The Ailing Planet – Nani Palkhiwala

Ailing Planet – Nani Palkhiwala is an article about the rapid degradation of the major elements of the environment – forest, grasslands, croplands and fisheries. The writer criticizes the uncontrolled growth of population. He also quotes people like Margaret Thatcher, Edgar S Woolard, LK Jha who have voiced and warned against global warming due to the high demand of natural resources.

More than ever the planet earth is losing its vitality (life) and freshness. Due to human development-activities throughout the globe, the earth has become highly polluted, highly irrepairable and highly damaged. We have taken out petroleum, coal and a lot of natural resources from the earth. We have removed more than half of world’s vegetation (plants and trees) and emitted large quantity of carbon and a lot of other chemicals. We have destroyed marine (fisheries) life and made rivers go dry. Moreover, our greed for more and more wealth resulted in depleting the protective ozone layer and invited all harmful rays to the earth’s surface. Besides, we have brought out a great imbalance between humans and the other species of the earth.

Opening – Our Fault!

The earth is an ailing, dying planet. Human development processes have brought the planet close to a state of extinction. Human beings are the most dangerous animals among the millions of other species that inhabit the planet. We have been exploiting this planet recklessly (carelessly) by building cities, by clearing forests and by a number of other activities including mining, fishing, etc.

For long, we hadn’t been aware of our responsibilities to the planet’s health but the Green Movement marked the beginning. The Green Movement corrected some of our incorrect judgment in connection with our understanding of the planet. We are not the owners of this planet. We are not the bosses but partners in survival. We should understand that it is our duty to leave the earth healthy. We don’t own the planet, not an acre of land. We live in a rented planet and therefore we have no rights to construction or destruction.

Questions & Answers

  1. Why is the earth said to be an ailing planet?
    Due to the insensitive exploitation by humans for their survival and development, the earth has lost almost all its vital/important resources. With drying rivers, depleting and polluted environment and deteriorating forests and greenery, the earth is now breathing hard for its survival and thus it is an ailing planet.
  2. “We have shifted from the mechanistic view to a holistic and ecological view of the world.” Explain.
    In the past, people were not aware of the pace of environmental degradation that the earth was undergoing.
  3. What did the most dangerous animal on the earth learn in the recent time?
    The most dangerous animal, man, has learnt in the recent years a new lesson – that he is not the master of the planet but just one among the rest of the animals and trees, plants and insects, who should live like a partner in survival.
The Ailing 4!

We have caused the depletion of the four major resources – forests, grasslands, croplands and fisheries. Fisheries collapse due to over fishing. Forest disappears because the need for firewood and timber has considerably increased. The arrival of the humans marks the end of forests and the appearance of deserts. We are losing 1.5 acres of forests per second. Grasslands are converted to barren wasteland, cropland deteriorates due to over cultivation and the construction of cities.

Questions & Answers

  1. Why is it said that forest precedes mankind?
    No animal on the planet earth ever caused damage to it but humans have been causing serious destruction upon the earth ever since they had evolved. By cutting down trees for their survival and development, humans have established their monopoly over the other species. Thus, with the coming of humans, the existence of forest was threatened and in their places humans constructed cities and mega cities, always at the cost of these forests. As a result, forests are forced to surrender to deserts – that is, the green forests gave space for deserts.
  2. What are the four principal biological systems? How are they the foundation of the global economic system?
    The four principal biological systems of the earth are fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands. In addition to supplying our food, these four systems provide virtually all the raw materials for industry except minerals and petroleum-derived synthetics.
  3. How do fisheries, forests, grasslands and croplands form the foundation of global economic system?
    A majority of the world population depends on sea-food for its survival while forests provide firewood for cooking, raw materials for production and timber for construction. Grasslands are the destination of cattle and herds of animals and without them – domestic and wild animals – the global economic system cannot survive. Each one is depending on the other for survival. There are nations, except the gulf countries that depend on petroleum, that solely depend on forests and fisheries and croplands for trade and sustenance.
  4. Why is tropical forest called the powerhouse of evolution?
    It is in the heart of the tropical forests where newer plants and animals evolve to more adaptable forms. Evolution is an ongoing process. Tropical forests are the most suitable places for evolution due to the heat and moisture. Due to deforestation of the tropical forests, this evolution is not happening in the recent years.
  5. “What goes under the pot now costs more than what goes inside it.” explain.
    With a growing population and the pace of the global developments taking wings, the cost of food touched a new height, all time high. Amazingly, the cost of cooking-gas overtook that of food-grains, fish, meat and vegetables, thus the fuel to cook – gas, firewood and electricity – now costs more than the raw-food.
  6. In what sense is it said that ‘forests precede mankind and deserts follow?’
Next – Blame Population

With rising population, space that nature assigned for forests and animals is occupied by humans for their development and survival. More population means less forests and animals. Unfortunately man’s first choice is nature and it is sadly vulnerable and an easy prey. When cities and mega-cities occupy the major portion of the earth, the ecological balance is said to be lost.

  1. What does more children mean to the poor section of people of India?
    Poverty is directly caused by illiteracy and lack of awareness. The illiterate and uninformed poor people of India believe that more children bring more income. In fact, more children means more responsibility and more poverty and an unhealthy family and an impoverished individual and society.
  2. How is population-explosion the biggest threat to the existence of the ailing earth?
    Human population is the biggest threat to the existence of the earth. Though it reached a billion in a million years, another billion was added to the world-population in just another hundred years. Every four or five days the world population increases by one million. The effects of this dangerous increase in world population are endless yet the most catastrophic one is our present struggle for existence.
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