Summary of The Ailing Planet: The Green Movement’s Role Class 11th Chapter 6


About the Author

Nani Palkhivala was born in 1920 in Bombay to middle-class Parsi parents. His family name derives from the profession of his forefathers who had been manufacturers of palanquins. He was educated at Masters Tutorial High School, and later at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay. He was a dedicated scholar. At college, he earned a master’s degree in English literature.

Upon graduating, Palkhivala applied for a position as lecturer at Bombay University but was not awarded the post. Soon found himself trying to obtain admission to institutions of higher learning to further his academic career. It is late in the term, most courses were closed, and he enrolled at Government Law College, Bombay, where he discovered that he had a gift for unraveling the intricacies of jurisprudence. He was an excellent barrister at his time.

Nani was taken critically ill on December 7, 2002, and taken to Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. He died on Wednesday, December 11, 2002.


More than ever the planet earth is losing its vitality and freshness. Due to human development activities, our earth has become highly polluted, highly irreparable and highly damaged. We have taken out petroleum, coal and a lot of natural resources from the earth. We have removed more than half of world’s vegetation and emitted a large quantity of carbon and a lot of other chemicals. We have destroyed marine life and made rivers dry. Moreover, our greed for more and more wealth resulted in depleting the protective ozone layer and invited all harmful rays to the earth’s surface. Besides, we have brought out a great imbalance between humans and the other species of the earth.

Summary in Points

1. First Nation-wide Green Party: established 1972, New Zealand

2. Worldview shifted from mechanistic to holistic and ecological

3. The realization that the planet is a living organism in declining health due to human impact on its natural resources

4. Sustainable development – Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs – the key to human survival and prosperity in the future

5. We, today is known as the ‘world’s most dangerous animal’, are custodians of the future.

6. Undiscovered species exist in large numbers but we may never discover their identity if we do not conserve their habitats

7. Lester R. Brown’s book ‘The Global Economic Prospect’ identifies four principal biological systems of the earth as fisheries, forests, grasslands, and croplands. They provide food supply and raw material for our survival.

8. Over-fishing and deforestation, coupled with the uncontrolled population explosion, has led to the collapse of fisheries, the disappearance of forest cover, conversion of grasslands to barren wastelands and the deterioration of crops.

9. We lose an acre and a half of forests every second and the World Bank estimates a five-fold increase in the rate of forest planting to cope with the demand for fuelwood.

10. Article 48 A of the Constitution – “The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. The author laments that laws are never respected or enforced in India.

11. Fertility falls as incomes rise, education spreads, and health improves. Thus development which may ensure raised incomes is the best contraceptive. But development itself is not possible without a control over our population explosion. More children mean more hungry mouths which imply poverty as well as increased demand on our natural resources.

12. India’s current population is estimated to be 1.3 billion while the world population is about 7.5 billion. Hence, we hold the major chunk of the world. The author questions whether we recognize this fact and are at least now willing to make a change in our awareness of the human impact on the environment.

13. The era of responsibility – the awareness of our role and the need for sustainable development

14. The author claims that the industry must join the cause and work towards becoming eco-friendly just as Du Pont under the leadership of Mr. Edgar S Woolard.

15. We are tenants of the planet and are required to keep it repaired and well-maintained for generations to come – Margaret Thatcher, Lester Brown


Our Earth is an enormous living organism, of which we are parts. This is our planet, its destruction will make us all homeless. We are dependent on Earth and not the other way round. However, the thankless creature, man, is unconcerned about the dangers that pose threats to our survival. The article by Nani Palkhivala deals with the concerns of the environmentalists at this eleventh hour and talks about the new awareness that has dawned upon our race. A holistic and ecological view of the world has been brought into consideration. The Green Movement launched in 1972 has never looked back. There is a growing need of sustainable development, which was popularised by World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987.

Man is the most dangerous creature, as it was declared by a Zoo in Lusaka, Zambia. Human beings are taking too much time to realize the need of the hour. One of the members of Brandt Commission, Mr.L.K.Jha, raised a vital question, are we to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes, and ailing environment? Mr. Lester R. Brown expressed his worry over the fact that our four biological systems are reaching an unsustainable level. The tropical forests, the powerhouse of evolution, as Dr. Meyers called them, are being destroyed causing the extinction of several species.

The fear hovers, what if the words, forests precede mankind and deserts follow, come true. And the reality is that India is losing its forests at the rate of 3.7 million acres a year. The Article 48A of the Indian Constitution provides that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country. To conserve the environment and to bring down the population of the world, which is 5.7 billion, Palkhivala suggests that development is the only solution. Fertility falls as the income rises, education spreads, and health improves. Nani supports compulsory sterilization and defends it by saying that there is no other alternative but coercion.

The population of India today is 920 million, which is more than the entire population of Africa and South America. What is happening today is that rich are getting richer and poor are begetting children, which begets them to remain poor. Now the folks have realized what endangers our race. It is not about the survival of human race but the survival of the planet Earth.

It is an Era of Responsibility. The industrialists have to understand the present concern with most consideration. The view of the Chairman of Du Pont, Mr. Edgar S. Woolard is much appreciable, our continued existence as a leading manufacturer requires that we excel in environmental performance. Let us be grateful to mother nature and keep Margaret Thatcher’s felicitous words, No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease. In the words of Mr. Lester Brown, We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children.

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