Resource consumption patterns and the need for their equitable utilisation

Environmental ethics deals with issues that are related to how we utilise and distribute resources. Can individuals justifiably use resources so differently that one individual uses resources many times more lavishly than other individuals who have barely enough to survive? In a just world, there has to be a more equitable sharing of resources than we encounter at present. The just distribution of resources has global, national and local concerns that we need to address. There are rich and poor nations. There are rich and poor communities in every country. And there are rich and poor families. In this era of modern economic development, the disparity between the haves and have nots is widening. Our human environments in the urban, rural and wilderness sectors, use natural resources that shift from the wilderness (forests, grasslands, wetlands, etc.) to the rural sector, and from there to the urban sector. Wealth also shifts in the same direction. This unequal distribution of wealth and access to land and its resources is a serious environmental concern. An equitable sharing of resources forms the basis of sustainable development for urban, rural and wilderness dwelling communities. As the political power base is in the urban centers, this itself leads to inequalities and a subsequent loss of sustainability in resource management in the rural and even more so for forest dwelling people.

In 1985, Anil Agarwal published the first report on the Status of India’s Environment. It emphasized that India’s environmental problems were caused by the excessive consumption patterns of the rich that left the poor poorer. It was appreciated for the first time that tribals, especially women and other marginalized sectors of our society, were being left out of economic development. There are multiple stakeholders in Indian society who are dependent on different natural resources which cater directly or indirectly to their survival needs. Anil Agarwal brought forth a set of 8 propositions which are of great relevance to the ethical issues that are related to environmental concerns. These include:

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