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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Individual efforts for protection of environment and sustainable development

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Committed individuals of all ages and nationalities find their own ways to help save the environment, all over the world. A number of people have worked on individual levels for the protection and preservation of environment. Many of these individuals remained always concerned with the process of modern development and pointed out its negative impacts on environment and its components. These people advocated strategies for sustainable development and inspired many people across the world. Further efforts of these people took the shapes of different movements that shook the world and enforced to think seriously about the protection and preservation of the environment in different parts of the world.

We have numerous examples of individuals who dedicated their lived for the sake of environment and all the living beings including human race. Here is an example of a young girl Sophie, 14, who stood fast and is still working against whaling activities of Japan. She went to the court together with her father for her protest outside Japanese Embassy in London. The British Press Association reported on Jan. 25, 2008- A 14-year old, British Girl has been arrested after protesting against whaling, outside the Japanese Embassy in London. “It is very important subject at the moment. They are such amazing creatures and they deserve rights and love and a bit of respect.” Sophie Wyness said to the British Press Association. Sophie had previously campaigned against Australia’s Nuclear Policy. She, along with her sister Ruby and Father Mr. Martin Wyness, was arrested for environmental action related to Global Warming when they staged the protest putting face masks on two figures from the Terracotta Army in the British Museum during October 2007.

Hiroshi Nakatsuji, a comedian and stage artist, uses the stage as anti-whaling platform, in his show “Lucky Golden Whales”. Many Actors and actresses of Hollywood also, have been working on individual basis for the protection and preservation of environment since early 1990s. About 100 environmental activists from Loss Angeles “stormed an Indonesian freighter bringing rain forest wood to the major studios” (Hollywood Reporter, Apr.22, 2008). A number of Indian films and stage actors and actresses have been suggesting the public on print and electronic media to preserve and protect environment.

Film Producers like Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough have made documentaries on several endangered species of animals so as to stimulate sense of conservation among masses. Zoo 2000, Expedition to the Animal Kingdom, and Earth Watch etc. are names of some programmes designed to generate awareness and to contribute to the sustainable development. Here are some more examples of individual efforts for the protection of environment, conservation of natural resources and sustainable development. These efforts have been responsible for the origin of environmental movements in different parts of the world-
The earliest known writings concerning environmental pollution in the Middle East were Arabic Medical Treatise that was written during the “Arab Agricultural Revolution”. Authors of these writings were Alkindus, Costa ben Luca, Rhazes, Ibn Al- Jazzar, al-Tamimi, al-Masihi, Avicenna, Ali ibn Ridwan, Issac Israeli ben Soloman, Abd-el-latif, and Ibn- al- Nafis. The writings of these authors incorporate air-contamination, water contamination, soil contamination, mishandling of solid waste, and environmental assessment of certain localities.

In 1272, King Edward I of England banned the burning of sea-coal after its smoke had become a problem. However, the ban could not be successful and its smoke continued to pollute environment till the Great Smog of 1952 came to make history.

In the U.S. efforts for environment started in 1739 when Benjamin Franklin and residents of Philadelphia petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly to stop dumping of waste and to remove tanneries from the Philadelphia’ Commercial District.

The individual efforts and philosophies of John Muir, and Henry David Thoreau in 1800s, made great contributions to the cause of protecting the natural resources of the west. Thoreau’s book entitled Walden has strong arguments that people should become intimately close with nature. John Muir (1838-1914) was America's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. He is one of California's most important historical personalities. He has been called "The Father of our National Parks," "Wilderness Prophet," and "Citizen of the Universe.

