Papa told me yesterday that about more than a decade ago, his generation was accustomed to collecting milk from the dairy in glass bottles. Admittedly, they used to be heavy but there were two pros to the whole system: one, the bottles got recycled, and were not thrown away easily until they broke, for which the customer had to pay to the seller. Thus, people were more cautious back then, and took care to preserve the bottles for a long time. Two, the whole system was organized, and environment-friendly because it did not involve plastic packets, unlike now. In short, there was less of a mess.
That’s when my thoughts took me back to the world I had never grown up in. Yes, I had had a glimpse of it because my parents are in touch with their roots, but I don’t know how successful I will be when I reach the stage in life where they are today. The fact that the whole conversation provoked me to think about it proves that they have done their job well. They have given me lessons in stark realisations. And that is what this post is all about. Realisations pertaining to the environment.
It disturbs me when I read about global warming, changing weather patterns, ‘freak’ weather, and retreating glaciers. It’s everywhere..always pointing it out to me that I should become a responsible environment-friendly global citizen. I read yesterday that Majuli Island, which we as Indians are so proud of, is shrinking. A few days before that, I read that the oceans contain trillions of plastic floating in the gyres of the world. Especially in the Pacific ocean. Pathetic Pacific, or should I say, Poor Pacific. Corals are finding plastics edible now. Well, do they have a choice. And today morning, it totally broke my heart to read yet another piece of news about a whale which died on the Indian shore. More than a 100 whales died on the shores of New Zealand. All this signals towards an ominous foreboding. Nature is furious with us, and of course, death is inevitable, but we may not die a peaceful death, unlike many of our ancestors.
That’s because our ancestors lived a healthy life, beginning right in the morning. They used neem twigs instead of toothbrushes, and homemade facepacks to clean their faces. Well, I am not going to advocate in favour of ‘what used to happen’. Because it is important to understand just why history refuses to repeat itself. Because it is important to understand that we have indeed come a REALLY long way, into the electronic revolution. So much so, that if we were to replace everything with an eco-friendly substitute, life would probably come to a standstill. One person may switch to zero-waste strategies, but not everyone can do that. They do not have the time because they have to go to work to office situated about 2 hours from home, and they have to feed their families. They do not have the inclination because, well, they forget in their ‘pursuit of happiness’ that clean air, clean water, and clean places are essential for survival. They probably think, ‘if I don’t care about myself and my family, who will? Environment can take a backseat’. . It always does, and that’s where lies the problem. I can vouch for this, gaining from recent personal experiences.
We discuss in our classrooms that environment means something that is ‘common heritage of mankind’, but that discussion ends up being confined to the walls only. Man is rarely kind to the environment. I live in a country which boasts of water bodies, a long coastline, and what not. But can I really boast about the water quality? No. We are so proud of ‘Ganga Maiyaa’, and ‘Yamuna Maiyaa,..we worship them. But do we, really? Work is worship, they say. If I am not allowed to say that our authorities do not work, I think I am allowed to say that their work seems largely inconspicuous. Now that seems strange..I thought Ganga and Yamuna are two of the most important, largest rivers of the country. Anything that happens to them should be clearly visible. But no, the water has become opaque, thanks to the filth that has been carried on by the rivers for generations now. From generations which were eco-friendly, to generations who brush aside the concept. How is it even possible to clean the rivers of all that filth? So what do we do? We do NOTHING. We make plans, hold conferences, allocate work among departments, and implement the plan according to the plan. Sounds perfect, except that we forget to MONITOR. And we come back to NOTHING.
I feel helpless, reckless, and restless all rolled into one when I read something that should be done, but is not being done. I feel like rushing to replace that dormant person, sitting on the chair in an airconditioned room, doing NOTHING. But I am a student, and that’s where it ends. But that’s where it starts too. This is what ‘awareness’ means. But my awareness causes me pain. Hearing about people dying is never normal, but hearing about animals and species dying, is also not normal. My awareness through the classroom sessions have made me come to a conclusion: We cannot go back to the time when everything was eco-friendly, and we did not have to think about ‘GHG footprints’, or ‘carbon footprints’, because going back to the basics shall be a costly affair. Such things sound good, but are not practical. We cannot remove plastic completely from this planet, because every country is on a different page when it comes to resources, development, and so on. Colonization ended long back, but their aftereffects still continue to haunt nations, and since it is all about the survival of the fittest, every country wants to survive. Even if the coastal countries do their best to go ‘back to the basics’, they cannot evade the effects that their neighbouring country’s emissions cause. So, getting drowned is inevitable. The only thing that can be done is DELAYING the demise. And it has to start with the basics. For example, when we keep our beaches clean, and free of plastic, the litter won’t get transported to the ocean. Instead, it will be transported to the dustbins, which is their rightful place. What does this small effort imply? It implies clean water to bathe and swim in, and good health of marine species. I don’t know why nobody has mentioned it, and I may be wrong, but if seals, otters, and albatrosses can ingest plastic and die, the whales can as well. Coastal Cleanup is something that should be made mandatory for the coastal areas, and should not be a one-day programme.
Similarly, what we religiously do on Earth day should be done in small amounts whenever we see something getting ‘wasted’. Monitoring, metering, and regulating are important now, because increasing population always means increasing pollution. It is the era of globalization, and we may have invented means to check who is violating the norms, but we have to extend our capabilities to solving our problems as well, rather than merely pointing them out. Omission has already caused emission problems. And in response to our malefic actions, Mother Nature is reacting. We have to keep her calm, for as long as we can. Therein lies our only way to redeem ourselves.