Monday, October 10, 2011

Greed eyeing green

By Sudhirendar Sharma
16 September, 2011

Is green capitalism a distraction from the real issues that the world needs to address to realize sustainable development?

Henk Manschot, a Professor of Ethics and Sustainable Development at the Kosmopolis Institute in the Netherlands, shocked a global gathering at a conference in the Hague late last year when he revealed how ‘global footprint’ increases as people move up the human development index. As people consume resources to go up on the index, their ecological footprint stretches on additional hectares of land on the planet. ‘If the resource poor billion plus were to gain improved access to basic services such as health, education and portable water, the planet will run out of its hectares,’ warned Manschot.

The warning is imminent although there is no international consensus on how to reach out to the deprived billions. While global food security has yet to be achieved, the outlook for freshwater scarcity and improved sanitation looks bleak. Collectively, these crises are severely impacting the possibility of sustaining prosperity to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for reducing extreme poverty. Top it with growing fossil fuel and energy demand and the cup of woes will spill over like a never-before tsunami of unprecedented nature. The signs are ominous!

Forty years since Stockholm and twenty years following the Rio Summit, the world has slipped backwards on its race to alleviate poverty and on its efforts to reverse the ecological decline. Conversely, obsession with capitalist model of development has acerbated social instability, economic insecurity and job losses. While some of the biggest western-style economies are dragging the global economy with their sovereign debt dramas, the developing world's obsession with economic growth is leading to deepening of the ecological crises.

To pull the planet from the current mess, world leaders will get back to the drawing board yet again. Knowing well that none of their previous commitments to sustainable development have worked, the congregation at Rio in June 2012 will carve out a new global agenda for survival of mankind. Though global climate negotiations have already hit a road block, the leaders are taking a detour to charter a ‘green economy’ pathway aimed at getting the planet back on track. While ‘green' as a colour seems promisingly soothing, its contents are fuzzy and somewhat contentious.

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