Development & Environment:

Always at Loggerheads!

There seems to be a permanent strife between the development and environment. Is it because the environment came first and development much later! No, because the word development is relative and environment has been there much before the two legged creature called man came in to existence. Before us many animals ruled the planet be it trilobites, ammonites or dinosaurs. But it is for sure that none of them was a human and none had a brain like that of a human.

Bhimbetka Caves Paintings

Our ancestors when they converted from ‘hunter gatherer’ status to a cave dweller must have thought that change to be a ‘development! Yes for them it must have been a big leap, almost like today’s man intending to live on the moon. From cave to huts and from huts to houses and then to skyscraper living-imagine the leaps we have made in living alone.

Similarly from a society living in skins to society adorned with best of branded clothes is yet another hallmark of development. Clothes mean dirt and dirt means detergents to clean them.

Now imagine the world’s market flooded with detergents which have contents to pollute any water body beyond redemption. One has just to visualize the quantity of detergent we must be letting in to our drains. Readers may find it amusing that the drains in many developing countries open in to a water body, generally a river.

Our forefathers must have been overwhelmed with joy; the day one of them discovered the wheel. That wooden wheel must have been an innocuous toy for their kids. But soon it got converted to a bigger toy, a cart-probably a horse or a bullock cart; till it became an integral part of a petrol driven automobile.

We all curse the automobile every day for ruining our atmosphere, yet we travel to the seminars convened for condemnation of atmospheric pollution by the fossil fuel in a car driven by that fuel only. This is the price of development.

Sure we cannot go back to the bullock cart era and our habitats have been spread so far and wide that even cycling down is not feasible everywhere. But some solution is need of the day. May be another stride is required to change from fossil fuel to some other fuel which doesn’t pollute the atmosphere. Mind you here, fuel means energy and energy has its own perils and advantages. The cigarette lighter in your pocket can cause havoc if lit at a wrong time and wrong place. Thus one learns to play safe with energy be it fire or light. 

Bhimbetka Caves, Near Bhopal, India
Image (c) Gettyimages.com

Ever visited one of the caves where our ancestors lived? They are quite a place. Quite cozy in the summers and at a higher ground thus always safe from the floods. One such cave is at Bhimbetka near Bhopal in India. While the cave paintings there depict the past time of the menfolk as hunting. Am sure their women must be busy cooking meals in the dark caves. One large hall like cave has appropriately placed flattened boulders-looks like a committee room of today’s developers and planners. Were they planning to build stone houses in future!

From cave our ancestors shifted to grass huts, wooden houses to stone houses and then to brick houses and now the RCC is used for making even the walls. Our ancestors had the common sense. They build houses that were energy efficient. The scorching Sun makes the RCC walls heat up and the people living inside have no option but to use air conditioners to keep their dwellings livable. But the moment power trips they are forced to live almost in a house hot like an oven. Housing is one of the major sectors in which all the Governments are interested. It is the most paying sector today because we are multiplying like insects. More the numbers means more houses and naturally more air conditioners.

Do we have the electricity to keep our gadgets going in the future? If you go by the statistics you may think that yes in 2050 we will have so much of electricity to keep the Acs running. But do you have the resources? As per the present scenario the only sources are either the fossil fuel run power houses. They have become notorious for augmenting the carbon content of the atmosphere and thereby abetting the green house condition. There are lobbies against the hydropower activated by self-styled experts. A country on the threshold of development with a population of prolific breeders needs plenty of electricity for the present and firm plans for the future. Yet another lobby is active against the nuclear plants. While the fossil fuel driven plants cause pollution the latter is supposed to be clean. Then what is the hitch!

The hitch is because the term ‘nuclear’ is prefixed to it. Nuclear gives us the feeling of a bomb perhaps. Secondly there are scares of storage of fuel and safe disposal of safe fuel. Then there are apprehensions about the dismantling of a plant that has completed its life. It is said that the cost of dismantling is much more than the erection of a nuclear plant. Well in order to develop we need power and if the nuclear power is safe and eco-friendly then the society must be made aware of the same.

