The year began with horrific bushfires ravaging the heart of Australia and further proved that changing climate is one of the most daunting global challenges of our time. The need of the hour is to earnestly acknowledge that Earth interests are much superior to ours and must be given their due voice.  

What’s with the air these days? Why is it so easier to breathe? After so many years, one can see a starry sky and identify which one among them is supposed to be their door ke dadaji (distant grandfather).  Don’t you miss the smoggy mornings of the city, the ‘sublime’ burning smell, which you got a whiff of in every breath? Well, obviously, you do not. The COVID – 19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown has opened our eyes to the rampant harm afflicted on the environment by our callous development. New videos and images of wild animals roaming freely on roads and highways that are bustling with people on normal days, surface almost every day. As humans stay at home, nature has been reclaiming its deserved space and showing us what we have been missing out for decades.

Climate change and environmental destruction have been hot topics of debates and discussions for many years now. International conventions, innovation forums, strikes and protests, are regularly organized to address the various issues and questions pertaining to the environment. Various governmental and non – governmental organizations in numerous countries have been working towards cleaner and healthier environment. But still the current scenario clearly indicates that we are not on the right path to achieve United Nation’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals as our ignorance deepens climate change induced injustice. The denial of world leaders to commit towards action against climate change shows that in order to survive, the Earth needs to have greater representation of its interests before the court of humankind.

A country grapples with many critical issues – economic growth, provision of health and education, internal politics, international relations, and so on. As the policy makers get tied up in these, environmental concerns take a backseat and come to the limelight only after the occurrence of some natural catastrophe or due to international pressure. Over many years, environment laws have been amended to meet the present, more pressing needs. But, whenever there is a conflict between nature and development, the scales of justice either favour the latter openly or intervene too late. For instance, in the Aarey forest controversy of 2019, the Supreme Court’s judgment to stop the felling of trees came after the damage had already been done. Protesting activists were also beaten up and arrested. In India, Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have emerged as efficient tools for environmental NGOs and social activists to ensure the enforcement of citizen’s right to healthy environment. But the courts approach in entertaining PILs for environmental protection, however, has not been consistent.

For example, while the court has entertained PILs on environment problems such as water pollution, air pollution, and forest degradation from industrial activities, it has maintained a distance from PILs for environmental protection due to infrastructure projects such as dams, thermal power plants, airports etc. Particular guidelines for entertaining PILs have also been laid down, creating fear among spirited people fighting for environmental justice. Due to the spread of awareness among the common masses, political parties all over the world have been forced to feature environment-related issues in their manifestos. However, the impetus either gets lost among other matters after the elections or falls prey to the most typical characteristic of politics – promises made are never completely delivered.

The Earth is facing incredibly serious natural resource and environmental challenges: climate change, fresh-water depletion, deforestation, pollution, habitat destruction etc. Overpopulation has led to reckless changes in our consumption patterns and is estimated to put significant stress on public infrastructure and finance, especially in areas of health and education. The thing with environmental impacts is that they are slow in nature and cannot be perceived instantly. We must realize that if we allow the plunder and ravaging to continue and keep ignoring the needs of Earth in the name of progress, then great destruction looms over the whole of humankind.

The destruction Earth is being subjected to is not selective in who it punishes; it doesn’t see borders and it doesn’t favour one government over another. Its effects will affect everyone, and we must acknowledge that, at this point, there is no returning to “how things used to be.” Our leaders must realize or be made to realize that climate change and environmental degradation are crises that humanity has not ever faced before, and it cannot be solved with just some innovations and improved technologies. It requires concerted efforts to be made at all levels, in whatever capacity, to eradicate the negative consequences of indiscriminate development. We must acknowledge the vitality of discussions, followed by actions that need to be taken to address environmental concerns in all arenas, from educational institutions to courts of justice. The existing environmental laws need to transcend regulation of the human use and destruction of nature and transform into legal rights of nature to exist and flourish. This is because one of the most formidable weapons the cause of the Earth can have is legal protection through the recognition of rights, also termed as ‘Rights of nature’. Since 1971, Earth justice – a non-profit public interest organization based in the United States, has been working as ‘the legal backbone for the environmental movement’ world over. Environmental activism must also understand their responsibility to coax cessation of injudicious progress and to encourage leaders to adopt sustainable development.

It is high time that we pay due heed to the clarion call of Earth, urging us to reorient our development. We need to start from the premise that everyone matters—rich or poor, farmer or civil servant, woman, or man. Then, we must plan and act upon ways to reduce the ill effects of destruction outpoured by us on nature and reap the benevolence of our mother Earth in a sustainable manner. Only then can we save ‘life’ as we know it and build a beautiful planet and fulfilling lives, as promised to each one of us under the grace of the universe.


Featured Image Credit: Anastasiia Mishchenko

Ipshika Ghosh

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We all have heard about how humans have destroyed nature because of our never-ending ending quest to conquer more and rule everything. The world today is concerned about the environment more than ever. But what if someone were  to tell you that a man showed this concern more than 165 years ago and people did not pay attention to him.

We have just finished giving our semester exams and if you do remember, in the 1st semester paper of English Communication thejre was a letter sent to the then President of the United States, Franklin Peirce by Chief Seattle (Si’ahl) of the Suquamish and Duwamish people when the US Government forced Native Americans to sell their lands to the government in 1854. The letter had students hooked onto the paper even after the paper ended. The reason, this man predicted each and every fault in the European idea of development which we can see very clearly. First, let’s read it:

How can you buy or sell the sky – the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. We do not own the freshness of air or sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? … Every part of this earth is secret to my people. Every shining needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. We know that the white man does not understand our ways. … The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves behind and he does not care. He kidnaps the Earth from his children. He does not care. His fathers’ grave and his children’s birthright right is forgotten. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

One thing we know, which the white man may discover. Our God is the same God. You may think now that you own him as you wish to own our land. But you cannot. He is the God of all men. This Earth is precious to him. And to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The white shall pass – perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the sacred corner of the forest heavy with scent of many men, and view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is a thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt – the end of living and the beginning of dying

If you read the letter carefully, you will realise how visionary was Chief Seattle. All of what he predicted has come true. We are not near a climatic catastrophe but instead, we are staring at one. As Chief Seattle said, “Continue to contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste”, we today fight with pollution every day, who knows this better than a Delhi University student itself. We suffocate in the toxic air made by industries and farms without products of whom we can’t imagine our life anyway. But who actually is responsible for this condition of our planet. The answer is rather simple, all of us are the culprits. Be it our endless desire to get new clothes or new electronic gadgets. We today have equated growth with things that are bigger and better. For us, growth has become the act of achieving a bigger house, a bigger car or a ‘need’ of more options to shop. This mass demand has led us to a situation wherein even though we want to better the environment, we just can’t because of the indiscriminate exploitation of nature. We seem to have forgotten that our home is not just the flat or the villa we live in but the whole planet. Just like Chief Seattle said, we are snatching away the right of our future generations to see an Earth which is proud of all its valleys and beaches and not the one which is sick to its core. 

It was the humans who are responsible for climate change and therefore it is our responsibility to make our home better. Every task looks massive in the beginning but becomes achievable once started. Therefore, it is our duty to take care of the planet which has given us this life.

“Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

-Chief Seattle

Feature Image Credits: Lincoln Landscaping

Aniket Singh Chauhan

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