Indian Youth and the Sustainability Challenge
India is at a tipping point, both in terms of economic growth and the human development of its over one billion voters. The country is the sixth largest economy in the world, with a 2017 GDP of $2.6 trillion. It does this while being the world’s largest democracy and the world’s second most populated nation. And despite having a traditional rooted culture of environmentalism, it is getting left behind when it comes to protecting and preserving the environment.
As India races ahead to affix the league of prime economies internationally, it needs to follow a growth path which is environmentally sustainable. Youth are an integral and most vital part of the Indian population. Being eager, vibrant and innovative in nature, youth show sturdy passion, motivation and will power that makes them the foremost valuable human resource for fostering economic growth, cultural development and political action.
It is therefore important to find out and understand the views of the youth on all issues including on environment. Following are some of the key environmental challenges as viewed by the Indian youth of today.
Ever-Increasing Industrial Growth
Industrialization has brought economic prosperity and also plays a crucial role in each individual’s lives, without which we cannot live for even a single day. Devices and what powers them, all manufactured and managed by a big corporate industry are important to us. However, while industrial growth is good, excessive industrial growth – of the kind being witnessed today – is neither sustainable nor should be encouraged.
The youth understands that excessive industrial growth is having an extremely negative impact on the environment. Industrial growth has already resulted in more population, urbanization, obvious stress on the basic life supporting systems while pushing environmental quality closer to the threshold limits of tolerance. It has resulted in climate change, loss of natural resources, air and water pollution and extinction of species. Excessive industrial growth is now threatening the global environment as well as economic and social welfare.
Accumulation of industrial waste has assumed great proportions while its utilization has been neglected for long. A lot of weight should be given to recycling and reusing discarded components. A huge junk management market still remains untapped (metals, mobile phones, computer hardware equipment). Recovery of e-waste is atrociously low and needs to be encouraged. Delhi alone generates 15,000 tones per year of it in addition to the e-waste imported for recycling.
Climate change is an environmental concern that has surfaced in last few decades. The addition of more and more of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has led to increased atmospheric phenomenon. As a result, the world’s average surface temperature has increased by around 0.6 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years. The dynamic climate patterns have already started creating significant impact on Planet Earth.
Melting of polar ice caps, changes in rainfall patterns, increase in frequency of hurricanes, storms are few of the adverse effects of climate change. The world’s leading scientists have made it clear that to prevent the worst effects of climate change, there needs to be rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes to our energy systems. In simpler terms: We need to stop burning fossil fuel and adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Population is only one of many factors influencing the environment. We have consumed more resources in the last 50 years than the whole of humanity before us. This makes the rapid growth of population an important challenge. Population, poverty and environment are inter-related. The nexus between poverty and environmental degradation is a major issue as vast majority of people depends on the natural resources of country for their basic needs.
As more land is used for agriculture or living purposes, the environment changes drastically. With increasing pressure on available resources, many habitats are being destroyed. Humans are using up more resources than Nature can replenish to supply for our needs. The atmosphere is also negatively impacted by population growth.
With more people being born and shifting to cities, the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in cities is also increasing. This is resulting in more heat that gets trap within the urban atmosphere, and this has also become a factor that contributes to global warming. Excessive population is also leading to deforestation, water pollution, and air pollution. These have a negative effect on the environment and also impact our daily lives. Governments and agencies must review how and where they plan to use and allocated resources
The youth is worried about our future, based on how unsustainable the present is becoming. Sustainable development has three main pillars: economic, environmental, and social. These three pillars are informally referred to as people, planet and profits. Cities grappling with alarming rates of congestion and pollution, together with an unhealthy population, could significantly dampen the benefits of India’s demographic dividend and urban growth, and lead to rapid deterioration in the quality of our life of its citizens.
The decision makes of today need to think about Sustainable Futures and take actions to promote clean energy, more sustainable approaches to agriculture and transport, and for the conservation and management of our natural resources. Simultaneously, immediate action is required to be taken by the present generation of decision makers to prevent climate change altogether. Otherwise, twenty years down the line, we will be asking the difficult questions from you starting with, “What were you thinking?