With nature's power in full demonstration in various parts of the world, isn't it time to review the environmentally unsustainable economic and development models that we have been following?
India is yet to comprehend the environmental cost of western model of
economic growth (cartoon by Carmen Miranda)
As we watch the news these days, it is like watching a doomsday Hollywood movie about the end of the world as we know it, full of spectacular devastation. The scientific predictions about the effects of climate change are materialising in a terrifying way before our eyes, as we watch the images unfold and listen to the reports in horror and disbelief.
The Earth’s climate is in disarray and becoming extreme, just as climate scientists predicted. Times are changing and the trend is clear - the weather is determining the changes in our times and it is not towards progress and development, but havoc and chaos. Whether scientists link the current events to global warming or not is not the issue. The issue is we are having a good demonstration of nature’s power in action.
Right now, Portugal, Russia and British Columbia are being ravaged by fire, while Pakistan, China and parts of Central and Eastern Europe are facing a deluge of water and in Greenland an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan has separated from Petermann Glacier - the largest single ice chunk loss in the Arctic since 1962.
The scale and speed of devastation is frightening; and despite its technological advances and capacity to destroy life and environment, humanity is practically reduced to the capacity of cavemen when it comes to coping with the forces of nature.
The Earth’s climate is in disarray and becoming extreme. The trend is clear - the weather is determining the changes in our times and it is not towards progress and development, but havoc and chaos.
We should become more cautious about defying nature, as in no time all ‘development’ can be wiped out instantly as we have seen on our TV screens, by forces of nature in an unimaginable scale and speed that can instantly take us back to ground zero and eventually to year zero.
Do the frequency and magnitude of these dramatic events act as alarm bells for our policy makers and economists? Can we expect them to make the connections between climate change, development models, economic policies and their impact on the environment? Or they are going to carry on with business as usual, oblivious to it all?
This is the time to double the effort and speed of implementation of India’s National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) 8 missions. Although a highly criticized plan, it is nevertheless the only plan we now have to cling on to, and make it work. However, I suspect that all the good intentions and plans of NAPCC missions are pretty much just on paper, shrouded by the smog and dust from the fast expansion of industries, mining, power plants and deforestation deemed as necessary for economic growth and development – despite having serious impact on climate.
The NAPCC document states from the start that “India is faced with the challenge of sustaining its rapid economic growth while dealing with the global threat of climate change.” I would like to know who exactly is forcing the pace of ‘rapid economic growth’ and is the country really dealing with the threat of climate change? What is the point of somehow managing a rapid economic growth, if the process itself destroys the long term prospects of maintaining that growth and prosperity?
The recent approval of more than 80 new coal based thermal power plants, which are yesterday’s global warming technology, makes it obvious that climate is not a priority for the government. Huge areas of forest land converted for mining and other developments also indicate that climate change is certainly not part of the equation, when weighed against economic growth.
There is no doubt that India’s primary goal is development at all costs. Although all that development could be wiped out instantly by weather events as we have recently seen, there seems to be no sense of urgency in tackling the issue. Absence of clear targets and timetables for action in the NAPCC shows a lack of commitment in dealing with climate.
What is the point of somehow managing a rapid economic growth, if the process itself destroys the long term prospects of maintaining that growth and prosperity?
Isn’t it time to slow down, and reconsider the very economic and development models we are following, which by all accounts are unsustainable and contribute to the environmental degradation and climate vagaries the planet is experiencing?
India must redefine what development and infrastructure investment means. It needs a new road map of development that looks towards long term prosperity, which is more sustainable and concentrates on developing solid foundations for the nation. By solid foundations I mean lifting the estimated 421 million people from extreme poverty, hunger and ignorance, and ensuring water and food security, and building adequate forest cover and a clean environment in the next 10 years.
It is a known fact that all large urban centers in India will suffer serious shortages of water by 2020, and by 2050 the whole country will be affected. Without water, economic growth is meaningless. Extensive deforestation of large surface areas of the earth has resulted in significant changes in water and radiation balance of the planet, which exacerbates changes in the climate, so it also makes sense to be more stringent about forest clearances and more dynamic about afforestation.
Isn’t it high time we pause and reconsider priorities and policies and think about prosperity based on human development growth instead?
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are
personal and do not necessarily reflect the
views of d-sector editorial team.
Carmen Miranda is a renowned environmentalist. She is based in London and actively involved in Save Western Ghats movement. Her crusade against mining in Goa is well known.
Sustained pollution of major rivers; continuous decline in groundwater reserves; priority allocation to non-consumptive sectors; and, growing disparity in water distribution only indicates that the worst is still to come!..