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The Ailing Planet Summary, Explanation with Video, Question Answers of Class 11 English Chapter 5 from Hornbill Book
The Ailing Planet Class 11 – CBSE Class 11 English Hornbill Book Lesson 5 The Ailing Planet Summary and Detailed explanation along with the meanings of difficult words. Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the Lesson. All the exercises and Questions and Answers given at the back of the lessons have been covered. Also, Take Free Online MCQs Test for Class 11
Class 11 English Chapter 5 – The Ailing Planet: the Green Movement’s Role
By Nani Palkhivala
by Vaishnavi Tyagi
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The Ailing Planet Introduction
This chapter focuses on the factors that are responsible for the declining health of the earth. The chapter was originally an article written by Nani Palkhivala which was published in the newspaper ‘The Indian Express’ on November 23, 1994.
The writer discusses the Green Movement, how a zoo in Zambia declared human beings as ‘world’s most dangerous animals’. The writer also focuses on overpopulation, deforestation and what should be our responsibility towards the environment.
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The Ailing Planet Summary
The Ailing Planet Summary – In this chapter, the writer raises an issue towards the deteriorating health of the earth. As human beings have been exploiting natural resources from decades, presently the condition has made the environment critical. In 1972, the Green Movement helped environmentalists to raise awareness about the harmful condition of the earth and since then there has been no looking back as the movement has been successfully educating people about the conservation of the environment.
Earth is like a patient whose health is declining and it is our duty to improve it. In 1987, the term Sustainable Development was used by the World Commission on Environment and Development. A zoo in Lukasa, Zambia has a cage in which a sign reads ‘The World’s most dangerous animal’ and inside there is a mirror. It gives a message that human beings are the most dangerous animals. Brandt Commission raised a question “Are we to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes and ailing environment?”
There are four principal biological systems that form the foundation of the global economic system – fisheries, grasslands, forests, and croplands. These four systems also provide food and raw materials for industries except for minerals and synthetics. With these systems becoming unsustainable, fisheries will collapse, the forest will slowly disappear, grasslands will turn into a barren wasteland and croplands will become worse.
In poor countries, forests are being cut down for fuelwood which is used for cooking purposes. There are some areas where the cost of fuelwood is more than the cost of food. It is leading to deforestation at an alarming rate.
One of the reasons for the exploitation of the environment is the increasing population. It is observed that about one million population is increasing in every four days. This is not a good sign. There is an urgent need to control overpopulation in the world. Development is the best contraceptive for this problem as it will help in reduction in fertility, increase in education and income and improvement in health.
We must see the world as a whole and not as dissociated parts. It is a holistic and ecological view. According to Lester Brown, we have not inherited the earth from our forefathers but we have borrowed it from our future generations.
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The Ailing Planet Lesson Explanation
The following article was written by Nani Palkhivala and published in The Indian Express on 24 November 1994. The issues that he raised regarding the declining health of the earth continue to have relevance.
ONE cannot recall any movement in world history which has gripped the imagination of the entire human race so completely and so rapidly as the Green Movement which started nearly twenty-five years ago. In 1972 the world’s first nationwide Green party was founded in New Zealand. Since then, the movement has not looked back.
Gripped – clutch; hold
Green Movement – It is a movement which stresses people to follow environmentally friendly practices.
The chapter ‘The Ailing Planet: the Green Movement’s Role’ was an article published in the newspaper ‘The Indian Express’ on November 24, 1994, written by Nani Palkhivala. He wrote about the declining health condition of Earth.
The Green Movement which started nearly twenty-five years ago from 1994 spread so quickly in world history. The world’s first nationwide Green party was founded in New Zealand in 1972.
We have shifted — one hopes, irrevocably — from the mechanistic view to a holistic and ecological view of the world. It is a shift in human perceptions as revolutionary as that introduced by Copernicus who taught mankind in the sixteenth century that the earth and the other planets revolved around the sun. For the first time in human history, there is a growing worldwide consciousness that the earth itself is a living organism — an enormous being of which we are parts. It has its own metabolic needs and vital processes which need to be respected and preserved.
