We live in a world full of paradox- social ironies and economic enigmas. As discussed in my article Geopolitics of Environmental Issues, the regions where man first settled down, like the Fertile Crescent or the Indus Valley for instance, and initiated agriculture are today also the regions with greatest number of hungry people and range of other humanitarian crisis. Environment throughout history has been fundamental in shaping the society and the cultural practices. And yet today it has become the most vindictive antihero of the society. The challenge then lies in figuring out the balance between the anthropogenic and ecological practices.
Inherently, environment has the ability to build and destroy civilizations owing to its triumvirate of “Topography, Climate and Raw Materials”. Each of these components influences development in one way or the other. Topography, for instance, determines the diet and livelihood mechanisms of people. Individuals living on plains would be more dependent on agriculture versus those living near sea, with latter trading into fisheries. Similarly climate too establishes new cultural norms. From determining the kind of clothes one wears to the type of houses one resides in- societies and culture are indeed deeply subject to climatic conditions. Climate further determines the raw material available in the area, depending on which jobs, food and specialties change. New cultural symbols and representations are fashioned thereafter.
However, over the centuries immense societal pressure has created unsustainable ecological practices. Increased carbon footprint, forest fires, oceanic bleaching and global warming for instance are direct results of the neo-industrialized world we are living in. Though, there is a realization that the societies are now inflicted by severe environmental problems, needing immediate attention; yet despite active interventions by the world leaders and organizations, these issues are becoming more and more complex by the day.
Amitav Ghosh writes in The Great Derangement–
“When future generations look back upon the Great Derangement they will certainly blame the leaders and politicians of this time for their failure to address the climate crisis. But they may well hold artists and writers equally culpable- for imagining of possibilities is not, after all, the job of politicians and bureaucrats.” (Page 181)
In order to face these environmental challenges then, people need to adopt a more multidisciplinary approach. To create a harmonious balance between environment and society- leaders, academicians, artists and civil society need to look through the prism of technology, politics, economics, strategy and creative mediums. This is essential as interactions are constantly changing between human society and the environment. Given the wide variety of people with adherence to different set of cultures, interests and values- environment studies needs to ensure equilibrium of this relationship. There will always be trade-offs and at times will be accompanied by unanticipated consequences. Nonetheless, a well-managed environment can offer goods and services which are both indispensable for the global society’s well-being as well as for incessant economic prosperity.