CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx

OPINION


The Pandemic Has Taught Us the Importance of Maintaining an Ecological Balance, Will we Remember IT?


Stay indoors, stay safe. Or the many variants: stay-at-home; hunker down; stay hermetically sealed from the external world. This seems the reset button - the Earth's lockdown phase as it goes under repair! The directive: stay off corona, out to puncture human hubris. Look at the irony - lockdown is no better than a metonym for house arrest or hiding when one is running away from the law, but this one is legit; and social distancing is asking people to back off us - to stave off threat to me and potential death.

Even suffering and death seem so pathetic and lonely - no friends/family-members around, just the gloved-masked healthcare professionals peering gingerly from behind the safety of PPEs and facial shields. Life has pivoted into a brutal curse. No one has an answer.

Sitting cocooned at home, locked-in, learning about the macabre roll call of lives lost across the world, my mind queerly harkens back to my first stint in the Environment and Forests Ministry in the 1990s. It came unbidden in a flash - all that I had once heard and once thought to be light years away - now emptying itself in my head as real.  

"Think global, act local," was the tag line. The pitter patter of the need to conserve biosphere reserves and wetlands comes right back. Biodiversity was evolving then - a new concept, fuzzy to most generalists, as was climate change. Wildlife and Project Tiger were other defining themes, but rather than getting into its soul, how mulish I was to equate them with wildlife safari to satiate man's curiosity and provide entertainment!  

As days grew into months and years, I discerned the importance of nature and the need to strike the right ecological balance. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (April 22, 2020), COVID-19 has devastated humanity. Time to recall a poster marking the First Earth Day: "We've met the enemy and he is here - us!" But we never heeded, we thought it was mere rhetoric.  

We despoiled the Earth. Around the start of the 20th century, the world wasn't exactly a pristine place, yet vast chunks of natural habitats were still intact to prompt Charles Dickens to gush over "primeval forest undefaced by the hand of man". But as the century rolled out, all natural offerings started getting breached to ravish the earth. In our quest for material gains humankind senselessly indulged in "Wild Capitalism" - logging timber across the earth's surface in Amazon basin, Russia, Canada, West and Central Africa, not to forget Asia and India. With depletion of natural forests, we destroyed/degraded wetlands, reef systems, mangroves, and natural springs. Capping it was pollution, filling the air with toxic waste in air, soil, and water.  

The toll on countless species was slow but immense. The fauna-flora and eco-balance of nature regressed in the face of "sustainable development" that was barely sustainable. Yet, this vacuous term - sustainable development - got a leg-up in humanity's quest for material growth and colonised our minds. Environment, susceptible to easy smothering by development's battle cry, was relegated to the backburner; environmental impact assessments, pollution, climate change, hazardous waste management, and the generic eco-balance became all forgotten. No country cared, as loss of species quickly accelerated to despoil fragile ecosystems. Despite loud promises to preserve Planet Earth, governments world over favoured industries - even those environmentally searing.  

Swayed by this clamour, we forgot that forests sustained civilisations, granting life's protective shield: water quality and soil stability; acted as "carbon sinks"; habitats for fauna-flora from which arose biodiversity providing environmental equilibrium. While some "greens" frenetically stepped up efforts to pulse messages of environmental awareness to surge, precious little was done. Time was lost. Now, we see its calamitous results.  

Wildlife scientists and environmentalists analysing the COVID-19 pandemic have zeroed in on its zoonotic origin- that most viruses originate in animals. "Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic - they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife", wrote Jim Robbins in The Ecology of Disease in The New York Times. Barack Obama warned in 2014, as did Bill Gates in 2015. I heard more of such issues in my second stint in the Environment Ministry during 2013-15. No one cared. Our ministry - supposedly a scientific one - had become a bureaucrats' haven, we had no bandwidth to appreciate, or the urge to do anything. The scientists, forest and wildlife experts, sadly, had been marginalised - with no say.  

