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Understanding our environment

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Understanding our environment

Monday, 18 February 2019 | Vinayshil Gautam

Colonialism rooted in fanning the embers of industrial imperialism did impact the world’s ecosystems. This aspect requires more research

Everyone knows, things are changing at a fast pace. There is a general debate on the direction of change. There are people, who are of the view that basically nothing has changed save the ‘means’, the ‘scale’ and the ‘speed’. Put simply, the argument walks on two legs. One: Human nature is essentially the same as it always was. What has kept changing with constancy of basic emotions of attraction, repulsion, anger, friendliness, nobility, vileness and more is its mode of expression. History of mankind is a history of change in these mode of expressions. The primitive man first fought with bare hands, then with clubs followed by sharp weapons like sword or spear. Then came the catapult and the propulsion of stones and missiles. Fire power entered the scene and then came ammunition. Gradually, warfare moved from the sea and the land to include the sky. Methods and levels kept changing but basics were more of the same.

In this see-saw between change and no change, in the actual condition of homo sapiens, two things were very clear. Human nature kept constant but its manifestations kept evolving. Typically, the methods of war-fare changed, so did the method of cooking or living but as noted earlier, basic emotions remained constant. This change was labelled as “incoming of modernity”. One can only say ‘amen’! Then there was the issue of civility. Consider how a community takes care of the old and the infirm. That is to be kept in mind when deciding upon the architecture of social engineering. As indicated above, one basic concern of measurement would be safety and care to the infirm and needy. The second would be the right of dignified transition from one phase of life cycle to another. Perhaps these two principles are so simple that almost all civil Governments seem to have responded in default. Time has come to change it.

Similarly, there are other areas which require a revision of the vantage point of perception. Typically, the findings of a research study by Alexander Kotch and his colleagues are reported to indicate certain theories. Of them, one is that climate change did not begin with industrialisation. They propose an alternate theory to an understanding of climate change. To be published by March this year, the study holds that changes in environment began with disease and war, which the European migrants brought to the Americas. By their reported estimates, 90 per cent of the indigenous population were wiped out by pestilence, war-fare and after effects. With Christopher Columbus pioneering the route to the Indies in 1492, began the process which altered the character of the population in a 100 years by simple decimation. Colonisation, virulent or otherwise, altered the character of the ecosystems they ventured into. It will be useful to remind ourselves that all colonisers were essentially soldiers of fortune. They may not even have been aware of what they could be triggering. But the innocence of the culprit so far as intentions are concerned, does not change the fall out of the nature of the act.

Reported media findings hold that this ushered in new vegetation which ‘preserved’ heat. It trapped carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So trapped from the layers of air, on to the land, it was that what ushered in the ‘little ice age’. Clearly. such an approach raises concomitant questions on the Earth’s history. Earth has an antiquity much older than the coming of age of homo-sapiens. For present purposes, it may be useful to focus on the period of history since the time homo sapiens dominated the planet. Other researches have thrown up differing theories. There is one which attributes the same phenomena of severe cold to weak solar activity and heightened volcanic activity.

Irrespective, consensus seems to be that study of the history of mankind must begin with the recognised date of presence of mankind on this planet. The time has come to look at these issues with clear lenses. Unless there is clarity on the causative factors, the creation of sustainable futures may become a gamble like of which would happen when one is ‘fiddling with wires in the dark’. If there is one thing that is clear, it is that colonialism rooted in fanning the embers of industrial imperialism did impact the ecosystems which had existed in different parts of the world for various millennia. Colonisation, causing into trail ecological deprivation, is not a fly-by-night episode to be ignored. It requires more research and sustained effort to understand what the original triggers of climate are and ecosystem change. The accelerators of industrialisation will have to wait for its place in sequence in the causative factors of the Earth’s depredations. The act of understanding the history of human beings on Earth has just begun to unfold. Such insights help plan for a robust future.

(The writer is a well-known management consultant)

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