Environment 2 Navya’s tenth artilcle

Source: Environmental Issues in India, by the Father of the Green revolution in India, Dr.MS Swaminathan.  Book: Environmental Issues in India: A Reader (Pearson) A very useful book for iAS aspirants. Edited by Mahesh Rangarajan , a Senior Journalist and a perceptive writer. A book worth buying.


What does the expression spaceship earth imply?



The concept Spaceship earth (developed by Buckminster Fuller)  compares the earth to a spaceship. Just as a spaceship is characterized by limited support systems, the  earth also has finite resources and vulnerable life support systems. If one looks at it this way, one can see earth as an extra large, very efficient, nature designed spaceship, carrying its full load of three billion passengers through space at 18.5 miles per second, equipped with its own energy, refuelling, recycling and life support systems . A thin envelope of air, soil and water around the earth together with energy from the sun provide the major ingredients for the evolution and survival of the large number of living things, including man, on earth, and all are closely interrelated. This complex and delicately balanced web of relationships together constitutes the biosphere with in which man has his place. It is hence evident that man can ultimately make only a finite claim on the limited resources of earth.



What has led to the present awareness of environmental degradation?


The life of mankind is inextricably related to the environment. Man continuously affects and gets affected by the environment. Thus no environment conservation program is meaningful if it does not secure the services of the common man. This realisation has led to designing more and more programmes aimed at generating awareness among people. Increased campaigns about global warming, climate change, and environmental programmes have led to increased awareness. The inclusion of environmental sustainability as one of the millennium development goals by the UN has made it necessary for governments across the world to undertake many environment related programmes. As a corollary  people are being educated by governments to ensure the farmer’s cooperation  in realising environmental sustainability.



What did the book Limits to Growth convey?

The book  Limits to Growth deals with the interplay between the population growth and food availability. According to this book these two are inversely correlated. This book  envisages the relationship between (the) population and available land area .The book echoes some of the ideas developed “the Essay on  principles of population” written by T R MALTHUS .It clearly reveals the fact that the population is growing exponentially where the resources to compensate the whole lot is adequate. Since population grows rapidly with out control could be a major threat where the land availability is limited. The purpose of Limits to Growth was not to make specific predictions, but to explore how exponential growth interacts with finite resources. It stressed the fact that such an increase in consumption of finite resources, however large the resources may be, can not continue indefinitely.

The authors of Limits to Growth have attempted to quantify the extent of fall in land availability in agricultural use that we will have to be prepared for with population expansion. They have assumed that each additional person would need 0.08 hectares of land for purposes like housing, roads, waste disposal, power lines and other uses and 0.4 hectares for producing the food he needs. If we use this formula in our country, over 5 million hectares of land will be needed every year to meet the requirements of new born. Therefore we have to aim at developing the integrated land use systems in agriculture where the productivity of the soil can be continuously improved, without any impairment of its long term production potential.


What did the article A BLUE PRINT FOR SURVIVAL try to convey?

The article Blue Print for Survival, as its literal meaning, lays out a road-map and a plan of action to be embarked upon if our mother earth were to survive for generations to come. The article has two sections: First section talks of the adverse impact of the unmindful exploitation of environment by man and the second section deals with steps to maintain sustainability.

The article blames the industrial way of life as being principal contributor to the disruption of life-support ecosystems that could send the predictability of ecological processes topsy-turvy. The pressure on the land, thanks to the increasing demand of food and the attempt to solve the food problem by encouraging high-yielding variety of crops could only make things worse. The nature of social system that would support inculcate conservation of ecology is lacking, thanks to the urban drift and social chaos, is not being nurtured.

The sustainability of environment can be engendered by minimizing the ecological disruption activities, conserving energy, stabilizing population to replacement level and creation of a social system conducive for these three activities.

The article recommends community living among people is inculcated to realize the above intentions.

What is the relationship between the population growth and food safety?

Population and food safety are interrelated terms. Power of population is indefinitely greater than the power of the earth to produce subsistence to man. World population is increasing at an alarming rate. It is expected that around 2030, the number of humans living on earth will be around 8000 million. The fact is nine out of ten people are living in urban areas, where their demand for food is persistently raising where food production should also increase in the meanwhile. Population is growing enormously in a geometrical ratio where the food production is in arithmetical ratio. Naturally food supply occupies a crucial role.

Food safety is a priority for consumers, farmers, processors, retailers and governments. Protecting the food chain from the multitude of hazards present from production and consumption is a serious painstaking enterprise.

