The Ailing Planet: the Green

Movements Role

Nani Palkhivala


The writer briefs the change in the perception of the societies from a materialistic view to the comprehensive and ecological view of this world. It states that humans are now worrying about the environment. In this way of perception, our planet is considered as a living organism. People consider it as it’s having its own metabolic functioning as all other living entities are having.

Then the author explains the concept of Sustainable growth of 1987. “Meets the wants of the current time, without losing the ability of upcoming generations to meet their needs and fulfil them”. Furthermore, we must utilize the natural resources in such a way that we fulfil our needs as well as conserve these resources for the upcoming generations. People consider themselves as a partner and not as a member of this planet. In actuality, we are partners with millions of creatures of this entire planet.

The Global Economic Prospect, a book, points out that the planet’s major biological systems are 4 that are fisheries, forests, croplands, and grasslands. These virtually consists of all the raw materials of industries at present. A non-sustainable utilization of these resources is occurring. Then the writer is concerned about the lessening of the forest land. The dung which we should use as a natural fertilizer, we are generally using to produce fuel. On the other hand, the soil is not receiving natural fertilizer.

Then the writer refers to Article 48A of the Constitution of India. Article 48A it states that the state should guard and improve the forest and the wildlife as well. But they do not impose the law appropriately. Then the writer refers to a Parliamentary committee report that says the decline of a forest at the frequency of 3.7 million acres every single year. The United Nations cautions that the environment has deteriorated so severely that it is critical in many of the 88 countries examined.

The population is rising at a very higher rate. Development and growth are the 2 most appropriate solutions to people’s problems. With such a population, development is a difficult task to do. We need a proper family planning to control the situation of overpopulation. There is a major need to control the population of the earth. The writer at this point once more repeats the positive change in view of the people regarding ecology. Industries must also take responsibility for a better ecosystem.

Notice these expressions in the text.

Infer their meaning from the context.

􀂕 a holistic and ecological view


A holistic and ecological view – It refers to the view that calls for the preservation of the planet. The holistic and ecological view refers to understanding the importance of earth’s resources and environment for the future generations.

 􀂕 inter alia

Answer: “Among other things”

􀂕 sustainable development


A development that does not focus on the present alone but also saves some resources for future.

 􀂕 decimated


To kill a large number of animals, plants, and people of a particular area

􀂕 languish

Answer: Be forced to remain in unpleasant place or situation.

􀂕 catastrophic depletion

Answer: A disastrous reduction in number of something.

􀂕 ignominious darkness

Answer: Disgraceful/dishonoured as nobody has their knowledge or is enlightened about them.

􀂕 transcending concern

Answer: A concern that surpasses this generation i.e not concern about present alone but more about future.

Understanding the text

1. Locate the lines in the text that support the title ‘The Ailing


Answer: The lines that support the title ‘The Ailing Planet’ are:
i. “The earth’s vital signs reveal a patient in declining health”
ii.“Are we to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes, and the ailing environment?”
iii. “the environment has deteriorated so badly that it is ‘critical’ in many of the eighty-eight countries investigated”
iv. “There can be no doubt that the growth of world population is one of the strongest factors distorting the future of human society”

2. What does the notice ‘The world’s most dangerous animal’ at a

cage in the zoo at Lusaka, Zambia, signify?

Answer: The notice ‘The world’s most dangerous animal’ signifies that human has deteriorated the planet from a long time that his own survival is under threat now.

3. How are the earth’s principal biological systems being depleted?

Answer:  There are four principal biological systems – fisheries, grasslands, forests, and croplands. These four systems provide food and raw materials for industry except for minerals and synthetics. These systems have reached an unsustainable point where their productivity have impaired. As a result, fisheries are collapsing, deforestation is taking place, grasslands are turning into barren wasteland and croplands are becoming worse. Overfishing is very common nowadays where people are becoming protein-conscious. In poor countries, the forest is being cut down on a large scale to obtain wood for cooking. In some areas, firewood is more costly than food. Many species are under destruction in tropical forests.

4. Why does the author aver that the growth of world population is

one of the strongest factors distorting the future of human society?

