Go Green
Subhakant Mohapatra

Ecological Security: The Foundation of Sustainable Development
ed. Samar Singh.
Shipra Publications, Delhi.
Pages XIV+208. Rs 495.

Ecological Security: The Foundation of Sustainable DevelopmentThe debate on environment and development is now four decades old. Heads of governments congregated thrice at Stockholm (1972), Rio (1992) and Johannesburg (2002) to thrash out the nuances related to this complex issue.

One concept which became very popular, widely discussed and still is in discussion is sustainable development. This was defined for the first time in Brundtland Commission Report (1987). There has been a lot of debate in the world, especially between the North and the South, to arrive at a consensus in defining the concept. However, various aspects related to it remained unclear and the debate is still on even after two decades of its formulation. The book under review is one such attempt.

This book is an outcome of a series of lectures jointly organised by the India International Center, New Delhi, and the Foundation for Ecological Security, Anand, over a span of two years (October, 2001-August, 2003). The book consists of 18 lectures delivered by who’s who of India, namely Karan Singh, L. M. Singhvi, M. S. Swaminathan, J. S. Verma, Najma Heptulla, R. K. Pachauri, Jairam Ramesh, Amrita Patel, etc.

The articles represent various facets of sustainable development—lifestyles, natural resource management, governance, policy planning, gender, education, human rights, etc. Seventeen articles present the dominant view held by developing countries, specifically India, except the article by Jairam Ramesh.

The focus of the book is on certain perspectives, which are highlighted by Amrita Patel in the first chapter. She lays stress on a perspective on science that is "oriental rather than occidental, feminist rather than macho, rural rather than urban, drawing on the accumulated wisdom of centuries rather than turning one’s back on all that is ‘past’ and ‘traditional’." She analyses the various dilemmas related to developmental paradigms, direction of economic growth, human progress with a special reference to the common man and ultimately the well-being of the Earth itself.

In the entire book, one can sense an overtone about our past, traditions, cultures and practices projecting everything was perfect in the past and blaming the North for all the present ills. Ironically, the pockets of the North are now being created within the South, including India, which calls for serious discussions. The majority of the writers mention about Gandhiji’s views regarding environment and its relevance for today’s society as a remedial measure. Adding an article on "Gandhian Perspective on Environment" would have been appreciated.

The strength of the book is that a complex topic is presented in a very simplified manner, avoiding technical jargon. Though the book covers the various facets of sustainable development, it has been published after three and a half years of the completion of the lecture series. It is very hard to find out the reason for such a delay because over these three years, various new issues like special economic zone and indigenous people’s right have emerged. Besides, addition of references, bibliography and index would have definitely enhanced the quality of the book, which has quality contributions from eminent writers.