What applies for fuel for automobiles and power generation-applies for alternative ways of generating power. Each sector has its own advantages and disadvantages. We have to select the best and may be use a variety of techniques and sources to generate power without jeopardizing our environment.

Our planet has seen many ups and downs in the past. There have been extreme events of freezing cold and excessive warmth. Fortunately we were not around. And unfortunately we being much superior to any other animal we have always tried to conquer the nature and develop against the nature. Mind you it is like swimming against the tide. The nature is mightier than us and we have to keep that in mind always.

Development and environment can go hand in hand to some extent if we try to develop in harmony with nature, apply the thumb rule of ‘thus far and no further.’ To achieve this we have to be self-disciplined or else the political system will have to be changed from a democracy to autocracy to implement and enforce discipline.

Our environment is made of lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. These spheres are very intimately interconnected. Harm any one of them and others get affected in no time. Thus in a series of three or four articles I intend to write more about these spheres.

Watch out.


More by :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

Top | Environment

Views: 3418      Comments: 4

Comment Thank you very much Joshi ji for your comments.
Yes I agree with you in the matter of nuclear energy and believe that once the misconceptions are removed from the minds of those opposing things will improve for countries like India.
About other spheres, things are relative. For example I have cited the use of detergents. I do not subscribe to the idea of washing clothes with alkaline mud-as our washermen used to do in the past-but I will prefer a system whereby detergent laden water is recycled and reused. Likewise the use of energy efficient housing is a must. Climate is erratic-we do not have the defined months of summer, and monsoon and winters now. So we need to change our housing designs material etc accordingly.
Developed countries like USA have already thought of and implemented many of techniques to develop in harmony with nature. But we need to learn that and apply according to requirements of our country.
I knew this story will make people react and it is good in a way-I will develop more stories about the 'spheres' I mentioned and provoke more minds.
Thanks galore.

19-Apr-2012 01:30 AM

Comment Thank you Chandra Mohan for your comments. Yes the nuclear energy seems to be a way out, but the mindset has to be fine tuned to accept it like other methods of energy generation. Through this series of articles i just want to highlight our gains and losses in Indian context-in the race for development.

19-Apr-2012 01:22 AM

Comment A very though- provoking write-up. Development without destruction calls for tremendous creative solutions and not just 'managing'! In our society, creativity is not respected much. Development comes at a cost but the pro's should outweigh the cons. No one can miss the subtle suggestion behind 'clothes mean dirt and dirt means detergent...'. Our needs go on multiplying.

But there is no development without power. Solar, wind, tidal can at best supplement. They can never be full- fledged power sources. But there are so many misapprehensions about nuclear energy that we don't feel inclined to go for it with much enthusiasm.

People have to be convinced about the safety measures in nuclear plants and about disposal of the waste genuinely. Once these two issues are handled well (not just convincing but in reality), in my opinion fission reactors will serve us for long, that is till we come up with man made fusion reactors (natural ones are functional all over, look at our Sun for instance!)

CM Nautiyal
19-Apr-2012 01:05 AM

Comment I do not think the problem is development at all. Rather, it is the solution. Compared to how our parents lived all of us are living a much healthier, happier, better and more fulfilled life, travelling around the globe, communicating World wide only because of development and I am looking forward to go to the moon, yes the moon that that my parents worshiped.

I think the whole World is a better and a much more happier and a more peaceful place than it has ever been before in the History -- just think of Auragzeb's time, only 400 years ago !!

There could be a minor population problem which will also be ameliorated by development -- I do not think automobile is a problem, quite the opposite it is only a solution to all World's problem,. That is why no one and no one wants to give it up. Electricity is the same way and so are computers and cell phones.

We are humans and not animals and do not ever want to go back to old ways of living. We will adapt to any minor problems we have, I am an eternal positive thinker and an optimist. With all Nuclear power's so called Hazard not one death is attributable to Nuclear paet of Nuclear poer yet and will never ever be !!

Kamal Joshi
19-Apr-2012 01:00 AM

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