A red alert is sounded in Beijing, and through the barrel of the gun and stringent measures adopted, noxious toxins drop by a whopping 30% in a matter of a week; while Delhi struggles with its odd and even policy to address pollutions levels. Poor school children have been deputed to undertake environmental policing.
We are part of an ecosystem. It includes animate and inanimate objects and natural forces. The living things provide conditions for development and growth as well as danger and damage.
Paris was burning from within and without, yet managed to adopt a resolution inked by 195 countries to reduce global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. This conference was an improvement over the Copenhagen Summit held in 2009, but diluted the Kyoto protocol of equity of 1997.
The US and the EU have contributed close to 40% of all the emissions while India accounts for a measly 2.8%. It will be worthwhile to note that to adhere to the target of 2 degrees Celsius, the rough estimate of carbon budget available with the world is 29,000 billion tonnes of which 1,900 has already been emitted.
But environmental protection is beyond mere statistics. We need to revere “Mother Earth”, our planet. Mother Earth personifies nature as a life giving force which sustains and nourishes us. It provides us with the vital “prana”.
“You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have a real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer “writes Thich Nhat Hanh.
Modern day lifestyle based on globalisation, commercialisation and capitalism generate vast deposits of pollutants. The fuels which we use for our existence like coal, gas, oil, nuclear energy are all impacting the climate.
There have been as many as 99 nuclear accidents of which 57% have taken place in the US alone while we are aware only about Fukushima (2011) and Chernobyl (1986).
Man’s avarice and his rapacious attitude have virtually destroyed our ecosystem. Of the 44,838 species on the planet, 905 are extinct and 16,928 are endangered. As vultures are slowly becoming extinct, the Parsi community face serious problems in disposing off their dead.
The Himalayas, cradle of both Hinduism and Buddhism, houses 9 of the ten top peaks in the world including Mount Everest and is a source of major Asian rivers which regulate our climate face melting, with denudation of flora and fauna, construction of dams, and criminal network operating to poach wildlife. The Haridwar Dam constructed by the British in 1854 has diminished the water flow and the Kotli-Bhel Dam at Devaprayag has denuded 1200 hectares of forests, wiping out aquatic and wildlife. Such carnage results in earthquakes like the ones in Kedarnath.
Samuel Johnson wrote,” Road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I am not a Luddite, but obviously this model of economic development is not for public good and has negative externalities attached to it.
The river Ganges provides water to 40% of our population. It runs across 29 cities of the country where in we are pumping human and industrial waste. Several religious festivals and rites also compound the problem. Effluents from tannery industries, chemical plants, textile mills, slaughter houses and hospitals are polluting and desalinating the river. Operation cleaning of Ganga began in 1986 and we continue to clean it without any tangible results.
Al Gore a pioneer in Climate Change says,” Today we’re dumping 70 million tonnes of global warming into the environment and tomorrow we will dump more, and there is no effective worldwide response. Until we start sharply reducing global warming pollutants, I will feel that I have failed.”
We cannot rely only on big ticket environmental reforms by governments alone. Individuals need to take small steps which would yield positive results. To save energy we can opt for co-housing, carpooling, the Gandhian model of co-operative economic development, reduce our wants, clean our environs by constructing toilets and contributing to the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, improve hygiene, setting up of bird feeds and help to keep the bio diversity intact. Let us be clear in our minds that we will not have a society to live in if we destroy our environment.
Noted physicist, Stephen Hawking while acknowledging the acute problem of widespread pollution writes,” Human race will not survive next thousand years, unless we spread into space.”
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