Understanding Environmental Problem

Maisnam Susmina / Rajendra Kshetri *

We celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd of every year to save our mother earth by giving awareness to the people around the globe. Humans do not have the right to threaten the earth for individual purposes or extend human projects. Human Exceptionalism Paradigm (Cotton and Dunlap) refers to an extension of anthropocentric ethics that emerged from the threat of enlightenment and modernity.

In enlightenment, humans have attributed a unique capacity for reasoning that allowed us to master science. We would harness the forces of nature to do things that no other species could. Humans are credited with an advanced capacity to reason and build great machines and technology that would lead us to a new place in an age of exuberance.

A New Ecological Paradigm (Cotton and Dunlap) emerged in which people began confronting how to live in harmony on the planet and valuing the worth of other species and ecosystems for their rights. In this light, it is important to understand the Knowledge, Attitude, and Action toward eco-awareness and eco-commitment, the annoyance and concern about the environmental degradation around us.

What can be contributed is understanding the problems of the environment accurately with a realistic approach. The task is to explain the social causes of environmental issues; if social science (Sociology) has anything to offer, it is a deeper and more systematic understanding of the social roots of environmental problems and the processes of social change.

Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, the importance of environmental issues and research related to the natural environment began to be recognized. Intellectuals were horrified by Britain's industrial revolution and the social injustices that came with modernization and urbanization.

The first wave of environmentalism was an initial response to the onset of Industrialization. At the same time, the second wave was an intellectual response with the public support (including environmental movements) starting from a moral and cultural discourse on Industrialization to great lengths, which was manifested through poetic practice and appreciation of nature.

Starting from William Woodsworth's "The world is too much with us" to William Blake's "London" although modern-day climate change would have been unknown to Black, they have criticized the world of the First Industrial Revolution for being absorbed in materialistic and distancing itself from nature.

To understand the environmental issues in the domain of Environmental Sociology, it is crucial to understand the different subsets of the problem faced by the society, which is referred to as an ecological problem, and the values and moral perspective that led to this problem from different perspectives.

Down from the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Report), Grundman (1991) has identified eight categories of environmental problems. They include Pollution (air, water), depletion of groundwater, the proliferation of toxic chemicals, proliferation of hazardous waste, erosion, desertification, acidification, and new chemical.

Pollution is one example of ecological problems produced by a multitude of technological activities. Environmental Pollution surrounds us. According to Goldblatt, "Contemporary forms of environmental degradation present one of the most, if not the most, complex and catastrophic dilemmas of modernity." There is a call for an ethical perspective toward nature.

It has been a vogue to the present time that environmentalist is on the quest to limit and undo any counteract to nature. What can salvage the future in the "Century of the Environment," according to Weizsackar, is the "Earth Politics," which refers to the determination of the law and administration, city planning and agriculture, arts and religion, technology and economy, Intervention for a radical transformation in the contemporary situation by ecological imperative.

Ramchandra Guha (2000) opines that environmentalism must be viewed as a social program, a charter of actions that seeks to protect cherished habitats, protest against their degradation and prescribe less destructive technologies and lifestyles. Consisting of an oval beautiful fertile valley in the center, surrounded by the Hills, an isolated hill girt state in the North-Eastern corner of India along the Indo-Myanmar border with Imphal as the State capital.

In bygone days, Manipur enjoyed a pleasant temperature with moderate humidity; however, there has been a dramatic change in the temperature and uncertainty in rainfall, leading to scarcity of water in the state. We can witness a longer season of summer in comparison to the cold season. Winter is becoming less cold, and temperatures are not as freezing cold as before. The humidity of the state is increasing.

With the rise in humidity and increase in temperature, there has been a favorable place for disease-carrying insects like Mosquitoes. On March 13th,2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus pandemic. Even before the worst cases of Covid 19 were reported, we were already grappling with the severe issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

The pandemic (like the Covid) is not the only crisis the world faces. If the present trends of ecological devastation continue, things will not improve. Whatever the planet’s temperature has reached that point, it will or has become the "New Normal ." Climate Change is a slow pandemic in itself, and in years to come, it will cost our life.

Manipur, known for its wealthy ethnic groups, living together, rich flora and fauna are at the menace of air pollution, particularly in the valley Imphal, a flower on the lofty height has witnessed air pollution, crowds and congestion even unregulated jam of traffic in the recent years. Most vehicular vehicles are found in the urban area mainly due to urbanization and lifestyle changes.

In Manipur, there is an increasing trend for every family member to own two-wheelers vehicles. People are usually reluctant to take public transport. The level of growth in private transportation compared to public transport is a significant contributory factor to Urban air pollution.

