[op-ed snap] Sustaining earth for the future

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Anthropocene era, Half Earth project, India’s forest policy

Mains level: Changing biodiversity patterns in light of climate change and India’s efforts to deal with them


Context

India’s rich fabric of biodiversity

  1. India is blessed with an extraordinary richness of life
  2. A myriad of unusual and exquisite species occur in the countless ecosystems spread across our vast lands, rivers, and oceans

Change in structure

  1. This unique bio-cultural tapestry has been resilient to change for centuries, but with the unleashing of unprecedented economic and environmental forces, it is now subject to increased wear and tear
  2. These forces could even destroy our tapestry of life, cultures and traditions — and in the process, ourselves
  3. Modern extinction rates are more than a thousand times greater than the rates of the geological past
  4. In recent decades, populations of more than 40% of large mammals have declined and insect biomass has decreased by more than 75%
  5. Natural habitats all over the world have shrunk

Start of Anthropocene era

  1. We have entered what scientists are calling the Anthropocene era
  2. It is a new period in earth’s history when humans have begun to impact our environment at the global scale

Half Earth project

  1. To protect life on earth, the famous American biologist E.O. Wilson has described an ambitious project he calls “Half-Earth”
  2. He calls for formally protecting 50% of the earth’s land surface in order to conserve our rapidly disappearing natural heritage

India’s efforts & policy interventions required

  1. India’s forest policy calls for forests to cover almost a third of the country, and if we include other natural systems such as grasslands and wetlands, the area to be protected could amount to almost 40%
  2. We need a massive new effort to catalog, map, and monitor life, using fundamentally different approaches
  3. This mapping effort would include not only all life, including cultures, ethnicities, and dialects but also the use of biodiversity and its vulnerability to changes in land use and climate
  4. Our institutions need to place far more emphasis on the scientific study of life at higher levels
  5. We also need a comprehensive inquiry into how our society is shaping as well as responding to changes in biodiversity

Way forward

  1. The India Biodiversity Portal has the ambitious goal of mapping India’s biodiversity with the engagement of civil society
  2. The government and private philanthropy need to bring together multiple stakeholders to develop a programme to document, map and monitor all life
  3. There is also a need to develop a new knowledge enterprise to fully explore various dimensions of biodiversity and ecosystem services and their critical link to our future
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.
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