Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
The planet Earth apparently is going through a major environmental crisis and there have been great concerns all over the world regarding the question of survival of humanity and the earth itself. The scientists and the scholars are unanimous in their opinion regarding our great obligations to the Mother Earth. We have been hearing about global warming and climate change, which might ultimately lead to the ex tinction of life. Human beings themselves have damaged the ecological balance by their inconsiderate activities against Nature. Many thinkers regard environmental concerns to have warranted a new biological perspective that has been termed ‘Ecology’.
Some of the scholars state that the real environmental issues cannot be solved by some theoretical principles. Ecology is not about drawing codes of conduct, but adopting a global comprehensive attitude. Given the increasing concern for environment and the impact our actions have upon it, we realize that the environmental study is here to stay.
Technology is considered as indispensable for progress and development. But today technology stands as danger to earth and it seems to be hostile to be hostile to nature. It conveys an atmosphere of violence and exploitation and it also challenges nature. As an example of old technology, the windmill took energy from the wind and converted it immediately into other manifestations, such as grinding of grain. The windmill did not unlock energy from the wind in order to store it for later arbitrary distribution. Modern wind — generators on the other hand, convert the energy of wind into electrical power, which can be stored in batteries or otherwise. The significance of storage is that it places the energy at our disposal and because of this storage, the powers of nature can be turned back upon itself. The storing of energy in this sense is the symbol of overcoming of nature as a potent object.
The essence of technology originally was a revealing of life and nature in which human interaction deflected that natural cause, while still regarding nature as a teacher and keeper. The essence of modern technology is a revealing of phenomena, far removed from anything that resembles “life and nature” in which human intrusion not only diverts nature, but fundamentally changes it. Technology challenges nature and makes use of material things for the use of human beings. We pump crude oil from the ground and shift it to refineries, where it is functionally distilled into volatile substances and we slip these into gas stations around the world, where they are stored in huge underground tanks, standing ready to power our automobiles and airplanes. Technology has intruded upon nature in a far more active way that represents a consistent direction of domination. Everything is regarded as “standing-reserve” and in the process it loses its natural objective identity. The river, for instance, is not seen as river; it is seen a water supply or as an avenue of navigation through which to contact inland markets.
Once there was a close proximity between human beings and nature, which was regarded as a living entity. It we go back to the epic age, we can see how close man was to nature once. In Kalidasa’s famous classic “Abhigyana Sakuntalam”, we find a wonderful account of the wedding of King Dushyanta and Sakuntala amidst natural flora and fauna and nature was the witness to the wedding. People after reaching a certain age went to the forest to observe “Vanprasth” and “Sanyas”. Ramchandra, with his wife and brother, went to the forest to serve 12 years “Vanvas” after being defeated in that infamous game of dice. All these instances demonstrate the fact that once man was very close to nature, who was treated with humility and reverence.
But now man treats nature with arrogance and wants to dominate nature. Human beings believe that natural things are created for their exclusive benefit. Natural resources have been used by man for his own short- term gain, without caring that he is doing it to his own peril. Due to the ruthless and inconsiderate behaviour of man, the earth seems to be heading for destruction.
Forests are the greatest treasure of Nature on earth; they are the greatest store house of the diversity on earth. Two- thirds of the world’s land- based animals and plant species reside in the forests. But the importance of the forests goes beyond that, since they regulate the world’s climate, which is indispensable for the survival of earth itself. They store nearly 300 billion of carbon in their living parts, which is roughly 40 times more than the annual green house gas emissions from fossil fuels.
When the forests are destroyed either by burning or logging, the carbon is released to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, which is one of the major gases behind climate change. In fact, the destruction of forests leads to greater gas emissions than every truck, bus, car, ship and train does on the planet earth combined. Forests also regulate water flow, which in turn helps the growth of crops and food. The loos of forests in one part of the world can severely affect other areas. Many of the world’s forests have already been destroyed and countless industries have come out, which ruthlessly covert forests into disposable products. They become saleable things which we buy in the market. Every time a forest id destroyed, thousand of species are pushed to the brink of extinction. But we never spare a thought for them - all we are interested is in making huge profit out of our destructive acts. We cut down trees and clear forests to set up industries, towns, residential complexes etc, but we never spare a thought for the poor creatures who have to give up their life for our comfort and peaceful existence. Is it not terribly unfair? We boast that the homespuns are the greatest and smartest of all the creatures, who inhabit the earth. But that does not imply that the earth belongs only to us and we can do whatever we wish without bothering about other creatures, who have as much right to live peacefully on the earth as we have, since the earth belongs to them as well. It is not right hat other creatuers should suffer due to our irresponsible actions.
All the plants, animals and other creatures live on this earth along with human beings. The earth is as much their home as it is ours. God created them as He created us. So they have as much right to live on this earth without obstruction as we have. We have no right to take away their life or disturb them in any way.
Forests offer shelter to the animals and they also protect us from global warming. In fact increasing forest cover has become essential to protect the earth from extreme temperature and also to protect the endangered species from extinction.
Out lust for wealth and power has made us ignore the forests, which are indispensable for the survival of the planet Earth. The Global Forests Resource Assessment reported that the annual loss of forest cover since 2000 has been 13-million hectares, an area as large as Europe. Most of this deforestation occurs in the tropical regions. If deforestation continues at this rate then by 2020 there would remain to forest cover in the world, which means extinction of major animal species, which in turn means that the ecosystem will be hampered, thus disturbing the equilibrium of our planet.
We have to note that an annual average of 4-million hectares of primary rain forest were destroyed due to human interference. The current rate of extinction of plant and animal species is believed to be 1000 times greater than in pre-human history. If we go through our ancient literature we would easily see how the people in the ancient era revered Nature. For them nature was a deity and a benign mother. They accepted an anthropomorphic view of nature, which displayed all the qualities of a living entity. There was no question of ecological imbalance in that age and life was peaceful as well as joyous. Nature bestowed all her bounty on mankind. In that age people were not after material gains and their attitude towards nature was spiritualistic.
The cause of deforestation is the materialistic attitude of mankind. Some people cut down forests simply to make industrial complexes, shopping malls, hotels, residential areas etc. Some people indulge in deforestation due to poverty. In many African countries deforestation and forest degradation are done because of poverty. Poor farmers lacking in capital and land, slash clearance at the forest periphery. The wide spread lack of electricity is another major cause of deforestation. In poor households forest timbre for charcoal and wood fuel are used in the absence of an alternative source of energy. It is the usual practice and it is difficult to prevent them from doing so. It is necessary to set up alternative sources of energy to prevent deforestation.
Science is still trying to find how tropical forests will respond to a higher concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and a warming planet. Probably the trees will be able to trap more amounts of carbon, but it is also true that the higher temperature will stress the ecosystem with greater fire risks.
Yet FAQ’s Forest Resource Assessment strikes a positive note, pointing out that there is a 20 per cent drop in the rate of deforestation compared with the previous 10 year period. There is some evidence that the improvement is gradually increasing. Many of the states have taken proper measures to prevent deforestation. There are significant campaigns of planting and forest recovery under way, especially in China, India and Vietnam.
Global environment campaigns like Green Peace and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) have also played a major role in showing the pace of deforestation. Forests are like jewels in the crown of biosphere. No other ecosystem delivers to enrich the natural resources that support life on earth. Hence it is our duty to prevent deforestation as much as we can. We should do everything possible to create awareness and contribute what we can in order to prevent ‘Mother Earth’ from perishing slowly by saving forests, because forests form the life source of the earth.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)