Food security on the one hand is fundamental right and state’s responsibility, while on the other hand addressing the issue at national and household levels is a complex in nature.

Food security focuses on sustainable food security, increasing productivity, promoting commercial agriculture, encouraging income diversification, intervention and export orientation and promotion. In spite of all the food security measures we might undertake, it is necessary that population growth needs to be controlled.


Describe the relationship between soil care and fertility.

Soil is one of the most significant ecological factors, which is derived from the transformation of surface rocks. It constitutes an important medium where in numerous animals live. Soil has been formed over the ages through disintegration of rocks, addition of minerals, accumulation of organic matter etc., Maintaining soil properly is essential for te sustenance of agriculture.

Soil consists of four major components i.e. minerals,  water, organic matter, soil air and soil water. All these components cannot be separated because they are very intimately mixed with each other. The mineral matter forms the bulk of soil solids and a very small amount of soil solids is occupied by organic matter.

Natural and synthetic materials that can adversely affect the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil and seriously affect its productivity are called soil pollutants and this phenomenon is called soil pollution. The problem of soil pollution differs from air and water pollution in that the pollutants remain in direct contact with the soil for relatively longer periods. Wide spread industrialisation and increasing consumptions have changed the very complexion of soil. Soil erosion is increased due to agricultural development, construction and strip mining activities. There are numerous ways by which the fertile top layer is lost and wasted. This slow removal of the top soil and disturbances in the soil texture is called soil erosion. Increasing deforestation in the water shed areas has led to massive soil erosion. Thus, the soil is getting polluted day by day, by toxic materials and dangerous micro-organisms which enter the air, water and food chain.

The actual art of soil care is concerned with keeping the soil intact and maintaining the soil nutrients at a certain desired level. Soil care should include:

  1. Protection of soil from impact of rainfall
  2. Increase in the infiltration of rain water
  3. To prevent water from Stagnating
  4. To encourage more water to enter the soil
  5. To increase the size of soil particle
  6. Increase in soil resistance
  7. By reducing wind erosion by growing vegetation
  8. By growing the strips of stubble or other plant

For Example: Some plants yielding hydrocarbons grow well in arid regions.

  1. Grazing animals should be kept in enclosures

Soil fertility may be defined as the presence of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other minerals, benign microbes in adequate quantity to sustain and improve the plant yield. In a mad rush to raise the yield in a very short span of time, man has resorted to use of artificial, inorganic fertilizers to supply nutrients to plant growth from outside. The usage of these fertilizers on a large scale has raised serious doubts about the soil fertility in long run. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers could reduce soil fertility and necessitate the use of more and more of it year after year. Given the water solubility of these elements, they could cause water pollution as well.

Human waste recycling systems are under development and alternative methods which do not involve water to flush excreta, are rapidly being standardized. It is high time to start seriously working on the development of efficient cycling and nutrient supply system which would lead to the proper maintenance of soil structure and fertility.

What is global ecological balance?

Ecological balance refers to the sustenance of genetic, species and eco system diversity over a long period of time. This ecological balance is essential for the sustainable development but, it can be impaired by natural as well as anthropogenic factors. The natural factors manifest in the nature of calamities like earthquake, tsunami, and volcanoes. On this front, even though better disaster management practices can help reduce impairment, its extent of efficacy is not very high. So, it becomes all the more important to maintain ecological balance by preventing anthropogenic factors leading to the impairment.

The anthropogenic factors which disturb the ecological balance predominantly include excessive usage of fossil fuels and unmindful exploitation of resources. So, the less the usage of fossil fuels, and more scrupulous the exploitation of resources, the better. It is alleged the developed nations which characterize high standard of living and usage of energy intensive technologies are the main culprits for the disturbance of ecological balance. However the present day scenario witnesses the planning and implementation of social reconstruction projects by developing countries in a bid to catch so-called industrialized nations. These, measures are also becoming increasingly hostile to the maintenance of ecological balance.

There is disagreement among developed and developing nations as to “who should contribute” the most to  cry halt to the impairment of ecological balance. Developing countries allege that even though their contribution to green house gases is increasing, still they are far below that of the developed Countries  in terms of per capita contribution to green house gases. On the other hand developed countries, pitch-in for equitable sharing of responsibility for the impairment of ecological balance and demand that developing countries should also bear the brunt of mitigating the impairment of ecological balance.

It is not the time to pass on the buck to each other but an equitable solution to sustain the ecological balance must be evolved by both developed and developing countries soon and save the planet earth.

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