Irrevocably – in a way that cannot be changed or reversed
Holistic and Ecological View – It means a view for the preservation of the environment. It also refers to the understanding of importance of earth’s resources for the use of future generations
Revolutionary – evolving a complete change
Metabolic needs – needs of a living organism that enables them to have a chemical process that causes food to be used for growth and energy
From some time our views have shifted from seeing earth and its resources as irreversible to complete opposite. We now understand that our resources need to converse for future generations. Copernicus taught mankind how the earth and other planets revolve around the sun and it was a complete change which evolved human perception. Now, the earth is seen as a living organism of which we are an integral part. Earth has its own metabolism and vital needs which humans should respect and preserve.
The earth’s vital signs reveal a patient in declining health. We have begun to realise our ethical obligations to be good stewards of the planet and responsible trustees of the legacy to future generations.
The concept of sustainable development was popularised in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. In its report it defined the idea as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”, i.e., without stripping the natural world of resources future generations would need.
Ethical Obligation – when someone is required to do something based on a righteous standard of rules
Stewards – manage or to look after
Sustainable Development – economic development without depletion of natural resources
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Earth is now like a patient whose health is declining. We as human beings are now realizing our duty to be good managers of the planet and to be responsible trustees to conserve the environment so that we can pass a legacy to the future generations. Sustainable Development was popularised in the year 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. In the reports, Sustainable development is termed as a type of development that meets the needs of the present generation without wasting or compromising with natural resources so that future generations can meet their needs.
In the zoo at Lusaka, Zambia, there is a cage where the notice reads, ‘The world’s most dangerous animal’. Inside the cage there is no animal but a mirror where you see yourself. Thanks to the efforts of a number of agencies in different countries, a new awareness has now dawned upon the most dangerous animal in the world. He has realised the wisdom of shifting from a system based on domination to one based on partnership.
Scientists have catalogued about 1.4 million living species with which mankind shares the earth. Estimates vary widely as regards the still-uncatalogued living species — biologists reckon that about three to a hundred million other living species still languish unnamed in ignominious darkness.
Dawned – begin
Catalogued – classify; characterise
Reckon – calculate
Languish – lose or lack of vitality of a person or plant or animal; grow weak
Ignominious darkness – disgraced as no one has knowledge about them
In a cage in a zoo in Lusaka, Zambia there reads a notice- ‘The world’s most dangerous animal’ and inside the cage is a mirror that depicted that humans are the world’s most dangerous animals. With the efforts of new agencies in the world, now humans are seen as the most dangerous animals. They have realized the importance of shifting to a new system based on partnership. Humans share the earth with about 1.4 million living species according to the classification of scientists. Biologists calculate that there are still millions of other species which are yet not classified due to their weakness or due to lack of knowledge about them.
One of the early international commissions which dealt, inter alia, with the question of ecology and environment was the Brandt Commission which had a distinguished Indian as one of its members — Mr
L.K. Jha. The First Brandt Report raised the question — “Are we to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes and ailing environment?”
Inter Alia – among other things
Scorched – burn the surface with heat of fire
Impoverished – made poor
Ailing – in poor health
Brandt Commission was one of the early international commissions who dealt with questions of ecology and environment. They commissioned Mr. L.K. Jha as one of their commission members who was an Indian citizen. Its first report raised a question: are we going to leave a burned planet with aided deserts, poor landscapes and a poor environment for our future generations?
Mr. Lester R. Brown in his thoughtful book, The Global Economic Prospect, points out that the earth’s principal biological systems are four — fisheries, forests, grasslands, and croplands — and they form the foundation of the global economic system. In addition to supplying our food, these four systems provide virtually all the raw materials for industry except minerals and petroleum-derived synthetics. In large areas of the world, human claims on these systems are reaching an unsustainable level, a point where their productivity is being impaired. When this happens, fisheries collapse, forests disappear, grasslands are converted into barren wastelands, and croplands deteriorate. In a protein-conscious and protein hungry world, over-fishing is common every day. In poor countries, local forests are being decimated in order to procure firewood for cooking. In some places, firewood has become so expensive that “what goes under the pot now costs more than what goes inside it”. Since the tropical forest is, in the words of Dr Myers, “the powerhouse of evolution”, several species of life face extinction as a result of its destruction.