But the 'deafness' wasn't ours only; it was a symptom world over. Governments focused on GDP growth, obsessing on natural capital to push up their wealth. COVID-19 has now woken us - not merely to pronounce, but to act. But the crucial question is: will it satisfy emerging consumerist economies to remember the pandemic post-vaccine development, and not get back to its old ways? The world has shrunk into a global village, not merely as a marketplace for commerce, but life without borders, and future pandemics without limits. "An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere!" said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in one of his recent daily press briefings. How right he was.  

Notwithstanding the pandemic and the likely others to follow, we need to ask the vital question: Can the selfishness of the apologists of Mammon that spurred a bespoke materialistic culture holding the world in thrall these past years morph overnight into apostles of conservation to revere nature and repair the serious damage wrought on it? Will they appreciate environmentalist Edward Abbey's sage words - Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell - and act against their own impulses? Will the world community across geographies accept past mistakes, and see the folly of their own acts. This realisation is crucial.  

Humanity needs to pause, to rethink living on Mother Earth, remembering all along that we have merely borrowed this planet from all future generations. Today animal scientists and biologists warn that more pandemics, worse than COVID-19, could follow. We need to realise that our mindless development model has failed us. All these millennia we lived happily on Planet Earth revering nature, ensuring that the fragile eco-balance is not cleaved. If this isn't the time to revert to that reverence, when is?  

The author is a former civil servant who retired as Financial Adviser, Ministry of Defence. The views are personal.    

