Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2019.
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A great event will be taking place at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, between September 25-27, 2015. More than 150 world leaders, including our Prime Minister, will be attending the UN Sustainable Development Summit, formally to adopt the new sustainable development agenda. This agenda serves as a template for action for all governments of the world for the next fifteen years, to promote prosperity and protect the planet for posterity.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the Millennium Development Goals which expire in 2015. International discussions regarding the SDGs have been ongoing since 2012 and hence resulted in the final document Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which will be adopted in the UN Sustainable Development Summit, a few days from now. These are based on a consensus of 193 countries on the following seventeen proposed goals:
These larger goals have been broken down to more specific targets, and will be incumbent upon governments to achieve them.
These universal sustainable development goals for the betterment of people across the globe and the good health of mother earth are badly needed, especially at a time when the mantra of greed and profit is destroying whole ecosystems, whether on land, or on water, or in the skies. We have brought our planet to a sorry state with our greed and exploitation, and nature has started showing us the results of our deeds. Climate change and global warming have become a reality across the world, with weather and rainfall patterns changing drastically. Their disastrous long term effects have been recorded by scientists all over the world and are being gradually being validated by events all around us – rising temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, erratic rainfall, drought, to name a few. And the greatest sufferers of the ensuing shocks will of course be the poor and vulnerable, something that has already started.
But what I find missing notably in the list of sustainable goals is the goal for achieving sustainable levels of population growth, and I wonder why this, a seriously relevant goal was excluded. As far as India is concerned, we must understand that the most pernicious and potent cause of our poverty is our uncontrolled population growth, as it far exceeds our growth of capital and national wealth. This must be halted with all our national might. Nature’s bounty in not infinite, especially when we damage and deplete the earth by human abuse - unlimited pollution, filthy rivers, holes in our ozone layer, CO 2 emissions, melting ice caps, global warming resulting from our fetish for artificial warming and cooling.
But what I find missing notably in the list of sustainable goals is the goal for achieving sustainable levels of population growth, and I wonder why this, a seriously relevant goal was excluded. As far as India is concerned, we must understand that the most pernicious and potent cause of our poverty is our uncontrolled growth, as it exceeds our growth of capital and national wealth. This must be halted with all our national might. Nature’s bounty inn not infinite, especially when we damage and deplete the earth by human abuse-unlimited pollution , filthy rivers, holes in our ozone layers, CO2 emissions , melting ice caps , global warming resulting from our fetish for artificial warming and cooling.
Obscurantists and fanatics who refuse to see contemporary reality for population stabilization need to be educated that our country needs youth who are healthy in body and mind, and free in thought, and our population and economic policies must also reflect our genuine secularism. I hope our Ministries of Health, Human Resources, and Minorities will show harmony of thought and action, and bring out an enlightened rule of law that shall make the nation an enviable lesson and model for the entire comity of nations.
Thomas Malthus in his “An Essay on the Principle of Population.” Published in 1798 made a somewhat pessimistic prediction about the threat of poverty and the suffering that goes with it. He forcefully argued that development of mankind was severely limited by the pressure that population growth exerted on availability of food. It was his firm conviction that since food and passion between the sexes are both essential for human existence but the world’s population would increase at a faster rate than its food supply. Population grows at a geometric rate but the production of food only grows arithmetically.
The growth of poverty and social conflict are inevitable was his gloomy prediction. But the Industrial Revolution that soon followed in Europe falsified his prediction for quite some time. This new phenomenon produced a remarkable increase in productivity particularly generated by unlocking of energy contained in fossil fuels like coal and oil. Availability of energy increased six fold between 1820 and 1950, while population only doubled. Yes these changes have made us forget this Malthusian horror. Another sixty five years have gone bye and it is time to recall the Malthusian nightmare and think of mastering it again. Scholar James Martin in his fantastic book “The Meaning of the 21st century has this to tell us.” Some authorities have attempted to calculate how many people the Earth can support in the second half of this century. The number declines as the ecological footprint grows due to increasing consumption patterns. It also declines as global warming shrinks the farm production of marginal areas and increases the spread of deserts. Farm production is also lowered as aquifers run dry and huge amounts of water are diverted to the rapidly growing cities. Modellers attempt to calculate the future increases in grain prices. Today we have a fairly good understanding of the Earths control mechanisms, and we have highly intricate models of climate change. The conclusion is that the Earth could not support today’s population if they lived decently. The drive for eliminating poverty must be combined with a drive for population decline.
I regret that neither the new Prime Minister nor his advisors are qualified to handle this revived probability of a collapse of the world in which our young are living today.