Synthetics – artificial substance
Impaired – weakened or damaged
Barren wastelands – barely inhabitable piece of land
Deteriorate – become progressively worse; decline
Decimated – to reduce in number
Procure – obtain with care or effort
There are four principal biological systems that form the foundation of the global economic system according to the book by Leslie R. Brown ‘The Global Economic Prospect’ – 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 has impaired. With this, fisheries will collapse, the forest will slowly disappear, grasslands will turn into barren wastelands and croplands will become worse. Overfishing is very common nowadays where people are becoming protein-conscious. In poor countries, forests are 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.
It has been well said that forests precede mankind; deserts follow. The world’s ancient patrimony of tropical forests is now eroding at the rate of forty to fifty million acres a year, and the growing use of dung for burning deprives the soil of an important natural fertiliser. The World Bank estimates that a five-fold increase in the rate of forest planting is needed to cope with the expected fuelwood demand in the year 2000.
James Speth, the President of the World Resources Institute, said the other day, “We were saying that we are losing the forests at an acre a second, but it is much closer to an acre-and-a-half to a second”.
Precede – come before in order or position
Patrimony – property inherited from father or ancestor
Deprives – prevent a person from using something
Forests and deserts come first in order in comparison to humans. The ancient inheritance of tropical forests is constantly wearing away at the rate of forty to fifty million acres a year. Also, the burning of dung is preventing the soil to become natural fertilizer. To meet the need for fuelwood demand, there is a need to increase the rate of forest plantation by fivefold by the year 2020. We are losing the forests closer to an acre-and-a-half to a second according to James Speth, President of the World Resources Institute.
Article 48A of the Constitution of India provides that “the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. But what causes endless anguish is the fact that laws are never respected nor enforced in India. (For instance, the Constitution says that casteism, untouchability and bonded labour shall be abolished, but they flourish shamelessly even after forty-four years of the operation of the Constitution.) A recent report of our Parliament’s Estimates Committee has highlighted the near catastrophic depletion of India’s forests over the last four decades. India, according to reliable data, is losing its forests at the rate of 3.7 million acres a year. Large areas, officially designated as forest land, “are already virtually treeless”. The actual loss of forests is estimated to be about eight times the rate indicated by government statistics.
Endeavor – trying hard to achieve something
Anguish – pain; suffering
Casteism – discrimination on the grounds of caste
Catastrophic Depletion – a harmful reduction in a number of something
According to 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. They are abolished but still are followed shamelessly. Over the last four decades, India is losing forests 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.
A three-year study using satellites and aerial photography conducted by the United Nations, warns that the environment has deteriorated so badly that it is ‘critical’ in many of the eighty-eight countries investigated.
There can be no doubt that the growth of world population is one of the strongest factors distorting the future of human society. It took mankind more than a million years to reach the first billion. That was the world population around the year 1800. By the year 1900, a second billion was added, and the twentieth century has added another 3.7 billion. The present world population is estimated at 5.7 billion. Every four days the world population increases by one million.
Distorting – deform; disfigure
According to the three-year study conducted by the United Nations using satellites and aerial photography, our environment has got so bad that in eighty-eight countries, it has reached the critical stage. Growth of world population at such a fast rate is one of the strongest reasons behind the distortion of the future of mankind. When it took more than a million years to reach the first billion population, in the next 100 years, the population number increased by the next billion numbers. In the 20th century, the population reached 3.7 billion and the present number is 5.7 billion. Presently, the case is of the population increasing by one million every four days.
Fertility falls as incomes rise, education spreads, and health improves. Thus development is the best contraceptive. But development itself may not be possible if the present increase in numbers continues.
The rich get richer, and the poor beget children which condemns them to remain poor. More children does not mean more workers, merely more people without work. It is not suggested that human beings be treated like cattle and compulsorily sterilised. But there is no alternative to voluntary family planning without introducing an element of coercion. The choice is really between control of population and perpetuation of poverty.
