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Now here?s some rich advice

In the latest edition of its ?State of the World? report, the US think-tank Worldwatch Institute warns growing economies like India and China not to try too hard to attain ?Western living standards?, since that might consume too much of the planet?s resources.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2006 01:43 IST
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In the latest edition of its ‘State of the World’ report, the US think-tank Worldwatch Institute warns growing economies like India and China not to try too hard to attain ‘Western living standards’, since that might consume too much of the planet’s resources. “Earth lacks the water, energy and agricultural land,” says the report, to sustain “the ambitions of China, India, Japan, Europe and the US, as well as the aspirations of the rest of the world, in a sustainable way.” As if to neon the notice, the report adds that any wrong choices made by
India and China in the next few years “could lead to political and economic instability” in the world. This is preposterous for more than one reason. Nobody can redraw the planet’s balance sheet based on the statistics used to back up its unsolicited civilisational advice. Even the best computer projections must reckon with phenomena like volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates that will influence human activities in the long run. In any case, it’s an open secret that the richest countries are responsible for the galloping depletion of a disproportionate share of the planet’s resources. Unfortunately, despite having the technology to introduce fundamental changes needed to save millions from hunger and disease, these countries lack the incentive to apply it. Farming, for instance, has already produced the biggest global imprint of humanity, affecting half the planet’s habitable land. And the challenge now is to increase agricultural productivity without using substantially more land. But the developed countries have yet to abandon the current industrial model of agriculture in favour of a more ‘biological’ one, based on ecological processes like using minimal fertiliser and water.

Let’s face it: there’s a crunch on Earth’s resources. And the developed countries are unwilling to let ‘development models’ of less-rich countries tamper with what they consider their fair share of resources. But that is ill advice. The sooner we begin balancing economic development with sustaining Earth’s ecological webs, the better. Pointing fingers at each other could hardly be the way forward.

First Published: Jan 13, 2006 01:43 IST