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Climate Change:

A socio-ecological perspective
Madhav Gadgil
Pisharoty Memorial Lecture, March 27, 2015
Since the origin of life 3.8 billion years ago, earth has witnessed dramatic
changes in its surface temperature and in the gaseous composition of its
atmosphere largely driven by the activities of living organisms. Life is an
expansionist enterprise, with natural selection favouring genes that are good
at making more and more copies of themselves. This evolutionary process has
culminated in the elaboration of two other kinds of replicating entities, namely,
memes or elements of behaviour transmitted through social imitation and
artefacts. The proliferation of ever more complex artifacts in greater and greater
abundance is stimulated by memes attaching social prestige to the possession of
more and more material goods. This has promoted burning on a large scale of fossil
fuels resulting in the current spurt of global warming. To successfully confront this
challenge, we need to bridge the gulf that divides the elite and the masses in our
society. The elite need to focus, collectively and individually, on adapting less

energy, material intensive life styles, and undertake well thought out
environment friendly actions in our own localities such as composting dry
leaves, instead of burning them. At the same time, we must get the masses
involved through genuine democratic devolution of powers, and
implementing environment and people friendly Acts such as Biological


Diversity Act and the Forest Rights Act.