Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

A New Ethics for a Sustainable Planet

In the background of recurring natural calamities, it is required to formulate a new sustainable policy for the future of the planet.

Natural Calamities:

  • Brazil’s Amazon forests are ablaze with dozens of fires.
  • Most of them were set intentionally by loggers and others seeking greater access to forest land.
  • The fires are paving the way for a global climate catastrophe.
  • How long the fires can continue is unclear.
  • Many cities in Europe and elsewhere have seen high temperatures never before experienced.
  • Heat waves have also accelerated melting of glaciers in Greenland at a rate that was not anticipated by scientific models until much later this century.

Reasons behind Climate Change:

  • Energy and transport sectors are mainly responsible for the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation, industrial agricultural systems, changes in land use patterns and desertification are also major drivers of climate change.
  • Agriculture, forestry and other land use activities accounted for around 23% of the total net anthropogenic emissions of GHGs during 2007-2016.

IPCC Report:

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently brought out a special report on Climate Change and Land that covers desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.
  • The report makes it clear that unless land is managed in a sustainable manner, the diminishing chance that humanity will survive climate change will become smaller still.

Land management:

  • Land provides food, water, livelihoods, biodiversity and a range of other benefits from its ecosystems.
  • However, decades of poor land management in the agricultural system is a huge concern.
  • Soils have become depleted with heavy use of chemicals.
  • Farms have few or no friendly insects.
  • Monoculture has led to a reduction in the use of indigenous crop varieties with useful characteristics.
  • Groundwater is depleted.
  • Polluted farm runoffs are contributing to contaminated water bodies and destroying biodiversity.
  • The system no longer supports agricultural households, and it has eventually led to farmer suicides.

Are the Global Powers Withdrawing from their Responsibilities?

  • European leaders and civil society in many places are organising protests to oppose policies that encourage the fires.
  • However, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has stated that they are an internal matter and that they were actually started by the very non-governmental organisations who are now shouting “fire”.
  • S President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement stating that it is against the national interests of the U.S.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a vocal critic of European integration, is uncertain about climate change.
  • He accepts funding from groups which deny climate change while also saying that he would ask the U.S. to take climate change more seriously.
  • These policies may appear to be part of a nationalist ideology.
  • But these actions have consequences that goes beyond national boundaries and impact all creatures that share life on the planet.

Way Forward:

  • Better management of farm land entails implementing more sustainable agricultural practices such as:
  • Reducing chemical input drastically.
  • Using natural methods of agro ecology.
  • These methods would reduce emissions and enhance resilience to warming.
  • Conversion of grassland to cropland need to be avoided.
  • Equitable management of water should be brought in for agriculture.
  • Other methods include:
  • Crop diversification
  • Agroforestry
  • Investment in local and indigenous seed varieties that can withstand higher temperatures.
  • Practices that increase soil carbon and reduce salinisation.

Sustainable Food Systems

  • Sustainable food systems involve the following factors:
  • Reducing food waste. It is estimated that a quarter of the food produced is being wasted.
  • Eating locally grown food.
  • Cutting meat consumption.
  • Stopping deforestation.
  • Conserving mangroves, peatland and other wetlands.

Land Use Policy for Future:

  • Land use policy should incorporate the following factors:
  • Better access to markets for small and marginal farmers.
  • Empower women farmers.
  • Expand agricultural services.
  • Strengthen land tenure systems.
  • Sustainable land management can reduce inequality and poverty.
  • It will also help societies adapt better to climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Fresh template needed:

  • The narrow lens of nationalism is no longer serving us in thinking about how to address the transnational challenges of climate change and land.
  • We need a new planetary ethics that supports alternative systems for a sustainable future of earth.
  • It needs to cultivate the growth of ecological sensibilities, support pluralism, enhance the quality of life, shift values away from consumerism and create new identities and cultures that transcend conventional boundaries.

Successful Models:

  • There have been successful civil society movements that have transcended borders. Ex.: La Via Campesina, the Transition Network, and Bioregionalism.
  • More recently, Fridays for Future and Fossil Fuel Divestment are part of such evolving initiatives.
  • The Great Transition Initiative focus on seeing our place as part of the web of life, instead of at its centre. Our sensibilities have to shift just as Copernicus changed the perception of the earth from the centre of the universe to being one among many planets.

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