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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sustenance of mankind in the resource- limited environment

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The environment of any place or area can support only a fixed number of organisms, up to a fixed period of time. This is called as carrying capacity of the environment. Similarly, the ecosystem of an area can support a fixed number of organisms up to a fixed period of time. After that the organisms dependent on such an area of ecosystem are sure to collapse. We say when an ecosystem has to bear the load of populations beyond its carrying capacity and when its components including the biodiversity are exploited, over used and abused by human beings, most of the ecological processes get disrupted leading to a dangerous imbalance.

Today, in the unplanned technological development, resources are exploited, used or overused up to such an extent that the ecosystem looses its carrying capacity. On the other hand, an ecosystem has the capacity of absorbing and assimilating pollutants disposed into it by human beings. But a time comes when the ecosystem looses its carrying capacity to absorb and assimilate these pollutants. As a result they join natural cycle of substances and accumulate in consumers to cause deadly biomagnifications. Thus an imbalanced environment can no longer support and sustain life existing in it. Since resources are limited, and most of the resources that support life and build up the back bone of today’s development come from the biodiversity sources, it is difficult rather impossible for the natural environment to sustain the exploding human population.
The earlier model of unplanned technological economic development had no provision of equity. Thus economic disparity and poverty increased in a fast speed. Poor continued to become poorer whereas the rich continued to become richer.

The U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in one of his public addresses had once stated in 1937- The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much: it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

Sustenance of mankind and the balance of nature have close links with the diversity of cultures and organisms. Many cultures and traditions enrich and support biodiversity and biodiversity is essential for our growth and progress. Thus sustenance of mankind and eco friendly activities that promote traditional knowledge and traditional practices are important for the conservation of our age old traditions, culture, biodiversity and traditional knowledge.

A very big reason behind the risks against the sustenance of mankind is unsustainable consumption- overuse and wastage of resources. Here is a direct quote of some paragraphs from the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, U N Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development.

Fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development. All countries should promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, with the developed countries taking the lead and with all countries benefiting from the process, taking into account the Rio principles, including, inter alia, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities as set out in principle 7 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Governments, relevant international organizations, the private sector and all major groups should play an active role in changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns. This would include the actions at all levels set out below.

Encourage and promote the development of a 10-year framework of programmes in support of regional and national initiatives to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production to promote social and economic development within the carrying capacity of ecosystems by addressing and, where appropriate, delinking economic growth and environmental degradation through improving efficiency and sustainability in the use of resources and production processes and reducing resource degradation, pollution and waste. All countries should take action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development needs and capabilities of developing countries, through mobilization, from all sources, of financial and technical assistance and capacity-building for developing countries. This would require actions at all levels to:
(a) Identify specific activities, tools, policies, measures and monitoring and assessment mechanisms, including, where appropriate, life-cycle analysis and national indicators for measuring progress, bearing in mind that standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries;
(b) Adopt and implement policies and measures aimed at promoting sustainable patterns of production and consumption, applying, inter alia, the polluter-pays principle described in principle 16 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development;
(c) Develop production and consumption policies to improve the products and services provided, while reducing environmental and health impacts, using, where appropriate, science-based approaches, such as life-cycle analysis;
(d) Develop awareness-raising programmes on the importance of sustainable production and consumption patterns, particularly among youth and the relevant segments in all countries, especially in developed countries, through, inter alia, education, public and consumer information, advertising and other media, taking into account local, national and regional cultural values;
(e) Develop and adopt, where appropriate, on a voluntary basis, effective, transparent, verifiable, non-misleading and non-discriminatory consumer information tools to provide information relating to sustainable consumption and production, including human health and safety aspects. These tools should not be used as disguised trade barriers;
(f) Increase eco-efficiency, with financial support from all sources, where mutually agreed, for capacity-building, technology transfer and exchange of technology with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, in cooperation with relevant international organizations.

Increase investment in cleaner production and eco-efficiency in all countries through; inter alia, incentives and support schemes and policies directed at establishing appropriate regulatory, financial and legal frameworks. This would include actions at all levels to:
(a) Establish and support cleaner production programmes and centres and more efficient production methods by providing, inter alia, incentives and capacity-building to assist enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly in developing countries, in improving productivity and sustainable development;
(b) Provide incentives for investment in cleaner production and eco-efficiency in all countries, such as state-financed loans, venture capital, technical assistance and training programmes for small and medium-sized companies while avoiding trade-distorting measures inconsistent with the rules of the World Trade Organization;
(c) Collect and disseminate information on cost-effective examples in cleaner production, eco-efficiency and environmental management and promote the exchange of best practices and know-how on environmentally sound technologies between public and private institutions;
(d) Provide training programmes to small and medium-sized enterprises on the use of information and communication technologies.
Integrate the issue of production and consumption patterns into sustainable development policies, programmes and strategies, including, where applicable, into poverty reduction strategies.

Enhance corporate environmental and social responsibility and accountability. This would include actions at all levels to:
(a) Encourage industry to improve social and environmental performance through voluntary initiatives, including environmental management systems, codes of conduct, certification and public reporting on environmental and social issues, taking into account such initiatives as the International Organization for Standardization standards and Global Reporting Initiative guidelines on sustainability reporting, bearing in mind principle 11 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development;
 (b) Encourage dialogue between enterprises and the communities in which they operate and other stakeholders;
(c) Encourage financial institutions to incorporate sustainable development considerations into their decision-making processes;
(d) Develop workplace-based partnerships and programmes, including training and education programmes.

Encourage relevant authorities at all levels to take sustainable development considerations into account in decision-making, including on national and local development planning, investment in infrastructure, business development and public procurement. This would include actions at all levels to:
(a) Provide support for the development of sustainable development strategies and programmes, including in decision-making on investment in infrastructure and business development;
(b) Continue to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the costs of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment; 
 (c) Promote public procurement policies that encourage development and diffusion of environmentally sound goods and services;
(d) Provide capacity-building and training to assist relevant authorities with regard to the implementation of the initiatives listed in the present paragraph;
(e) Use environmental impact assessment procedures.

Key words : sustainable development,resource limitation, carrying capacity,unsustainable consumption

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