Rabindranath Tagore: The Deep-Rooted Environmentalist and The Origins of Sustainability

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Charles Bruce


The opening years of the twentieth century witnessed rising public disquiet about evident environmental degradation and the ever more obvious loss of important habitats. In the United States, following the personal intervention of President Theodore Roosevelt, Congress passed an act in 1906 to establish a protected inventory of national parks and forests. A year later the UK Parliament passed an act to establish the National Trust. Following the well trailed campaigns of self-anointed environmentalists such as John Muir and Octavia Hill, the protection of vulnerable landscapes appeared for the first time on the public policy agenda.
Against this background of rising awareness of the unfettered consequences of economic growth, a similar concern can be detected for the plight of rural communities in the Indian state of Bengal, largely as a result of the personal involvement – in both word and deed – of Rabindranath Tagore. It can be argued further that Tagore’s innate empiricism as a result of this growing awareness, anticipated the discourse that would lead eventually to the World Conservation Strategy published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 1980. It was followed by the Brundtland Report (1987) Our Common Future.

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