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Anuradha Chaudhary, Bangladesh (1947-)

The Essay "How Sane Are We?" by Anuradha Chaudhary is based on the environmental problem. Basically, she presents her ideas that human beings have been too much irresponsible and indifferent to the conservation of the environment and she predicts that it will make their life quite difficult. She believes that due to human indifference, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, the environment is getting heavily polluted. She is a professor of environmental biology. In this essay as a researcher of the environment, she talks about the degrading condition of nature and its surrounding. Mainly she believes that the gases produced by the industry, mishandling the chemicals and the excessive use of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) have greatly contributed to the destruction of the ozone layer which causes skin cancer, the greenhouse effect and other various epidemics (widespread outbreak of an infectious disease; many people are infected at the same time). Similarly, people have been greatly suffering from other various natural calamities such as floods but still, people don't seem concerned about the direction of its preservation. Finally, she believes that if it continues, it will be impossible to continue living on it. 

She begins her essay with an extract from Rudyard Kipling who makes it clear that we have failed to maintain things that our ancestors had given us as environmental legacy [(law) a gift of personal property by will]. By this weakness, we have doomed ourselves. Our foolishness is criminal. By carelessly postponing the most essential thing to be done, we have been too late in protecting the environment and we have betrayed our ancestors and destroyed our coming generations. Chaudhary’s essay makes it clear that the destruction of the environment threatens human beings’ survival. 

The author starts her writing by saying that her twenty years of experience in teaching environmental biology has made it clear that her students are intelligent enough to understand the facts about ecology but they fail to make connections between ecology and politics. Chaudhary sees that there is a possibility of catastrophe in human life because she has read about the laws like Parkinson’s in which the leaders who are elected for making the laws of the state for the welfare of people are themselves engaged in power politics. To make irrationality and irresponsibility of human beings naked, Chaudhary believes that the students shouldn't believe in facts because they are published by the leaders to deceive the common people. At the same time, she also presents fact after the fact which makes her essay more appealing and convincing. Chaudhary stresses reshaping and rethinking the ways of politics. Chaudhary satirises those leaders whose goal is to get power rather than solve the real natural threats to human beings. Her stress is that her students can comprehend the importance of ecology but fail to assimilate them into politics. That is sad and she feels helpless about the situation. The reasons for the lack of understanding may be due to the simplistic assumption of her students that people in authority act responsibly and that they have the rational understanding to see things from their proper standpoint and decide accordingly.

We are made to believe that man is a rational animal. We believe that human beings, hence, act rationally. This is only a constructed myth. The various facts at the present time tell how important it is to preserve the biosphere for human beings’ survival but when the time comes to act rationally we behave most irrationally. There are thousands of instances of our collective irrationality. But, Chaudhary’s essay cites one example which is the way we are interfering with the Ozone layer with the massive production of Chlorofluorocarbons.

Ozone stops the harmful ultraviolet radiation from outer space to get down to us and it thus acts as a natural shield to protect living beings on earth. If this shield is destroyed because of human beings’ heedless activity, life may disappear from the planet. It is because as the ozone layer starts depleting, more and more ultraviolet radiation will come down to earth directly. It thereby upsets the ecosystem, weakens our immune system, causes eye cataracts and skin cancer, lowers agricultural productivity, and creates many other evils. Chaudhary writes that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) cause a 20% greenhouse effect which is capable of completely destroying life on earth. Here, Anuradha highlights the fact that ozone depletion will take place completely if the use of CFCs continues. Chaudhary also mentions ozone layer protects our life by observing 99% ultra-violet rays. If it reaches the earth, she believes more than 240 million people get skin cancer, and eight million might get eye cataracts which would result in millions of death. Chaudhary appreciates the decision of some developed countries like the United States, Canada, Sweden and Norway have banned in the use of CFCs in aerosol (a dispenser that holds a substance under pressure and that can release it as a fine spray) sprays. 

Chaudhary brings an example of science fiction to persuade us about the terrible effects of careless scientific inventions. Citing an illustration of the science fiction War with the Newts (Small usually bright-coloured semi-aquatic salamanders of North America and Europe and northern Asia), Chaudhary shows us vividly that one day our own invention will be used to dig our own graveyard. Chaudhary sarcastically presents the evil effects of science and technology which has invented the different missiles, guns, arms and ammunition (Any nuclear, chemical or biological material that can be used as a weapon of mass destruction) which have transfigured our way of fighting in comparison with the way our forefather used to fight. That is to say, we no longer fight with sticks and stones but we have highly modern weapons. But she wants to make us ponder on the fact: Is there any space for our satisfaction? Is there any place for the secure life of our upcoming generation? Of course not, it is because we have not comprehended and acted on the solution for the adverse effect they have given on nature. We are neglecting the nature we are living in and we are not able even to save nature as our ancestors. We have not been worried about the forthcoming danger due to our activities although we have been warned about it. We are digging our own graves and our future generations. If we don't think about changing the present social, economic and political system of the world, we will have to face a great disaster in the future and we will be responsible for it. Politics is quite related to the ecological system. So, people should choose the right leader freely who can help to save the environment or atmosphere wisely.

