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Published : November 26, 2010 | Author : vnhiremath
Category : Environmental Law | Total Views : 25550 | Rating :

Vijay N Hiremath

Conservation Of Natural Resources

The green, flat earth lay infinite
Its edge was out of mind,
We ate the fruit, we grubbed the root.

The forest closed behind and then it got all globular and we could soil it round. It was ours to keep, we burrowed deep to see what could be found. That great big world is shrinking now. It is getting very small. Perchance we’ll wake one morning and it won’t be there of all.

In order to maintain a decent quality of life, man must progress and develop. Such a development requires a rational use of natural resources, which will seek to avoid waste, which can occur in both in production and in consumption. The purpose of development is to enable people to enjoy long, healthy and fulfilling lives. The development should be both people- centered and conservation-based. Otherwise it will not achieve this purpose and investment will be wasted. Development will only succeed if it maintains the productivity, resilience and variety of the biosphere. On other hand, conservation will provide lasting benefits only when it is integrated with the right kinds of development. Any irrational use of natural resources will result in environmental crisis. Hence man must ensure that in his quest for material progress, he does not overstep the limits and he works within the limits of what has been referred to as “Sustainable development”.

Over a decade ago The World Conservation Strategy, stated a new message: that conservation is not the opposite of development. It emphasized that conservation includes both protection and the rational use of natural resources, and is essential if people are to achieve a life of dignity and if the welfare of present and future generations is to be assured. It also emphasized that, humanity as a part of nature, has no future unless nature and natural resources are conserved. It drew attention to the almost limitless capacity of people both to build and destroy. It called for globally coordinated efforts to increase human well-beings and that the destruction of earth’s capacity to support life. The WCS intended to restate current thinking about conservation and development in a way that will inform and encourage those who believe that people and nature are worth caring about and that their futures are intertwined.

An "unsustainable situation" occurs when natural capital (the sum total of nature's resources) is used up faster than it can be replenished. Sustainability requires that human activity only uses nature's resources at a rate at which they can be replenished naturally. Inherently the concept of sustainable development is intertwined with the concept of carrying capacity. Theoretically, the long-term result of environmental degradation is the inability to sustain human life. Such degradation on a global scale could imply extinction for humanity.

Over-consumption is a theory related to overpopulation, referring to situations where per capita consumption is so high that even in spite of a moderate population density, sustainability is not achieved.

A fundamental effect of over-consumption is a reduction in the planet's carrying capacity. Excessive unsustainable consumption will exceed the long term carrying capacity of its environment (ecological overshoot) and subsequent resource depletion, environmental degradation and reduced ecological health.

Because the earth is continuously changing, conservation must maintain the capacity of ecosystem and human communities that depend on them to adapt. Thinking globally and acting locally is not enough, we must act globally as well. The environment links all nations.

Man in his quest for life, exploits the earth’s resources like air, water, soil, minerals, forest and others which are the gift of mother nature to him and his progeny. The Natural resources of the earth must be conserved for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning and management.

Human being are among the innumerable species inhabiting the earth who like other species, live by developing a relationship with their environment comprising both living organism and non-living substances. All living organisms rely on some part of external world to provide them with the means to carry on living –to breathe, to take nutrition and so on. All organisms in this sense, depend on resources outside themselves, and human beings are no exception to this rule.[ii]
However unlike other species the relationship between man and nature has vastly changed over time due to the development of human consciousness represented by science, technology, values and cultures. With the help of science and technology human beings have transformed the resources of nature in to products according to their value system for consumption and betterment of their well-being. We use a wide range of external natural resources to maintain life and to preserve our societies. Such natural resources are importantly categorized in to renewable and non-renewable resources.

Renewable resources are resources that can be replaced or renewed as they are used. Some renewable resources are inexhaustible (for instance, solar power from the sun). Others can be exhausted if the rate of depletion is greater than that of renewal (for instance, forests are renewable but can be exhausted if the rate of depletion e living organism exceeds that of replanting). Still other renewable resources are renewable only to a point- for instance, any particular species is technically renewable in that its members can keep breeding, but populations can fall below a minimum level of viability, leading to extinction and the permanent loss of the resource. In this sense, even some renewable resources can be depleted or exhausted. The expression sustainable use is sometimes applied to the use of Renewable resources at the level that they can replenish themselves.

Non- Renewable resources are those that cannot be renewed or replaced once used, they are gone forever. It is non-renewable natural resources that are usually being referred to in the context of resource depletion.

The depletion of non- Renewable resources has been a key issue in environmental debate for at least 25 years. It was one of the main areas of concern, alongside industrialization, population growth, malnutrition, and a generally deteriorating environment, that was highlighted by the 1972 report of the club of Rome, The Limits of Growth. However more recent reports have raised similar questions about global resource depletion.[iii]

The environment degradation is the consequence of both the abundance and scarcity. The abundance is the product of techno-economic advancement whereas the scarcity is the non-fulfillment of the basic needs. The abundance, which is visible profoundly in the West, has given rise to several movements against the environmental degradation. Concerned people are crossing the boundary of their disciplines and political affiliations and opposing the ongoing trends of abundance.[iv]

