Vice President Ansari addresses 22nd Convocation of Himachal Pradesh University at Shimla
The Vice President of India M. Hamid Ansari has said that we live in a highly dynamic, human-dominated earth system in which non-linear, abrupt and irreversible environmental changes are becoming more frequent. Governance for sustainability in this epoch of human activities that impact on the Earthâ€™s ecosystem – the â€œanthropoceneâ€ eraâ€” which is a new geological era when human behaviour drastically changes the earth system â€” requires that objectives, underlying values and norms of our actions, as well as knowledge systems and power structures be re-defined. Addressing at the â€œ22nd Convocation of Himachal Pradesh Universityâ€ at Shimla, Himachal Pradesh today, he said that India makes up 2.4 percent of the world’s land, while supporting 16 percent of the world’s population. The compounding result is a severely unsustainable use of natural resources for several generations. Currently, India is experiencing rapid and widespread environmental degradation at alarming rates.
He said that the impact of environmental changes and hazards is most significantly felt by those who live on ground zero. Their livelihoods, habitation and sustenance- indeed their whole existence- is linked to the environment they live in. While all who live in these fragile ecosystems are vulnerable, more vulnerable to any risk from a natural or man-made environmental hazard are the poor, the weaker and weakest segments of the society. It is, therefore, only reasonable that the people and communities who are most closely associated with the natural landscape should have the greatest say in governance of their environment.
The Vice President opined that the achievement of this objective is impeded by the urge for capital and energy intensive, resource hungry economic growth has often led to appropriation by the State or privatization of resources, particularly of land, thereby reducing and restricting peopleâ€™s access to their immediate environment. Alongside, however, increasing awareness of environmental problems, both local, such as problems of deforestation, soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, and global, such as global warming and climate change, ozone depletion, acid rain, etc. has led to a sizable section of the general public and the scientific community to question the wisdom of unlimited socio-economic growth and the orthodox scientific idea of humans being able to insulate themselves from environmental degradation.
He said that our times are characterised by the awareness of human induced environmental problems, their impact, and the options for adoption and mitigation. In 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) agreed under Agenda 21 to emphasize the importance of rethinking the existing approach to Environment governance in favour of one that involves people’s participation and accommodates indigenous knowledge and local values and interests.
The Vice President addred that it has now become apparent that approaches to sustainability governance based merely on economic values are insufficient â€” and partly the cause of unsustainable development. There is a clear need to go beyond GDP and market values when measuring development. Human well-being and quality of life are important additional values, as are considerations of ecosystem services and the non-anthropocentric values of other living beings. The time has come for us to re-examine the priorities, pathways, and qualitative and normative goals of sustainability. We must hold fast to Gandhijiâ€™s assertion that “true economics stands for social justice; it promotes the good of all equally, including the weakest and is indispensable for decent life”.