The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements has underlined the urgent need to protect the environment in so that the next generation can inherit a liveable world. The climate change that has taken place over the past few years has been marked by an extreme heat wave, forest fires in the United States and recently in the Amazon rain forest. It was reported in The Statesman on 25 August that scientists have stated that “The dramatic scale of this year’s fire in Amazon is a result of significant acceleration of deforestation for the lumber industry, for agriculture or for other human activities”. This only highlights the reality that society’s exploitation of nature to meet its physical needs continues even today. As a result natural calamities are occurring more frequently. Such disasters are rooted in climate change. Scientists have urged the world community to take immediate steps to mitigate climate change; otherwise there may be worse disasters in the days to come, endangering cities and civilisations from the face of the earth. It has been reported that Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, is sinking.
Human beings are responsible for the deterioration and exploitation of nature and the world’s resources. It is the affluent Western countries that are primarily responsible for such exploitation to facilitate luxurious living conditions. The natural and mineral resources thus destroyed have never been replaced.
The United Nations Conference on Environment held about seven decades ago drew the attention of the world community to safeguarding the environment and the close relationship between human settlements and environment. The meeting yielded the declaration by the UN Habitat ~ “We have not inherited the earth from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children”. This caveat makes it clear that exploitation of the earth’s resources will impact the future generation and that is exactly what is happening now. Climate change is taking place because of random exploitation of the earth’s trees, plants and water.
It has been analysed by experts and reported in the book, Architectures: Creating Green Buildings Sustainable Habitat that human settlements with its high density housing, commercial buildings consume about 60 per cent of the total energy that is consumed by cities. These 20 per cent of greenhouse gases. Apart from buildings, infrastructure and transport are a major contributor to the generation of greenhouse gases. Since buildings consume a huge amount of energy and pollute the environment, these must be designed without exploitation of the resources and the green environment.
These buildings must be part of nature and “not exploit nature”. The temperature in cities is higher than the periphery of cities where large green areas are available. This allows the heat reflected from buildings and roads to dissipate, whereas in dense cities 70 per cent of the area is covered with buildings which re-radiate heat after absorbing solar heat and there is very little green area for the heat to dissipate.
While constructing buildings, the earth must never be over-exploited and minimum pesticide ought to be used for treating the soil at the foundation level so that pesticides do not seep through the underground water channels. In a small agricultural town in the US, pesticides used in agricultural fields once seeped through the ground’s water channels and polluted the town, killing fish and birds. It prompted the biologist, Rachel Carson, to write the wel- known book on environment called Silent Spring (Penguin, 2000). It inspired the worldwide environment movement on the ban on the use of pesticides on a large scale.
Whenever the earth is excavated for any construction and development it must not eliminate all flora and fauna and the remaining open area of the excavated soil around the building and structures must be restored to its original position.
The dawn of the industrial era has harmed nature and its resources which were randomly exploited for many decades without restoring the earth to its natural state. Nature has been exploited in order to meet the demands for material needs of the people and to make money. These actions are said to be the major reasons for the worsening of environmental pollution. It has affected both the air and water. Development work must be carried out without excessive exploitation. It must be carried out with minimal destruction of nature, and whatever destruction has been caused must be restored to its original state to enable the eco-system to restore itself. Random exploitation of nature without any restoration has resulted in climate change.
Every individual has a role to play if people really want to prevent climate change. We need to start from our homes where we should reduce wastes and separate the wastes in different containers ~ “degradable wastes” and “non-degradable wastes”. These containers can then be taken to the central wastes’ treatment centre.
Non-degradable plastic containers have become one of the major polluters of the environment; they choke the surface and underground sewers, water channels and sea beds, and as a result flora and fauna and coral reef are in danger. There is need to reduce the use of plastics in the form of plastic bottles, carry bags and containers. Instead, glass, laminated cloth and jute bags and earthen containers are preferable.
Man must take urgent action to restore whatever is destroyed in nature, be it trees and flora and fauna, waterbodies. Excavation of the earth for ores, minerals and for laying of infrastructure and service lines needs to be reduced. The earth must be restored to its original state so that the next generation can inherit a sustainable living environment.