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Things India Should Realize About The Environment In 2018

Humanity is already in the Anthropocene stage, where the global dynamics are governed by human impact on the environment. India too, is fraught with environmental and sustainability-related challenges

As the world celebrates the oncoming of a new year, we move closer to 2030, which is the desired year for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, for which there are just a mere twelve years left. Humanity is already in the Anthropocene stage, where the global dynamics are governed by human impact on the environment. India too, is fraught with environmental and sustainability-related challenges.

On the occasion of this onset of the New Year, here are some of the things people in India should realize about the environment-

  • Environmental challenges and sustainable development issues go beyond just caring for the nature and ‘the planetary thresholds’, as enlisted by Johann Rockstrom. The social element of sustainable development is extremely critical to address. With more than 30% of the population still suffering from poverty, it should be noted that it is the downtrodden who will be most affected by climate change effects, given their resilience to face such issues is much lesser. With caste-based poverty, marginalization and gender inequality still rampant in the society, it is critical that social issues are linked to environmental issues, and the underlying linkage between society and environment is dwelled upon deeply and addressed by policy-makers and change-makers.
  • Even though social issues are critical to address, it must be noted that there exist a dilemma and a trade-off between environment and poverty. The more you raise the standard of living of people, the higher their ecological footprint gets and the more impact they have on the environment. However, social issues such as reducing gender inequality, ensuring the rights of children, the annihilation of caste are independent of the ecological footprint which pertains to raising the standard of living and addressing poverty. Hence it is integral that while addressing poverty and social issues, the environment is kept in mind and the trade-off is addressed effectively. For example, providing clean energy to the poor, inclusive waste-management techniques and education are some of the ways in which the trade-off can be addressed.
  • 300 million people in India still live without electricity, and the right to electricity is now a basic human right. However, as mentioned before, providing coal-based or non-renewable energy based energy to these people might be the cheapest option, but it will move India further away from achieving its Nationally Determined Contribution target, where it aims to reduce the emission intensity of the country by 33-35% from 2005 levels, and make 40% of the population dependent on renewable energy. With plans to add 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, India still has a long way to go, so it is up to the educated and privileged population to make conscious shifts to renewable energy and help India achieve these targets.
  • Choice consciousness has to be embedded in every citizen for effective safeguarding of the environment. Very often the choice in what we eat, drink, wear or use reflects our personal ecological footprint. Some agricultural commodities have a large carbon and water footprint, while others don’t. Some fibres we wear as clothes have high ecological, carbon and water footprint, like cotton, while others like hemp, don’t. It is time that sustainable consumption and production methods are practiced and everyone is cognizant of the ecological footprint of whatever they produce or consume. Through simple demand-based economics, we can instill eco-consciousness in our everyday lives.
  • Information dispersion becomes extremely critical when addressing sustainability issues, as only through dispersal of knowledge can people understand the environmental and social challenges the world, and our country face today. Labelling of products to reflect their true environmental cost, education in sustainable development and mass-media engagement in dwelling into environmental/social issues are ways information can be dispersed with regards to sustainable development. A large section of the population is still not aware of what the SDGs are and what they stand for. Educating the population, informing citizens and knowledge-sharing are key in achieving sustainability goals. The world needs more environment journalism and India and its citizens would certainly benefit in the long term with cognizance regarding the complex inter-linkages between their actions and the environment.

It is high time that issues about the environment and the challenges of sustainable development are brought forth in a timely and effective manner. India can be a major player in the world towards this change, and every citizen in India an active participant in what will determine the course of our future.


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