Although generally, two-wheelers are more fuel-efficient than passengers' cars, they typically emit more pollutants per kilometer, contributing more carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions. The inflow of second-hand vehicles is also one of the severe problems in Manipur. Even though used cars are pocket friendly and easy to buy, they leave bad imprints on the environment in one way or the other.

Pollution is an expanding problem worldwide, with individuals and nations emitting enormous volumes of harmful pollutants. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 defined air pollution as "Any solid, liquid or gaseous substance that may be injurious and harmful to the environment, humans, other living creatures, plants and even property."

World Health Organization of the United Nations explains that the air is polluted when several pollutants are present in the atmosphere at such an accumulation and for so long that they are harmful to men, animals, plants, and material property or reduce wellbeing. They are dangerous to the health and wellbeing of people and animals, but they are also a significant threat to the climatic changes across the globe.

Climate Change could be gee-whizz. It can go beyond the depletion of the Ozone layer, air, soil, and water pollution, loss of forest and biodiversity, extinction of plant and animal species, loss of marine life, and the extreme rise in temperature, which results in the melting of polar ice caps, thereby leading to rising ocean levels destroying lives in the coastal areas.

The ecosystem is drastically altered with new resource extraction methods, production, consumption, and transportation. Industrial Revolution in the west has an adverse impact on the earth's ecosystem as a whole. There is an organic relationship between Industrialization, Imperial expansion, and environmental degradation. Thus, there is a systematic and holistic nature of the ecological problem which means that environmental factors and the problems are interrelated.

Fifteen Years ago, most experts thought that the general air pollution levels in North America and Western Europe would rarely have any health impact at all. However, recent epidemiological studies on the health effects of air pollution and new ways of measuring personal exposure have given further information on air pollution.

Nowadays, the same experts consider that particulate air pollution, excellent particles, cause several hundred thousand excess deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases every year in Europe and beyond and shorten the life expectancy of these populations by months and years (WHO 1995a).

Thus, Environmental degradation and its problems are a global dilemma. Beck (1992) opines that unlike the factory-related or occupational hazards of the 19th and first half of the 20th century, these can no longer be limited to certain localities or groups but rather exhibit a tendency to globalization.

Thus, before engaging with environmental issues, it's crucial to understand how we define values and expect action on the environmental problem. There are two ways of understanding an extension of the ethics of nature.

Ecocentrism and anthropocentric moral reasoning or perspective are adopted to understand how humans perceive and interrelate with nature. An anthropocentric perspective is to take a human-oriented view of the environment. This is an ethical argument that what we should do with nature should be for the benefit of humans. While eccentric, nature deserves moral consideration because nature has intrinsic values.

The UN also states that humans have a right to live a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. The question is: why do we protect nature? Because we love it or because we need it? Because nature has a right to exist by itself or because we can use it to benefit us?

Municipal Solid Waste Management is still one of the major problems faced in the heart of Manipur. Air pollution in Manipur is mainly due to commercial earthmoving activities, many automobiles, burning of domestic solid waste In Imphal (the Municipal Solid Waste Management is still infused with challenges), and dust-fall due to bad roads management.

Even though air pollution in Imphal may not be as crucial as it seems to be in the big metropolitan cities, if we don't manage to control the increase in automobiles at some point, it will go unmanageable and uncontrollable. There are still people who refuse to accept the seriousness of air pollution. People's attitudes towards the environment need to change. The three Rs for a sustainable life, i.e., Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, must be encouraged and become a way of life for the people.

Compared to public transport, the level of growth in private vehicles is a significant contributory factor to urban air pollution in Manipur. It pollutes the air and causes congestion because of unregulated traffic jams even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the Imphal Smart City Mission to effectively provide technology-based services, including traffic management, Solid Waste Management, and city surveillance.

The question is, "When will the mission be achieved?” During my week-long stay, I was in love and mesmerized with Sikkim despite their narrow and hilly roads; the traffic management was so satisfying, and the people were morally correct towards the environment. Back home, the thought still lingered around "If a state like Sikkim can, why can't we?"


Beck, U. (1992). In Risk society: Towards a new modernity. essay, Sage.
DUNLAP., F. R. E. D. E. R. I. C. K. H. B. U. T. T. E. L. R. I. L. E. Y. E. (2017). Environmental sociology. RAWAT.
Grundmann, R. (1991). Marxism and ecology. Clarendon.
Guha, R. (2000). In Environmentalism: A global history. essay, Oxford Univ. Press.
Ulrich. von Weizsa¨cker Ernst. (2014).
In Ernst Ulrich von Weizsa¨cker a pioneer on environmental, climate and energy policies. essay, Springer International Publishing.

* Maisnam Susmina / Rajendra Kshetri wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Maisnam Susmina is a Research Scholar in the Department of Sociology, Manipur University
Rajendra Kshetri is a Professor of the Department of Sociology, Manipur University
This article was webcasted on May 12 2022.

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