Enforcement by Law

How to progress from Law to Self-regulation.

Governmental laws and regulation on environment is one of the most well-known forms of institutional intervention for preserving the environment. Such laws and interventions are necessary until individuals and groups attain sufficient inner and outer awakening to achieve self-regulation.

Individual institutions and groups may arrive at this stage of self-regulation through a process of natural or accelerated evolution steered by experience or education or by the economic, commercial and other benefits of environmentalism or by the external pressures and compulsions. For example, in the corporate world, many industries are finding ecological practices like waste-recycling and energy preservation highly profitable. Similarly strong external pressures from NGO or Green activism or the demands of customer, consumer or investors can lead to self-regulation at the institutional level. When ecology and environment becomes an integral part of human education and large sections of the masses are able to have free and easy access to environmental knowledge or guidance, then we can say we are moving steadily and surely to the ideal of self-regulation.

However, in our present condition, we are not wise enough for a free and voluntary self-regulation. The present serious environmental condition requires strict and stringent government intervention in enforcing energy conservation and limiting carbon emission. This requires political will to impose restrictions on areas which may lead to revolt from popular or powerful sections of the community. And morally, most of us who are rich and belong to the upper middle class (individually or collectively) are not willing to change our life-styles to a simpler and less-consumerist mode of living for the sake of our planet. Rich nations and individuals are unwilling to sacrifice their well-entrenched habits and desires for enjoying more and more of the pleasures and comforts of life provided by science, technology and business. And the neo-rich individuals and nations are unwilling to forego their newly acquired prosperity.

This is one of the major causes behind the slow, unsteady and tentative progress in the environmental front, inspite of many international agreements and conventions like the Kyoto protocol or the more recent one in Bali, and a general awakening to the seriousness of the looming ecological disaster facing our planet.

So, in our present condition, we as a race or species are not yet ready for self-regulation. We need the whip of Law to move forward. However, the process of Law has two aspects: preventive and promotive. On the preventive side the Government or the law enforcing agency has to study carefully the areas, sectors or industries which cause maximum damage to the environment and enforce preventive or punitive laws on these sectors with firmness, fairness and integrity. On the promotive side, there must be generous incentives for the ecologically responsible, creative and innovative citizen. So, the short-term measures needed for the mitigation of the immediate danger are strict enforcement of environmental standards; generous incentives for environmental preservation; positive encouragement for accelerated research, creativity and innovation in the environmental and energy technologies; and finally a free flow and sharing of technology and resource from those who have them to those who have not, without commercial considerations.

But the long-term solution, which will prevent a similar ecological crisis, in the future, requires a moral and spiritual elevation in the consciousness of the race. We will come to this long-term solution a little later. But in a crisis situation where the survival of the individual and the collectivity is at stake, the short-term measures are as important or even more important than the long-term solutions. For example, when someone is having a serious heart-attack, he has to be first rushed to the hospital and given emergency treatment to save his life. The long-term solution of preventing future heart-attacks has to wait until he recovers fully from the present crisis. If the scientific reports on the present environmental condition of our planet are true, our planet as a whole seems to be on the verge of an ecological heart-attack!

Nivas

The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.

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