Muir collected like minded people concerned with the study of ecology and geology and formed the Sierra Club on May 28, 1892, in San Francisco, California; with the motto of Explore, Enjoy and Protect the planet.
According to the Sierra Club, “As a wilderness explorer, he( John Muir) is renowned for his exciting adventures in California's Sierra Nevada, among Alaska's glaciers, and world wide travels in search of nature's beauty. As a writer, he taught the people of his time and ours the importance of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage. His writings contributed greatly to the creation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks. Dozens of places are named after John Muir, including the Muir Woods National Monument, the John Muir Trail, Muir College (UCSD), and many schools……. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), through the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's (SAO) Minor Planet Center (MPC), has announced the naming of a newly discovered minor planet in honor of pioneer conservationist John Muir. The announcement was made in the June 2006 issue of the Minor Planet Circular, published by the SAO/MPC. This development seems an appropriate tribute for someone who gave his address as "Earth-Planet, Universe!"

1. The growth of Environmental protection and preservation continued up to the 20th century and efforts for the protection of wildlife started in full swing. The endangerment of American Bison and the death of the last Passenger Pigeon shook many of the American people and in 1916 the National Park Services were started by the president Woodrow Wilson.

2. Aldo Leopold published A Sand Country Almanac in 1949 which explained his belief that mankind should have moral respect for environment and “that it is unethical to harm it”. This book by Aldo Leopold is considered to be the most influential book in the field of sustainable development.

3. The American Biologist Rachel Carson authored his famous book “The Silent Spring”, which was published in the year 1962 by Houghton Miffin.”The book catalogued the environmental impacts of indiscriminate spraying of DDT in the United States and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health. As a result of putting such serious philosophies into air, the public concern rose upto such extent that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was formed in 1970.The agency put sufficient pressures to ban the DDT in the United States in 1972.

Let me quote a few lines from the Silent Spring for you –
"There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example – where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh."

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was a scientist, writer, naturalist and, many say, the mother of the environmental movement; and B. her Book: the Silent Spring- the Bedrock of the modern environmental movements. Here is a list of the books authored by Rachel Carson- 1941-Under the Sea Wind; 1943-Food from the Sea: Fish and Shellfish of New England; 1944-Food from the Sea: Fish and Shellfish of the South Atlantic; 1951- The Sea around Us; .955 - The Edge of the Sea; 1962 - Silent Spring; 1965- The Sense of Wonder (posthumous).

After the Silent Spring, some other books were also published which had immediate and obvious influence on the public opinion. These books were- “The Quiet Crisis” (1963) by Stewart Udall; “Before Nature Dies” (1965) by Jean Dorst; “On the shred of cloud” (1966) by Rolf Edberg etc.

4. The NASA scientist James Lovelock published his book entitled Gaiya: A New look on life on earth. According to Gaiya Hypothesis of James Lovelock, life on earth can be understood as a single organism.
Now the environmentalism has grew upto such serious points like climate change, the Global Warming, and the Depletion of Ozone Layer on different levels. Besides peoples’ movements against big dams, mega projects, displacements etc. are growing in India and in many other parts of the world.

The Goldman Awards to Individuals for Environment
In the world, six people are awarded Goldman Environment Award every year to encourage common people to the cause of environment. The Goldman Environment Award is compared to the Nobel Prize in the field of environment. These awards were set up by an American rich man in 1990, and since then these awards are being given on April 16, in San Francisco. It was strange co-incidence that Wangari Maathai of Kenya received Nobel Prize in 2004 after receiving the Goldman Environment Award in 1991. You may want to know for what she received these honors of the highest degrees? Well, Wangari Maathai of Kenya had started the Green Belt Movement to recreate forests. So far four Indians have been able to receive these prestigious awards for environment. These four Indians with their brief introduction are mentioned below-

§ Medha Patkar: She is the first Indian to receive the Goldman Award for Environment. She fought for the cause of more than three lakh tribals who were displaced due to submergence of their villages when the huge Sardar Sarovar Dam was built across the Narmada River. For the cause of displaced tribals she was put in prison many times, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) she had started continues even today.
§ Rashida Bee and Champa Devi: These ladies are recognized due to their fight for the good of Bhopal Gas Victims.

§ M. C. Mehta: He is a lawyer from Delhi. He is famous for his legal battle to save the Taj Mahal from getting damaged by industrial emission.

Key Words: Sophie, Silent Spring, Goldman, Narmada, Rashida Bee, Champa Devi, M. C. Mehta

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