Beget – give life to
Condemns – find guilty of something
Sterilised – make free from bacteria or other micro organisms
Voluntary – done or given of one’s free will
Coercion – force
Perpetuation – keep going
Development is the best possible solution for overpopulation. It can help in reduction in fertility and rise in income, to spread more education, and improvement in health. But if the number of the population will keep increasing, it may not help in attaining any kind of development.
As the rich get richer, the poor births children who are bound to remain poorer. More population will lead to more unemployment. Humans should not be treated like cattle who are sterilized by force.
But to control the population some element of force has to be put on for family planning. Now, humans have to choose between population control and keeping up with poverty.
The population of India is estimated to be 920 million today — more than the entire populations of Africa and South America put together. No one familiar with the conditions in India would doubt that the hope of the people would die in their hungry hutments unless population control is given topmost priority.
For the first time in human history we see a transcending concern — the survival not just of the people but of the planet. We have begun to take a holistic view of the very basis of our existence. The environmental problem does not necessarily signal our demise, it is our passport for the future. The emerging new world vision has ushered in the Era of Responsibility. It is a holistic view, an ecological view, seeing the world as an integrated whole rather than a dissociated collection of parts.
Hutments – collection of huts
Transcending Concern – a concern that existed for a very long time and has passed down from one generation to another
Demise – death
Ushered – guide someone somewhere
The population of India is 920 million that is more than the population of Africa and South America together. If the population is not controlled, most of the people would die in their huts with just a hope. But with time, people are now concerned about the survival of the planet. We have now started to see our existence with a comprehensive view. Solving Environmental problems are a passport to the future and should not be seen as a remark of our death. We should see the world as a whole and not as different parts.
Industry has a most crucial role to play in this new Era of Responsibility. What a transformation would be affected if more businessmen shared the view of the Chairman of Du Pont, Mr Edgar S. Woolard who, five years ago, declared himself to be the Company’s “Chief Environmental Officer”. He said, “Our continued existence as a leading manufacturer requires that we excel in environmental performance.”
Of all the statements made by Margaret Thatcher during the years of her Prime Ministership, none has passed so decisively into the current coin of English usage as her 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.”
Decisively – clear and definitive
Felicitous – well-chosen
Freehold – permanent tenure of land or property
Tenancy – possession of the land
In the era of responsibility towards the environment, industry plays an important role. Chairman of Du Pont, Mr. Woolard declared himself as ‘Chief Environmental Officer’ and such attitude in other businessmen can have a great effect on the transformation.
When Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, her one statement which was so well chosen, she said that no human on this earth holds a permanent tenure, we all have life possession and a full repairing lease. According to Mr. Lester Brown, we have borrowed the earth from our children.
The Ailing Planet Question Answers
Understanding the text
1. Locate the lines in the text that support the title ‘The Ailing Planet’.
Ans: 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?
Ans: 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?
Ans: 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?
Ans: 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
1. Discuss – Laws are never respected nor enforced in India.
Ans: 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. Discuss – “Are we to leave our successors a scorched planet of advancing deserts, impoverished landscapes and an ailing environment?”
Ans: 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. Discuss – “We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children”.
Ans: 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. Discuss – The problems of overpopulation that directly affect our everyday life.
Ans: 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
7. tabula rasa
- Prima Facie – At first sight, before closer inspection
- Ad Hoc – for a specific purpose or situation
- In Camera – in secret
- Ad Infinitum – having no end
- Mutatis Mutandis – changing only those things which needs to be changed
- Caveat – a warning
- Tabula Rasa – without any prior knowledge
Working with words
I. Locate the following phrases in the text and study their connotation.
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 – received much attention
2. dawned upon – become apparent
3. ushered in – begin the new idea
4. passed into current coin – something which has been brought into use
5. passport of the future – a thing that makes something possible to happen
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) She held the balloon with a tight grip.
2) The movement of ‘Stop Rape’ has gripped the minds of people.
1) She waited for Ronald until dawn, but he never came back.
2) The idea of starting a new business dawned on him.
1) The attendant ushered them to their seats.
2) The internet ushered in an era of mass communication.
1) She asked him to give all the coins he had collected so far.
2) The term was coined by a famous Physicist.
1) He went to the visa office to get his passport stamped to go to New York.
2) Education is our passport to the future.
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