Man has invented different kinds of harmful things for nature CFCs is also man-made chemical which causes 20% of the greenhouse effect. They also greatly affect on ozone layer by reducing its layer which blocks 99% of the total ultraviolet radiation. If the sun's ultraviolet radiations reach the earth, it will badly disturb the natural Eco system the agricultural product decreases people lose sight. They can get skin cancer and it also suppresses the human immune system. CFCs were invented in 1930 and used in making refrigerators trays, spraying cans and computer chips. In 1974, scientists suspected the injurious relationship between CFCs and the ozone layer. They confirmed the unbreakable link between the two by 1985. Yet the world’s leaders decided to delay to stop producing CF'Cs immediately. The decision to put restrictions on the production of CFCs was not at all essential for them. But knowing the devastating impact of the production of CFC the world’s leaders postponed putting a ban on the production of the chemical substance.  Finally, they agreed to stop manufacturing CFCs only from 1996 in developed and from 2006 in developing countries. They collectively decided to let CFCs destroy the ozone layer for 26 years. Therefore, Chaudhary ironically writes this is our sanity and rationality.

Further, the writer explores more ironic responses to the delayed decision of most rational people in the world.  She writes that there are some people who believe that the decision by nations of the earth to stop producing CFC by 2006 is the best example of collective rationality. They see the inaction of the leaders as a shining initiation of how human beings can sit down together and take important decisions to save life on earth, collective rationality for the benefit of the world. Similarly, human indifference, irrationality, and selfish shortsightedness to the environment are deeply explored by Chaudhary when she mentions Karl Capek’s story “War with the Newts” in her writing. With the help of Capek’s story, Chaudhary tries to present how human beings bring their own annihilation. Further, she shows human beings are greedy, shortsighted, and stupid. This is exactly the case with CFCs. Our greed, shortsightedness, and stupidity are the only factors responsible for the looming threat to humanity from the greenhouse effect and the depletion of the ozone layer. Just for a handful of self-interest and because of our foolishness we are collectively working at our own destruction. Humanity is digging its own grave and still, we call ourselves rational beings. In truth, we are below the level of animals and human rationality is a myth. If we do not bring about fundamental changes in our outlook and thinking, humanity may collectively disappear. Chaudhary’s essay, therefore, explores an important flaw in human nature. She strikes at the root of humankind’s problem and traces it to our greed, lethargy, and above all, irrationality. 


The text is a piece of a study of the environment that centres on the environmental problem. Here, the text asserts the importance of the environment on human life and that it must be preserved for the sake of the continuity of human life. By presenting such ideas, the essayist is appealing to all to preserve the environment.

Critical Thinking:

Chaudhary presents the undiscovered irrationality within the so-called rationality of human beings and tries to persuade us to think seriously about our actions. She stresses repeatedly that there should not be any political play of power and personal power on the issues of the environment in which the life of the new generation itself is associated. Hence, Anuradha’s individual contribution to generating public consciousness through this essay is highly appreciated and praise worthy. So far the essay presents ideas on environmental problems and issues, it is very appreciative in the sense that it warns the people and makes them conscious of the conservation of the environment. But the essayist only concerns with the destruction and only destruction. She completely ignores the positive signs and steps carried out in this concern. 


As I read this essay, it has made me draw my attention towards the degraded environment of Nepal. Seeing its condition, it is true that we have really been too much indifferent and irresponsible. People here in Nepal are suffering from various environmental problems, such as air pollution, water pollution, lack of open space and so on. As a result, life's getting too much difficult. Similarly, due to river pollution, aquatic life is also much affected. If it continues, there will be too difficult to sustain life in the days to come. So it has compelled me to take some action for its improvement.

  • Human beings lack of rationality in their thoughts and behaviours. They are irresponsible and they don’t care about nature and ecological issues.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are very harmful man-made chemicals which affect the ozone layer and cause the greenhouse effect.
  • The ozone layer is made up of oxygen atoms and blocks 99% of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and protects life on earth.
  • If the ozone layer depletes, it will very badly affect the Ecosystem, agricultural production will decrease and people will suffer from skin cancer and eye cataracts.
  • Developed countries have banned the use of CFCs to control ozone layer depletion.
  • Science fiction has also warned people of the harmful effects due to the destruction of the Eco-system and ozone layer.


Chaudhary, A. (2013). How Sane Are We? In M. Nissani, & S. Lohani, Flax-Golden Tales: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning English (pp. 167-175). Kathmandu, Nepal: Ekta Books.


  1. This is so beautifully written❤

  2. Beautifully written and expressed but however the literal comprehension could be much short and sweet. overall loved your presentation .


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