Another election is upon us, and we are preoccupied with some matters
that are grave and many that are not. But noticeable by its absence in any
of the manifestos and declarations by political parties is a debate about
the future of human civilisation.
In October 2018, UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned
that without radical course correction, the world will exhaust its carbon
budget to keep global temperature increase below 1.5°C by 2030, just two
general elections away.
Any increase above that will trigger runaway changes to global climate
that could leave large portions of the planet uninhabitable.
That is not all. In March, UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy
Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warned that human societies
are using up nature faster than it can renew itself and compromising its
ability to sustain life on the planet.
A myopic preoccupation
Scientists reassure us, though, that it is still not too late to avert
the worst-case scenarios of ecosystem collapse and a climate-run riot.
But for that, the world would need to reframe its engagement with
climate change and abandon its myopic preoccupation with greenhouse gas
emissions and carbon budgets.
India’s obsession with 100 GW solar electricity targets may fetch high
ratings from the international green energy cheerleaders.
But that alone will do nothing to fortify ordinary Indians from the
impending disasters. Real resilience will result only from improving the
health of the lands they live in and depend on.
Around the world, governments, multinational charities and technology
companies are peddling a simplistic story of false solutions that crisis can
be averted by changing the fuel that powers our economy. By themselves,
renewable energy systems will not make an inherently unsustainable economy
sustainable or correct an unjust social system. They may even make it worse.
During the climate summit in Katowice, Poland, the Environment Minister
declared that India was on track to meet its climate goals ahead of the
The same government is also changing laws to dilute environmental
protection, facilitate corporate land grabs, disempower local communities
and criminalise any dissent against its grand schemes.
About the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification
The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, which regulates “development”
along India’s 7,500-km shoreline, was diluted to allow denser construction
closer to the sea.
The notification cites tourism jobs to justify the construction of
temporary facilities within 10 m of the waterline. Mega infrastructure, such
as ports and roads, will be permitted anywhere inside the sea, over dunes,
through mangroves and tidal marshes if they are declared to be “strategic”
These are hare-brained policies.
Even the government acknowledges that sea levels can rise by 3.5 to 34.6
inches by 2100 and inundate India’s coastline. How India handles land use
change, not climate change, will decide whether it can improve the lot of
millions without warming the world.
Across the country, people are rising up to protest against certain
kinds of ‘development’.
Farmers are mobilising against the bullet train, and indigenous people
are fighting against the opening up of forests for mines and dams.
Although these fights may have positive consequences for the climate,
they have never been explicitly about reducing the kinds of greenhouse gas
emissions associated with ‘development’.
Rather, they are about how we relate to the lands that sustain us and
who gets to define ‘development’.
Paved surfaces, the hallmark of built-earth economies, disrupt water
flows, reduce groundwater recharge and obliterate biodiversity.
Such economies impoverish local communities and increase their
vulnerability to natural shocks.
For all the rivalry between the political parties contesting the
elections, there is a remarkable homogeneity of thought on matters relating
to ecology and economy, and lack of thinking about India’s future.
What is desperately needed at this moment is a manifesto for the
protection of the commons and open lands, and for the re-creation of
economies that derive value out of healing wounded landscapes and covering
open lands with diverse vegetation, water and life.
For this, we need to defer to the Constitution and ensure that those who
are challenging ‘development’ projects like the bullet train can speak
Q.1) With reference to foreign trade in the post Mauryan age, which of the
following statements is/are correct? 1. It was mainly conducted in articles of daily use by the common people.
2. The Romans first started trade with the southernmost part of India.
3. There was considerable transit trade in silk between India and the Roman
Select the correct answer using the code given below. (a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q.1) How India handles land use change will decide whether it can improve lives
without warming the world?