Revisiting the 1972 event that led to World Environment Day

world-environment-dayForty-four years ago, on June 5, 1972, representatives of 114 countries met in Stockholm, Sweden. It was the first time the world had come together to think about man-made climate change at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.

At the conference, Indira Gandhi, the only head of state in attendance, gave a seminal speech on climate change and poverty alleviation, an issue that has been contentious for a very long time. She talked of the ironic dichotomy between wanting to go from a developing country to a developed one, but being prevented from using techniques that developed countries in the West used to get there.

She said, “On the one hand the rich look askance at our continuing poverty – on the other, they warn us against their own methods. We do not wish to impoverish the environment any further and yet we cannot for a moment forget the grim poverty of large numbers of people. Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters? For instance, unless we are in a position to provide employment and purchasing power for the daily necessities of the tribal people and those who live in or around our jungles, we cannot prevent them from combing the forest for food and livelihood; from poaching and from despoiling the vegetation. When they themselves feel deprived, how can we urge the preservation of animals?”

Read a report of the landmark 1972 conference on

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