At a time when the world is already in the middle of a serious survival crisis, it is a matter of deep concern that most responses to crisis situations are narrow responses which cannot go very far as, while trying to respond to a part of the crisis, they fail to look at the whole and at best  can make only a very limited contribution.

To give the most obvious example, climate change is without doubt one of the most serious problems of our times. However few will deny that this is one among several very serious environmental problems, even though this may be stated to be the most important one . Other serious and related problems include those of loss of biodiversity, very serious pollution and disruption of life of oceans over vast areas, emergence and fast spread of very serious hazards , disruption of nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, fast depletion of freshwater sources including rivers as well as their pollution, serious disruptions in food and farming systems, very high levels of air pollution, space junk and pollution, problems arising from cruel and destructive attitudes towards  certain species, to mention some of the more obvious aspects.

In such a situation the most obvious question that we need to ask is—what are the most basic causes which are common to all these  problems? Firstly, there is the excessive consumption of a minority, which creates a lot of environmental problems on its own, and in addition pushes a model of what is desirable for other sections of population as well. Such patterns are supported by existing extremely high inequalities. The obvious solution is to make very strong efforts for a development model based on equality and simplicity.

Secondly, there are very powerful corporations and billionaires as well technocrats, officials, politicians colluding with them who for their selfish interests are promoting technologies, products, advertisements, trends which are very destructive for environment. The obvious solution is to curb and check the powers of these forces and to hold them accountable for the harm they cause to environment in legal and illegal ways.

Thirdly, militarization and arms race are important causes of environmental destruction in direct as well as indirect ways. The obvious solution is to press for a drastic reduction of militarization and arms race.

We may add to this list, but even if only these three basic causes of ecological ruin are considered, then effective remedial steps taken regarding these will help to create  the base on which it becomes much easier to resolve all the other serious environmental problems including climate change. But in the existing agenda of climate change conferences we seldom hear about these three critical issues ( similarly in the case of conferences on other environmental issues). An infra-structure exists for taking  forward the agenda of tackling the various problems in limited and routine ways, without often even bothering to ask whether something much bigger to check the most basic distortions and problems is needed. At the end of all such conferences, self-congratulatory declarations are made, without bothering to ask why despite the earlier self-congratulations the problem has deteriorated.

Implemented on the basis of  narrow understanding, some of the more obvious solutions also start creating new unforeseen problems. While everyone agrees that the promotion of renewable energy sources is most important, but in the existing distorted system it starts taking very harmful and questionable  forms  like ecologically destructive large dam projects being promoted as renewal energy, huge solar projects of big corporations being promoted in ways which displace small farmer communities, ecologically destructive  monocultures being promoted in the name of bio-fuels while displacing badly needed mixed food crops from  fertile land.

Similar narrow responses to other crisis situations, ranging from economic crisis to pandemics, are coming in ways which sometimes aggravate problems instead of resolving or reducing them significantly.

Let us face the most obvious truth that the world needs very basic changes towards equality, justice, peace, environment protection and protection of other forms of life and unless changes on the big scale needed are brought, narrow responses of the kind being seen at present will not take us far.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth with its SED Demand . His recent books include Plant in Peril, Man Over Machine and Protecting Earth for Children.



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