Answer: The author avers that the growth of world population is one of the strongest factors behind the distortion of the future of mankind because overpopulation leads to unemployment, rise in poor health conditions and ultimately poverty. It deteriorates the environment and the four principal biological systems.
The richer are getting rich and the poor is birthing more children which leads to more unemployment. Development is the best contraceptive which will lead to more employment, rise in health conditions and improvement in education. It also results in a reduction in fertility rate. We have to choose between population control and keeping up with poverty.

Talking about the text

Discuss in groups of four.

1. Laws are never respected nor enforced in India.

Answer:  According to the Article 48A of the Constitution of India, the state should try to protect and improve the environment and must protect the forest and wildlife of the country. But the painful fact is that laws are not followed in India. For example – casteism, untouchability and bonded labour, are said to be abolished in India but are still in practice. Over the last four decades, India is losing forest at a harmful rate of 3.7 million acres a year as per the report of Parliament’s Estimates Committee. The large area of forestland is now treeless and the actual loss is estimated to be eight times the rate given by government statistics.

2. “Are we to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing

deserts, impoverished landscapes and an ailing environment?”

Answer:  The above lines were mentioned in the first report of the Brandt Commission. With the rising scale of distortion of the environment, humans are going to leave a burned planet with aided deserts, poor landscapes and a poor environment for our future generations. Our earth is like a patient with declining health and it is not a good sign. Deforestation and over populations are some of the reasons behind the deterioration of the earth. We must realize our ‘Era of Responsibility’ before it’s too late. We must conserve the earth as if we have borrowed it from our future generations.

3. “We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers; we have

borrowed it from our children”.

Answer:  From many decades, humans are using the resources of the earth at a very alarming rate without worrying about future generations. Now the environment has become critical enough that humans must realize the era of responsibility towards it. With quite some time, human perception is changing and the earth is seen as a ‘holistic and ecological view’. Earth is seen as a living organism which has its own metabolic and vital needs. We must protect the resources for future generations. Use of ‘Sustainable Development’ which means meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising with future generations. Thus, the earth’s resources should be utilized in a way that doesn’t affect the future.

 4. The problems of overpopulation that directly affect our everyday life.

Answer: Overpopulation leads to many problems that are affecting mankind and natural resources. It leads to poverty and unemployment. The poor children are forced to live the same lifestyle as their parents did because of the lack of resources and facilities. Overpopulation leads to lesser education and low health facilities which results in more problems like the rise in harmful diseases and fertility rate. The natural resources are being consumed at a very fast rate to fulfill the need of the population throughout the world. Deforestation is one of the issues where forests are being cut down. All this results in global warming and if the population is not controlled, it will deplete the environment and earth.

Thinking about language

The phrase ‘inter alia’ meaning ‘among other things’ is one of the

many Latin expressions commonly used in English.

Find out what these Latin phrases mean.

1. prima facie

2. ad hoc

3. in camera

4. ad infinitum

5. mutatis mutandis

6. caveat

7. tabula rasa


 Prima facie: on the first view

Ad hoc: for the special aim

In camera:In private , at a particular place.

Ad infinitum: up to infinity

Mutatis mutandis: with necessary changes

caveat: a warning that particular things needs to be considered before something can be done

Tabula rasa: a smooth tablet

Working with words

I. Locate the following phrases in the text and study their


1. gripped the imagination of

2. dawned upon

3. ushered in

4. passed into current coin

5. passport of the future


  1. gripped the imagination of: have powerful effect on imagination
  2. dawned upon: became obvious; began to realize for the first time
  3. ushered in: to make something new begin
  4. passed into current coin: become a part of current usage
  5. passport of the future: a thing that enables us to achieve something ‘

II. The words ‘grip’, ‘dawn’, ‘usher’, ‘coin’, ‘passport’ have a literal

as well as a figurative meaning. Write pairs of sentences using

each word in the literal as well as the figurative sense.


  1. Grip:
    (i) She gripped on to the railing with both hands.
    (ii) Terrorism has gripped the country for the past five years.
  2. Dawn:
    (i) A new technological age has dawned.
    (ii) It dawned on me that they couldn’t possibly have met before.
  3. Usher:
    (i) The Secretary ushered me into his office.
    (ii) The change of management ushered in fresh ideas and policies.
  4. Coin:
    (i) Every coin has two sides.
    (ii) She coined a phrase to explain her meaning.
  5. Passport:
    (i) I showed my passport to the security officer.
    (ii) Hard work alone is the passport to success.

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