OPINION

  • River in a 'Court of Law' - Legal issues pertaining to its personality
  • Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy
  • When the State Sought to Muzzle Privacy, U-Turn Now Only to Accommodate SC Verdict
  • The Bull in A China Shop Wrecks Indian Economy
  • When Buddha Looks The Other Way: The Plight Of The Rohingya
  • A Fatal Blow to The Judiciary
  • The Dramatic Rise in Wealth Inequality
  • Wild And Baseless Speculations of Crisis in the CPI(M)
  • Budget 2018: Fantabulous Schemes With Not A Paisa Earmarked
  • Kasganj: Sankalp Foundation and the Politics of Hate
  • PM Modi Sounds the Election Bugle: Congress and Hindutva the Agenda for 2019 Polls
  • The US Game Plan in Syria
  • Both Nehru and Patel Were the Need of the Hour in 1947-48
  • The Battle of the Two Begums of Bangladesh
  • Why Bangladesh Matters
  • Kejriwal's Apology is Not What the Media Claims
  • Arrest of a '5-minute Dalits' Proves Why SC/ST Act Dilution Will Grossly Impact Real Dalits
  • The Dalits and the Law
  • Winners May Be Losers In Karnataka's Catch 22 Endgame
  • Jinnah and the BJP
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Nov 14 1889- May 27, 1964): We Still Live In A House That Nehru Built
  • Implications of Trump-Kim Summit: Nuclear Pays!
  • Thomas Reuters Foundation Survey: Measuring Safety, Generating Outrage
  • ROADMAP TO A CEASEFIRE: AFGN - PAK
  • What Are People Voting for?
  • Foreign Policy: A Double Whammy Awaits India
  • Changing Discourse
  • Assam: The Mythology of "Immigrants"
  • Imran Time is Here
  • 71 Years on, Forsty Relations Countinue
  • To Stop Climate Change, We Need to Open Bordera
  • Make Use of Bid to Postpone Provincial Elections
  • Cringing and Fuddled at 71
  • Ensuring Strident Voice Will Not Become Majority Voice
  • Nehru, Vajpayee and Modi
  • Religious Bias Okayed
  • The Oslo Accords: A Bloody Legacy of Betrayal
  • Crushing the Campus
  • Three Stories And Task of The Office Of Missing Person
  • Drama Over Indo-Pak Meeting
  • An ill Wind
  • Symbolic Actions Alone Are Insufficient For Long Term Change To Occur
  • If Democracy Subverts Itself
  • Returning Land to Civilians is a Promise That Needs Follow Up
  • Democracy In Crisis: What we Know and What we Don't
  • Reparations Office Can Bind The Nations Together
  • Implementation Challenges Facing The Ayushman Bharat Program
  • Subverting the Central Bank
  • Under the Yoke of New-Imperialism: A Fake War of Patriotism and Treason
  • India Joins the Club
  • The Third Phase
  • President is Best Situated to Resolve Political Crisis
  • No Country for Adventure: Challenges Extreme Sports Athletes Face in India
  • Setting A Perilous Political Precedent
  • What Rahul and Modi can do in the Next Four Months
  • Finding a Win-Win Solution to Break the Deadlock
  • Temple in the Age of Colliders
  • Four Parameters of a Political Solution at This Time
  • Resolve National Question With President's Support
  • Decapitating the Leadership
  • Four Takeaways From the 2018 Election
  • Science of Words
  • The Ace up Modi's Sleeve
  • The Government Must Not Deny The TNA
  • The Prolonged Wait For Justice And For Political Leadership
  • Endgame in Afghanistan
  • Pluralist Ethos is More Relevant to National Identity
  • A Concerned Citizen's Points For Inclusion in The Manifesto of Political Parties
  • In My Own Voice: Circle of Unreason
  • RBI To The Rescue of Modi Government - It's Election Time!
  • Say No to War
  • A terrifying Fallout
  • The Type of Leadership The Country Needs
  • Death Wish as Nationalism
  • Politics on Kashmir Need Not be About Optics Alone
  • Why an Urban Job Guarantee Scheme is Not a Bad Idea
  • National Security: The New in 'New Normal'
  • Re-Promulgating an Ordinance is a Fraud on the Constitution
  • Elections 2019: India at a Crossroads
  • Peace and Inclusive Development
  • NYAY Providing Basic Income Fulfills the Vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Changed Election Narrative Based on Basic Issues
  • Advani Should Blame Himself For Promoting Modi
  • Kashmir: Tracing the Degeneration of Mainstream Politics
  • Elections and the Issue of Civil Liberties
  • Jumlanomics:Chronicles of a Post-Truth Bharat
  • BJP: Hiding Failures, Targeting Nehru
  • A Mayawati Moment
  • Godse is a Synonym of Hindu Nationalism, Agenda of the RSS Combine!
  • Development Beyond Numbers
  • A Rational Approach to Countering Extremist Violence is Needed
  • In My Own Voice: Is This the Sprit of Democracy?
  • Prevention is The Best Migration Cure
  • The Rise of Hate
  • The Right Mantras for India's Change
  • Coming Home - Where Family Overpowers All
