Human activities consume resources and produce waste. As human populations and economies grow, so does the consumption of natural resources and the production of waste. This in turn increases pollution and depletes the resource base and diminishes nature's absorptive and regenerative capacity.
Humanity now needs the bio-capacity of 1.7 Earths to obtain the resources used by the global economy, up from about 0.5 Earths in the 1950s. And India needs some 1.5 India's to sustain itself, up from the 0.3 or 0.4 India's it needed at independence. The generous wealth endowed to us by Mother Nature, like a spendthrift's bank balance, is rapidly disappearing, as the gap between withdrawals and deposits keeps growing.
This situation is not widely understood but is clearly not sustainable; over the coming decades it has to change radically. All nations now need urgently to bring their ecological footprint into balance with their bio-capacity.
Per capita, India's ecological footprint1 is relatively modest in comparison with affluent countries which often exceed footprints of 10. However, because of the size of its population, India as a nation has the third largest ecological footprint in the world. Only the US and Chinese arebigger.
While the country's rich few consume large quantities of resources, comparable to their peers in highly industrialised economies, the large majority of Indians are too poor to access even the minimum amounts needed for a decent, healthy life. Yet, we have little room for manoeuvre.
Worse, as the footprint grows and the bio-capacity continues to shrink, the runaway narrowing of options inexorably reduces the space for making rational, optimal decisions for a better future, whether in the social, economic or political domains.
The Club of Rome in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India organised an international Conference on "Securing the Forests, Land, and Soils for All"- The Need for Innovation and Coherence in Managing These Key National Assets 'on 23-24th November 2016, Multipurpose Hall, India International Centre, New Delhi. The event was inaugurated by Hon'ble Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, Shri. Anil Madhav Dave.
Speaking at the event, Shri Anil Madhav Dave,said, "We need to relook at our relationship with land, soils and forests- first empathize and relate to nature if we want to minimize our carbon footprint. Our approach and understanding of nature is inbuilt in our DNA. If we are to deal with the issues of today we should make regeneration of forest and soil a Jan Andolan- a movement of the people. Because it is only the Gandhian or Indian way of life that can ensure ecological sustainability".
Shri S. Ramadorai, Chairman, Indian National Association for the Club of Rome in his welcome address said, "We have to maintain our cultural identity, protect nature through traditional and community knowledge and woven them with modern scientific knowledge. We need a retrospective policy analysis, which in turn will lead to prospective policy analysis pertaining to forest, environment and ecosystem protection at large. The question here is that is there a need to make new laws that would be more realistic or flexible or may be more rigid, or otherwise to make service delivery systems more rigorous and prompt, increase financial acceptability and accountability, etc."
According to Dr. Ashok Khosla,Trustee, Club of Rome India, Co-Chair, International Resources Panel and Chairman, Development Alternatives, "Other than water, perhaps no resource created by nature has a more fundamental role in maintaining living systems than soil. Today, the threats to the quality and productivity of our soils come not just from natural causes such as wind or stream erosion, but even more from encroachment by cities, roads, and extractive industries and, equally, by the demands by the manufacturers of building materials. It takes centuries, even millennia, to build an inch of soil; just a few years to blow it away".
"Forest are the lifeline of our civilization and nurturing them is not a simply a luxury but an imperative. We can deal with the challenges of conserving our resource base for the future, and provide all citizens with a quality of life if work together. We can partner to apply our thinking to influence convergence in policies that recognizes the symbiotic relationship between people and ecosystems".
Shri Shyam Saran, Chairman, Research and information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and former Foreign Secretary, India said, "We are facing a planetary emergency today because of our extractive strategy of growth- disposability or a one time culture. The trade-off required today is that development cannot be at the cost of ecological sustainability if are to ensure the livelihoods of the future."
The Club of Rome India Annual conference under the theme of "Forests and Ecosystems Security" aims to bring together top national and international experts to consider some of the fundamental pre-requisites for achieving the goals of both the concerns such as above in India. The conference looks deeply into existing or proposed policies that have counter-intuitive or counterproductive implications for securing the forests, land, water and soils. And it is highlighting this needed coherence among these policies, and help formulation of converging strategies for revising or strengthening them.
Our forests, land, and soils are the essential supports for the health of our life-sustaining food and water resources (the security of which was discussed, respectively, in the Club of Rome India's Annual Conferences in 2014 and 2015). The conclusions from both discussions clearly homed in on three instrumentalities in which India needs great and immediate improvement: Innovation, particularly in institutions and technology; Investment, particularly in people and nature; and Coherence, particularly in the making of policies and economic structures.
So the challenge before our meeting is to identify the Innovations, Investments and Convergences that India now has to bring about to create a development pathway that provides all its citizens, rich and poor, with an adequate quality of life without relentlessly destroying its resource base and its future.
About Club of Rome
The Club of Rome Founded in 1968 at Rome, Italy, the organization is a gathering of eminent thought leaders including current and former heads of state, UN bureaucrats, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the globe. The Club's mission is "to act as a global catalyst for change through the identification and analysis of the crucial problems facing humanity and the communication of such problems to the most important public and private decision makers as well as to the general public".
Since its inception, many new Think Tanks and Thought Leaders have come into existence. Yet, the standing of the Club or Rome remains unique. The Club of Rome still stands alone among all the other wonderful initiatives around the world to tackle the crises facing us because of its commitment to dealing with emerging issues the importance of which others have not yet fully recognized, putting them in a new frame of thinking and looking at them from a perspective of fairness, resource impact and overall sustainability.