Crisis, and awareness
Nations worldwide have been trying to understand and contain environmental problems.
Many of us have been hearing about environmental issues for over a decade now, yet are much behind the west in realising how bleak our future can be.
It is important to be aware of the deliberations that took place before this millennium, and about the crisis looming large on us, which may impart greater seriousness among us.
There is a curious decadal connection between the book Silent Spring published in 1962, the Stockholm Conference of 1972, forming the Brundtland Committee in 1983 and the pivotal event of the Earth Summit of 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).
Though the preceding years had witnessed many initiatives, the Earth Summit with Climate Convention discussing reduction in carbon emissions; Rio Declaration with 27 principles to be implemented worldwide; Agenda 21 as a lengthy report containing framework of actions for 21st century; technology transfer from the affluent northern to poorer southern nations and such others proved to be a pivotal event.
UNCED became a turning point with more than hundred heads of government converging at one place, though it was also felt to be ambitious, bureaucratic and had many jargons. Though it was very participatory with large NGO representations, the attitudinal division between North and South got amplified here.
Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, changing political scenarios and lack of commitments to assurances made, not much was achieved on field due to UNCED.
Incidentally, members of the 1972 book ‘Limits to growth’ had published a sequel ‘Beyond the Limits’ just before UNCED, where they realised consumption patterns were happening much earlier than they had predicted.
In the meanwhile the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and GATT (General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade) became more powerful to the disillusionment of environmental activists, for both of them encouraged free trade capital, competitive industries, production and consumption based not on locality but on pricing comparison across the world.
Virtually, all this were to increase consumerist attitudes and business would override ecological concerns.