  • Easter Sunday Bombing Used to Create a Major Rift in Sri Lankan Society
  • Hacking Humanity
  • Environmental Rule of Law in India
  • Peace is a Word That West Has Taken From Afghans
  • Trump's War Games
  • Modi & States
  • Who is an 'Outsider' in West Bengal?
  • China on Maps
  • 19th Amendment Will Correct Itself at End of President's Current Term
  • Authoritarianism and the Crisis of Public Ethics in India
  • Presidential Candidate The People Want
  • Has India's Kashmir Cape Given Pakistan Reason for War?
  • Icons and Ideology of Religious Nationalism
  • Why NRC in Assam May Create Another Kashmir
  • Campaign to Abolish the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka is a Red Herring
  • As US Tries to Isolate Iran, China Steps In
  • Of Hindi and Hierarchy
  • Why Sri Lankan Elections May Bring Far Reaching Change
  • What US Policy Tells Us About India's Growing 'Friendship' With It
  • Gandhian Philosophy is a Critique of Modernity and Power
  • Inner Party Democracy is Just as Important as Funding
  • India's Foreign Policy Has Dug Itself a Deep Hole
  • 'Broken Promises' and Politics of Hate': Is Political Autonomy The Way Forward For J&K?
  • The Ninth Betrayal: America Has Let Down Khurd, Yet Again
  • Who Benefits From The WhatsApp Hacking Case?: Pertinent Question Left Unanswered
  • State Elections Results Expose "Limits" of BJP's Nationalist Agenda
  • "Religious Belief" vs. "Rule of Law": Did SC's Ayodhya Verdict Legalise Building of a Theocratic State?
  • What Does Trump's "New Refugee Ban" Mean for America's Immigrants?
  • India Must Change Course as Rajapaksas Return on Sinhala Buddhist Wave
  • The Supreme Court's First Judgment Without an Author
  • Geopolitics in South Asia Renders Millions Stateless
  • "Shakespeare's Vision of the Improbale" Unfolds: Is Modi Today's Macbeth?
  • Sri Lanka Under Rajapaksa: Finding Areas of Mutual Agreement
  • "The Game of Religion is Played by Men": Women Speak From the Margins of Ayodhya Dispute
  • Telangana Ecounter- Failure of Local Police Poses Grave Danger to Democracy
  • The Changing Nature of War and Diplomacy
  • Sri Lanka: Government's Cooperation A "Temporary Phenomenon"?
  • The Role of Corruption in This Season of Revolts
  • New Citizenship Law to a "Brazenly Divisive Agenda"
  • Youth Agitation Against CAA Brings a Historic Generational Shift
  • "Digital Authoritarianism": With Internet Shutdowns Normalised, the Digital Space is Democracy's New Battleground
  • Sri Lanka: The Challenge of Development Amidst Devolution of Power
  • The Political Divides that Split India
  • 'Never Again': Echoes of Nazi Crimes Remain Alive 75 Years After Auschwitz
  • "Legacy of Mutual Suspicion" Plagues Opponents of the Modi Regime
  • "Toxic" India Sliding into an Environmental Abyss
  • Manufacturing Hate: From Anurag Thakur's 'Shoot the Traitors' to Pistol-Bearing Youth's 'Yeh lo Azaadi!'
  • Kejriwal Isn't Communal, But His Desire Not to be Seen Anti-Hindu May Prove Self-Defeating
  • Religion States Won't Oppose US-Taliban Deal
  • Lessons From Pathogens: Coronavirus, A wake Up Call?
  • The Geopolitics of the Covid 19 Pandemic
  • Cold War Begins As Nations Fued Over Coronavirus
  • India Fights Coronavirus...With Scriptures, Morals and Police
  • The Burden of COVID 19
  • Do Israeli Settelemnts in Occupies West Bank Constitute a War Crime ?
  • The Global Debate on COVID-19 Lockdown: Listen to Divergent Scientific Voices or Risk Manipulation by Big Businesses?
  • Sri Lanka's Easter Bombings And The Demand For Justice
  • How India Can Solve the "Catch-22 Situation" of Allowing Migrant Workers to Return Home
  • The Time for Universal Basic Income Has Arrived
  • COVID-19 Crisis Exposes Fatal Weaknesses of 'Strong' Leaders
  • The Pandemic Has Taught Us the Importance of Maintaining an Ecological Balance, Will we Remember IT?
  • The Muslim Elite Has Let Down the Muslim Poor
  • "There is Nothing Nationalist or Non-Nationalist in Reporting"
  • Why WHO Took 3 Months to Declare a Global Pandemic
  • A Political Lockdown That Silences Voices
  • The 'Relief Package' of Online Education May End up "Institutionalising Drop Outs"
  • Can Democracy Survive the Coronavirus?
  • As China Ups the Ante, This is What India Must do...
  • Tackling Racism With Compassionate Reporting-CNN Leads The Way
  • Sri Lanka: Pluralism In Governance Required In The Absence of Parliament
  • Idia's Tactical Non-Solutions To China's Incursions in Ladakh
  • "At The Brink of A New Cold War": Sino-US Ties at a Crossroads
  • In Light of Rising Conservatism, Can The Personal be Political Again?
  • India-China: The Complete Breakdown of Trust, How and Why
  • Rethinking Development After Covid-19
  •