“Our planet is not much more than the capsule within which we have to live as human beings... we depend upon a little envelope of soil and a rather larger envelope of atmosphere for life itself. and both can be contaminated and destroyed.” Barbara Ward, 1966
Barbara Ward was a humanitarian, thinker, journalist and activist whose work in conservation was before its time. In the 1960s she worked extensively with conservation, writing about the rapid growth of cities and the concept of social justice.
Her work cited examples of industrial pollution, the dangers of pesticide use, deforestation and much more. Her book called Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet (published in 1972) was a seminal work on the pressing need for sustainable development.
Since then, it’s been a long and winding road to any sort of continuing efforts in the area of social responsibility towards the environment. Several conglomerates and communities are now looking at changing their modus operandi from the cradle-to-grave approach to what is known as the cradle-to-cradle approach. This means, trying to use an end-use product as the source of a new product as opposed to creating products and commodities that have only one use. Notable acts of social responsibility are even rewarded by the green Oscars (also known as the Whitley Awards as they were instituted by the Whitley Fund for Nature). These awards honour people across the world who have contributed significantly to regional or global conservation.
We try to take lessons from communities that have, for decades and centuries, used responsible methods of sustaining their means. For instance, in the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in India, a centuries- old agricultural practice is followed that produces a more quality yield than modern farming practices. Ignoring the traditional practise of jhum or shifting cultivation, the A patani tribe combines rain fed paddy farming with fish cultivation, leading to an energy saving and economically efficient agricultural ecosystem.
Lewis Mumford was one of the earliest observers of economically driven urban patterns. Commenting on urban planning and architecture in the context of social policy and ecology, Mumford wrote that it “be brought into harmony with humanistic goals and aspirations.” He believed that human relationships formed the essence of cities. It is this thinking on a larger scale that will lead us to a working, socially responsible system of sustainable living.
The Socially Responsible Means To A Sustainable End