At the brink
Collateral costs associated with our present hyper-exploitative models of development must push humanity towards more sustainable, ‘green’ models
The material development and the human well being achieved through state and market initiatives are remarkable. It was achieved through a process of industrialisation, modernisation and westernisation. It was further accelerated through privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation. It is unequivocally a market-driven approach. The world is now entering into a fourth Industrial Revolution. From the first industrial revolution to the present, the state was responsible for the development and the market promised the state to enable the state and society to achieve development. But both state and market failed to live up to their promises and as a result, many argue that both failed humanity. Both have not only failed but also caused huge damages to ecology and the environment. The world started realising the loss of ecology and the environment only in the beginning of 1970s. The UN had organised a conference in Stockholm, Sweden to deliberate on the issues of the human environment. The main theme of the conference is reconciling economic growth with environmental threats. Poverty has to be reduced, the environment has to be protected by achieving economic growth and the above should be the framework of the development of the countries in the world. The conference emphasised the need for an approach to harmonise human actions with nature. Subsequently, in 1980, the International Union for Conservation of nature prepared a report titled 'Sustainable Development' with the aim of conscientising world leaders on the issues of the environment. As a result in 1983, the UN appointed an official independent commission under the chairmanship of GH Brundtland the former Prime Minister of Norway. The above commission went into the issues seriously and prepared a report. The report was submitted in 1987 under the title 'Our Commission Future'. It emphasised that the three pillars of sustainable development namely, economic growth, environmental protection and social equity have to work synergetically. Here the challenge for leaders was how to harmonise prosperity with ecology.
At present, no one country in the world can be cited as a model for emulation in this regard. This report has created a great awakening among a section of intellectuals who were already influenced by MK Gandhi on this matter. Some incremental changes have been initiated in the global and national level but these have never been communicated to a more local level for effective implementation in a new framework of development. As a logical extension of the above, in 1992, Earth Summit was convened in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. An action plan was prepared entitled 'Agenda 21' in the above conference. With this initiative, the world simultaneously moved onto a new path of development which is called economic globalisation which includes privatisation and liberalisation. This initiative instead of mitigating the ill effects of development activities accelerated the depletion of natural resources and annihilation of huge rare species on the earth.
In 2002, yet another conference was organised at Johannesburg South Africa on 'Environment and Development'. The globalisation of the world economy further pushed the fragile environment and ecology by projecting an argument that those who oppose the faster growth and economic development in the name of environmental degradation are anti-development. But now a new report has been released by the World Economic Forum under New Nature Economy. It is prepared for presentation in the ensuing UN Convention on Biological Diversity Cop 15 in October 2020 in China. The first report appraised the world at large about the serious crisis that the planet as a whole is going to face in the next ten years as a result of massive destruction of ecology and environment in the name of achieving double-digit economic growth. There are certain areas in the ecosystem coming closer to irreversible tipping points.
The market cannot move in the way it has previously as resources have been completely exhausted. The exponential economic growth at the cost of rare natural resources has pushed human society to the brink of extinction. Disaster will emerge in any form and it would affect the whole of the human race. Of the living species in the world, human society forms 0.01 per cent but it exploits 83 per cent of the species living on the earth. The report adds that humanity has only ten years time to reorient its development path without causing severe loss to the environment and ecology. The report indicates that humanity accelerates economic growth and destroys natural resources at a pace that moves from ten to a hundredfold. The new economy has changed the mode of production, consumption, land utilisation, urbanisation, population explosion, commerce, trade, governance and human relations. Basically, human society lives off nature without knowing its relationship with nature and without knowing how to harmonise with it. Hence, a new economic framework has to be evolved by which humanity can establish harmony with nature while it interacts with nature for its survival and development. Massive initiatives have to be taken in the new framework called 'New Nature Economy'. To move in this direction, we have to reread the "Economy of Permanence" by JC Kumarappa along with the framework of development advocated by Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore. To build this 'New Nature Economy', we must have adequate knowledge to evolve an alternative framework of development. This possible framework was advocated by MK Gandhi and it was appropriately phrased as 'build a village movement' by JC Kumarappa. Hence, it is time to build a green economy and to reconstruct our rural areas so as to evolve a new model of development alternative to the present day exploitative development framework.
The writer is a former Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. Views expressed are strictly personal