The Development Myopia

The manner in which the models of developed economies have evolved has been on the central foundations of exploitation of resources of the not so developed yet resource rich nations. However while this has resulted in the colonisers becoming rich, it has worsened the levels of deprivation whose direct consequence we see all around us.


The ironical thing however is that the developing world in its quest to come at par with the developed world is resorting to all means possible to bridge the gap, the cost seems immaterial even though it may result in large scale deforestation or simple annihilation of ecological biodiversity. The models that sustained the growth engines of the developed world depended on the colonies that they so effectively controlled and manipulated.


What this has come to mean for the world that we share with countless other species is the blatant disregard for these very species that have helped the earth sustain this far and are responsible for its life giving properties. The developing world is leaving no stone unturned to find more energy for its energy intensive economies and its increasingly hungrier populations.


The critical question is where exactly do we decide to ponder over the kind of irreversible damage that we are inflicting on the environment and are in a way accelerating the doomsday scenario. a lot of it is already visible in terms of searing heat waves and non existent winters. During one of my field visits to the southern portions of my nation specifically Tamilnadu I was pained to see the degree of denudation that has been done in the name of madness called SEZ.


People who propose such disastrous models in the name of development need to step out of their air conditioned rooms and special utility vehicles to understand the damage they are inflicting. Ground water depletion is happening at a bizarre rate yet the course of development goes unchecked.


Further in our pursuit for more energy for our machines the world did not blink twice before deciding to convert food into fuel as part of the bio fuel mania that has been sweeping the world and has brought approximately 238 million across Africa on the verge of hunger (action aid report). It has also resulted in large scale deforestation in the pristine rainforests of Brazil, Indonesia and is expected that at the current rate the Amazon would turn into a desert by 2020.


These are highly likely scenarios especially when we hear about food riots happening in Mexico, Sierra Leone, Senegal and the like sweeping the world that is tottering today on the brink of disaster,


I might be sounding like Cassandra, but that is pretty much the irony that we face. While the number of billionaires gracing the Forbes magazine has gone up so have the number of people living under 2 dollars risen exponentially.


What can be more devastating than the UNWFP having to cut back on its feeding programmes for children across the world, where for most of them a single bowl of soup is the only meal that they might have for the whole day.


Programmes in Tajikistan, Africa and central Asia are being scaled down for the want of more funds while bonus and bailout packages for financial institutions are in place in another part of the world.


The question is had the G8 been doing what it’s leaders so eloquently promise then all G8 meets would not have required perimeter security and riot police standing by. Also ironical is that the G8 summits promise newer things conference after conference while failing to honour their earlier commitments.


Refer to the fact that the G8 is yet to meet the commitments of the Gleneagles conference to stepping up aid to African nations. These double standards and lip sympathy has to end.


Sustainable development is one of the most abused terms of our times and is seen as something very new, however it is essential to understand that the Brundntland report was the one to have used the term as early as 1987, while greater clarity has come on the term, it has resulted in even greater confusion and today every nation has its own notion of sustainability.


This is resulting in a lot of talk on the issue but little action on the ground. In fact a close look at speeches of the world leaders at different levels off late ever since the latest IPCC reports will no doubt mention sustainable development without ever elaborating on what it actually means, this way the term has become a classical misnomer to show concern but do nothing to address it.


A few facts that I end with to set your minds pondering over the enormity of the issue staring at us:


  • UNDP states that our consumption patterns have been nudging the earth towards the outer limits to what it can sustain
  • global water availability has fallen from 17,000 cubic metres in 1950 to 7,000 cubic meters in 2007
  • nearly 2 billion hectares of the world’s area is degraded on account of overgrazing and poor farming practises
  • since 1970 the wooded area per 100 has dropped from 11.4 square km to 7.3 square km only in 2007.
  • The living planet index has declined by 30% relative to its level in 1970, which means that a third of the natural wealth has been lost

    to add to it the country that has been one of the top polluters keeps dithering and dodging on signing the Kyoto protocol, yet speaks of greening…


    The luxury of choice has been lost some time back, its time to act fast but when I look back at the devastation that open pit mines, quarries leave the question comes back to me…spare a thought for the people who live in cities where mining activities have made life miserable, and well what of the people who are displaced due to some grandiose edifice that is erected time and again.


    What has man made of the once beautiful world around him??


    Sainath Sunil

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