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  Looking for enlightened solutions to heal Earth

Looking for enlightened solutions to heal Earth

Published : Nov 18, 2015, 12:03 am IST
Updated : Nov 18, 2015, 12:03 am IST

Global warming and climate change. These are the buzzwords that get thrown around every time we face an environmental crisis.


Global warming and climate change. These are the buzzwords that get thrown around every time we face an environmental crisis. Be it vanishing forests, dwindling rivers or disappearing lakes, global warming has been considered to be the responsible with human consumption at the helm driving the world towards an environmental breakdown. The issue has often driven environmentalists to propagate the message of the approaching end of the world with a lot of enthusiasm, earnestness and often blended in with a bit of theatrics.

However, physicist Vikram Soni in his book Naturally: Tread Softly on the Planet refrains from sending out apocalyptic messages. Instead, he has analysed the environmental predicament, combined research with anecdotes and has proposed solutions to the problems that we are currently facing. As the book attests, it is a survival guide for life on earth.

Describing the importance of maintaining the natural cycles that work like a global safety net to keep the planet in a steady state, Soni says that these cycles are the fundamentals that form the basic architecture of the living planet from an incredible diversity of organisms. They are woven together, ingeniously, to act in concert and sustain life on the planet. Therefore every organism, irrespective of its size, has a role to play to retain Earth’s stability.

Enforcing on the need to pay attention to even the minute members of the environmental family, he says that even the “bugs and weeds” contribute in maintaining a stable equilibrium in our natural cycles. Among the many examples from journals quoted by the author in the book is one from Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth by entomologist Edward O. Wilson. The example elaborates on how a Madagascar “weed”, the rosy periwinkle provided the alkaloids that cure most cases of Hodgkin’s disease and adult childhood leukaemia; a substance obtained from an obscure Norwegian fungus made possible the organ implant industry; voracious caterpillar of an undistinguished moth from American tropics saved Australia’s pastureland from the overgrowth of cactus.

Soni puts escalating amounts of human consumption to being the driving force for global warming. While most of the people of the world recognise that exhaust from cars, industrial fumes or even CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) are responsible for heating up the Earth’s atmosphere, what they do not realise is that minor aspects of our lifestyle too contribute to global warming. The example that Soni uses is of a television set. He says that a television set from Sony is made from copper mined in Chile and iron ore from India. They were transported to Japan where they were manufactured into televisions through power derived from coal or petroleum, which was also transported to Japan from distant countries. The television set is then shipped out to Chile or India. The global large-scale production which would see a Sony in every home has enormous energy costs of transportation, to and from, around the world. Other devices like iPods and PlayStations too cause the similar damage to the environment but they do not even come with the statutory warning, “This product is injurious to the health of the planet,” says Soni in the book.

The production of power or electricity which emits a lot of greenhouses gases that eventually leads to global warming. Therefore most of these countries are now looking forward to producing power from greener sources. But if not handled properly, these green sources are also likely to produce not-so-green waste, says Soni.

The Indian government is focusing on solar energy now. Eco-friendly and getting increasingly affordable, solar power makes it to the top of almost every green citizen or organisation’s list. However, Soni points out that generating solar energy is not entirely eco-friendly. Energy from the Sun is trapped in solar cells or batteries to facilitate their use even when the sun is not available but the batteries have a limited time span and are made up of Nickel, Cadmium, Lithium and Lead — none of which are biodegradable and are toxic. Hence, using of this green energy is giving off toxic waste. But painting an optimistic picture, the author puts his faith in the certainty that with new innovations of technology, we may soon come across greener ways to store solar energy.

Another hurdle that renewable energy currently faces is the substantial amount of money that is required to start off its generation. However, if people are of the view that switching to alternate technologies and energy resources is an expensive affair, Soni has provided a report prepared by the chief economist of the World Bank Nicholas Stern in 2005, on the economies of climate change. The report found that while the cost of stabilising carbon dioxide levels by switching to alternative energy may amount to 2 per cent of the global gross product, if we continue with the present emissions, it may cost up to 20 per cent of the global gross product to deal with the effects of climate change.

The book puts forward the environmental challenges and does so in a refreshingly simple way. Naturally, may deal with the heavy task of looking for enlightened solutions that are not injurious to the planet but reading of the book is made light by the humourous use of comic illustrations. Also, Soni has enriched the book with research, analysis, articles and opinions expressed by global experts.

With less than two weeks to go for the United Nation’s Paris Climate Change Conference, Naturally could be the ideal read to be on the way to sustainable development. This product is definitely beneficial to the health of the planet.