Anthropology, Nature and Sustainability

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

Prof Amitabh Pande IIFM Bhopal


Twenty-first century has begun on a challenging note with the entire world grappling with the vagaries of nature and its consequences on human societies’. Forest fires and 490C temperature in Northern Canada, first, second and now fear of third and fourth wave of Covid-19 has thrown the entire world in a tizzy. Human civilization is now paying the price of its indiscriminatory actions of the past centuries, after the onslaught of the thrust of industrialization. Sustainability became a buzz word to mitigate colossal harm that human desire to conquer nature for its comfort created. Over the years rhetoric on sustainability became quintessential to disciplines both in natural and social sciences. After remaining the dominant discourse for decades, compulsive discourse of sustainability is now under scrutiny. There are intense debates on the utility, efficacy, and ethics of this model.


The unmitigated technological inputs of transport, communication, luxurious lifestyle, and paradoxically compulsions of livelihoods, impacted nature and natural resources adversely. This caused rapid depletion, consequently resulting in severe environmental problems. Unprecedented, unchecked, spiralling air, water and soil pollution, degrading rivers and ecosystems ensued climate change, attributed to anthropogenic factors.


Industrialization and subsequent urbanization brought about indiscriminate decimation of forests across the globe. India has experienced over 30 percent loss of forest cover since the beginning of the 20th century as compared to 18 percent during the 1980s. The overexploitation of water resources for irrigation with the installation of dams and hydroelectric projects to meet the needs of modernized agriculture, energy and industrialization has resulted in several perennial rivers going dry for months in summer. In 2020, there was a news report drawing attention to Narmada river drying up during summers near Maheshwar in Badwani district of Madhya Pradesh. This raised alarm bells about threats to aquatic biodiversity of the region.


Environmentalist raised these concerns and environment movements gained momentum. Interventions in the form of scientific management of forestry and agriculture for economic gains resulted in the promotion of monoculture ecology and plantation ecology. Crop capitalization involving extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides depl