The renewable resources are under different forms of ownership-private, public and community.[v] The concept of property rights in relation to the case of Natural Resources, and the operationalisation of the concept in economic theory. It has long been recognized that the ownership of a resource to a large extent influences the way the resource is used and managed for future use. The basic idea is rather straightforward: when an individual owns a resource and can expect to own and profit from the resource in the future as well, the individual has incentive to invest in the resource in the form of protective measures, restrained use and careful management. On the otherhand, if more than one individual has access to the particular resource, these investments are characterised as public goods, is the returns from the investment of one user may be cashed by others. This kind of ownership provides incentive for free-ridings, resulting in overutilization of the natural resources.[vi]
Significant contributions have been made to understand the nature and extent of problems relating to the common property Resource degradation, people’s role in it and impact of such degradation on the communities depend on such resources. It has been argued that because of no strict regulation and control by the Authorities –local, regional, national or international, the natural resources get overused and misused. Hence, the way out is to impose strict regulation on the population by the government. There is a second view which says that the commons property resources are deteriorating fast because there are no clear property rights. The proponents of this view suggest that if the property rights are defined clearly then there would be an incentive to arrest the degradation of common resources and regulate its sustainable use.[vii]

This has made possible an indefinite growth of demand for natural resources and environmental services to support resource intensive development. Given the size of human population and aggregate size of world economic activities, such a demand on the biospheric resources was not considered for a long time to be causing any stress or strain on nature’s functional system or disturbing the ecological balance. Economics, until the last quarter of the twentieth century ignored the limitations on functioning of an economy except diminishing return of land. With population explosion and pace of industrialization of the world, the situation has now vastly changed at the end of the twentieth century.[viii]

Today there are ample evidences of the adverse impacts of unmindful expansion of economic activities driven by the force of capitalist accumulation on the ecological balance. It is feared that too much tilting of the balance may cause the ecosystem to move away from the existing locally stable equilibrium which may describe a new eco regime whose characteristics are unknown, and therefore involve vast uncertainties. The sustainability of the present global pattern of development process has become an issue of deep concern especially of uncertainty of the human ability to adapt in future with less cost, to the changing environmental condition.

Our civilization is at risk because, we are misusing natural resources and disturbing natural system. We are pressing the earth to the limits of its capacity. Since the industrial resolution, human numbers have grown eight fold. Industrial production has risen by more than hundred years. This unprecedented increase in human numbers and activity has had major impacts on the environment.

The capacity of the earth to support human and other life has been significantly diminished. In less than two hundred years the planet has lost six square k.m of forests; the sediment load from soil erosion has risen three fold in major river basins and by eight times in smaller, more intensively used one’s ; water withdrawals have grown from 100 to 3600 cubic k.ms a year.

Sustainability will be impossible unless human population and resource demand level off within the carrying capacity of the earth. If we apply to our lives the rules we seek to apply when managing other species, we should try to leave a substantial safety margin between our total impact and our estimate of what the planetary environment can withstand. This is more essential because while we know that the ultimate limits exist we are uncertain at exactly what point we may reach them. It is important to remember that we are seeking not just survival but a sustainable improvement in the quality of life of several billion people.

The actions needed to keep within the earth’s carrying capacity will vary greatly from nation to nation-and even among communities within nations-because of the wide variations in population size, population growth rates, human needs, resource consumption patterns and the availability of resources.[ix]

Hence sustainable development must be the new pattern for all levels; individuals, communities, nationals and the world. To adopt the new pattern will require a significant change in the attitude and practices of many people, we will need to ensure that education programmes reflect the importance of ethic for living sustainably and that information campaigns are mounted to disseminate it.

Progress towards sustainability has been slow because of the belief that conservation and development are opposite. Legal, social, economical, and technical measures aimed to sustainability must be integrated in planning and action at all levels, particularly in national governments which have the main levers for strategic action.[x]

In order to arrive at the right policy approach for sustainable development it is imperative to, a) understand the inter-relationship between the structure and function of nature and economy, b) adapt to some shift of the paradigm of economic analysis for appropriate integration of the interface issues in various sciences in an interdisciplinary framework.[xi]

Development is development not only on technological solutions but on human values pertaining to the notion of human well being. Appropriate technological interventions are needed to relax the constraints imposed by ecological principles on the functioning of the human economy. The development of the knowledge base for technological change has to take due account of the ecological principles should support appropriate technological change and induce changes in value for environment protection and promoting sustainable development.

Incentives to use natural resources sustainably depend on the property rights of users. Governments and local communities should jointly develop policy for renewable resource management.
Ramprasad Sengupta, Ecology and Economics, an approach to Sustainable Development, 2001, oxford University Press, p.1-2.
[ii] Ramesh Prasad Mohanty, Environmental Degradation:the issues of today, “Environment and Economic Development”, 1996, APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi, p.81
[iii] Ramesh Prasad Mohanty, Environmental Degradation:Major issues on environmental ethics, Environment and Economic Development, APH Publishing Corporation, 1996, p.81-82.
[iv] Shukadeba Naik and N.K.Mahakud, “Need for an Ecological model of Development”, Sociology of Environment,Rawat Publication,New Delhi. 1998, p.66-67.
[v] Maire Claire Corodonier and Ashfaq Khalfan, “Sustainable Development Law”, Principles, practices and prospects, Oxford University Press, 2004,p.
[vi] Bromley, Daniel W., ed. (1991), Environment and Economy, Property Rights and Public Policy, Blackwell.p.
[vii] Sudarshan Iyengar, Common Property Land Rsources, ‘Sustainable Regeneration of Degraded Lands’, Tata Mc Graw-Hill Publishing Co. Ltd, 1997, p.57
[viii] Supra end note 5
[ix] Earth’s Carrying capacity, Keeping within the Earth’s carryiung capacity.p.43
[x] Caring For the Earth, A Strategy for Sustainable living, Seccond World Conservation Strategy Project, IUCN, UNEP &WWF Publications, 1991.
[xi] Ramprasad Sengupta, Ecology and Economics, an approach to Sustainable Development, 2001, oxford University Press, p.1-2.

Authors contact info - articles The  author can be reached at: vnhiremath@legalserviceindia.com

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