’. ‘Development’ done without considering ‘Environment’ may fall prey to the fury of ‘Environment’ i.e. natural disasters in future. On the other hand, extreme attention given towards ‘Environment’ may harm the progress and benefits of ‘Development’. Hence, some kind of equilibrium/ balance should be attained and maintained in case of developmental activities and environmental protection.
Lack of scientific knowledge is the major reason of the conflict between ‘Environment’ and ‘Development’. In our country, there are various legal provisions for regulating the developmental activities for the environmental protection. However, many a times it is observed that these rules are violated by corrupt practices just for the sake of development. On the other hand, some activities for basic infrastructure development are forcefully obstructed by spreading the rumors about their harmful effects from environment point of view. Environmental awareness about the developmental activities can be the solution so as to avoid such extreme situations.
Development is desirable by all means, but it should be sustainable i.e. fulfilling our own needs, yet not exploiting the capacity of the natural resources to satisfy the needs of future. While enjoying the outcomes of the Development in the modern extravagant lifestyle, there is always an individual carelessness and selfishness, which does not allow one to think about social issues. This is where the ‘Development’ starts playing the negative role, which ends up in belittling the ‘Environment’ related issues. In our day-to-day life, when we use various forms of energy-driven appliances, we have no notion at all about how much natural resources we have exploited at that point of time. Sustainable development from environmental point of view will be the best appropriate solution for time being, provided that its implementation should be well monitored.
Another issue where the ‘Development’ overpowers the ‘Environment’ is the economic feasibility. As a part of sustainable development, it is observed that nowadays many eco-friendly products are coming up; however, they are not as affordable as the ordinary ones. Obviously, a layman tends to buy the ordinary products which are manufactured by exploiting the nature. Hence, while manufacturing such eco-friendly products, cost-effectiveness should also be given utmost importance, so that these products can be affordable to a layman and their utilization can be increased.
Scientific research in the field of Environment is the call for today. It is not the case that research for sustainable development is not going on in this field in India, but the quantum is comparatively far less. Adequate encouragement and exposure is not being given to the discoveries/ inventions which results in keeping the layman unaware about their outcomes. Research is still not the glamorous or money-fetching job in India, which causes brain-drain. Majority of the research work is mostly done to earn degree and not by considering any basic social problem. Pollution or degradation of environment should be considered as a concern of each and every individual and it is. According to many, the discovery/ invention of medicine is considered as the greatest. In addition to this, the discovery/ invention towards sustainable development or pollution mitigation should also be given due eminence. Bio-degradable plastics, renewable forms of energy, organic agriculture, bioremediation etc. are some of the key areas to be concentrated for sustainable development.
‘Environment V/s Development’ is and will be the topic of debate for years. This issue is very easy to be discussed, but again, the measures taken to end this conflict will be difficult to implement and monitor. In India, population explosion, poverty and illiteracy are the major hurdles for implementation of many innovative and beneficial schemes. Nevertheless, serious efforts and adaptations towards sustainable development with scientific approach at individual level will hopefully be the solution to minimize the severity of this issue. Protection and conservation of the natural resources is important, not only for us but also for our future generations. On the other hand, outcomes of development are also inseparable from our everyday life; however their consumption is very well controllable. Hence, for a future with clean environment and sustainable development, it must be taken care of that our ‘need’ should not be converted into the ‘greed’!