Why have we, a supposedly intelligent species allowed ourselves to come to this tragic pass? Environment concern no longer remains an obscure concept. Man’s thoughtless actions over the decade has left a badly mauled and scarred planet, Earth. Ruthless exploitation has left a bleeding carcass.
The world is confronted with environmental problems ranging from global warming to deforestation. Lakes, rivers, and sees have been converted into sewers and dumping grounds of industrial effluents. Millions of plant and animal species today are extinct. Air pollution, ozone depletion and the accumulation of green house gases represent only the tip of the iceberg. Defiling the environment has become a way of life for us. Unfettered consumption is depleting the earth’s resources, industrial pollution is contaminating our air and water, and emissions for the automobiles are raising the global temperature.
The Earth summits however did help to rake up issues and put them in the spotlight. It made people ecologically sensitive. The first Earth summit was held at Stockholm in 1972. This meeting helped trigger the birth of several grass-root conservation groups. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development( UNCED)endeavored to set the environmental agenda for the future. It came up with the ‘Earth Charter’, set of basic principles to govern environmentally sustainable development. The ‘Agenda 21’ served as the blueprint for the planet management. The summit was indicative of the growing global realization of the approaching crisis that threatens our planet.
Today, more than ever one is encountered with concrete evidence to prove the link between a healthy environment and the quality of human life. The entire green issue is a rather labyrinthine maze with a number of robed interests. The answer lies in a concept called ‘sustainable development’. ‘Economic growth and environmental protection are inevitabily linked and the quality of the present and future life rests on the meeting of basic human needs without destroying the environment on which life depends.” To achieve the goal of sustainable development it is imperative that Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) promote the participation of local communities at all stages of project planning, implementation and monitoring. Unfortunately ’ people’s participation’ is seen as a law rather than a duty by both people and government.
Need based and a people oriented environmental policy needs to be evolved. The optimum desires of the whole population and the fulfillment of minimum need is quintessential.
The famous R’s
Reduce, reuse and recycle. The golden mantra of sustainable development. They are celebrated, discussed and widely talked about and the crux of the problem is whether we practice them? The mass media must play a crucial role in spreading environmental awareness. There has to be fundamental restructuring in the way we live, few initial steps like , adopting solar based energy opposed to fossil fuels, using public transport networks and city designs that lessen automobile use, redistribution of land and wealth, saying no to plastics, switching over to eco-friendly products etc. Even the small act of switching off the lights and fans of the rooms except yours in a house make a great difference.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
Thus just the realization and understanding itself is the first big step towards a safer world to live. Taking care of the smallest things and acknowledging the truth that you could save 1,000 gallons/month if you make sure to use your clothe washer and dryer when you have a full load is appreciable. Watering your lawns during the evening to avoid evaporation, replacing old light bulbs with energy saving fluorescent bulbs, shortening your shower by just a minute to save 150 gallons/month etc are simple, but important. Besides, intelligent steps like rain water harvesting, bio gas plants, solar-cells in every house are all golden feathers. Set your fridge to be between 36-38 F, plant trees to shade your home, re-purpose used and old furniture to save money, trees and a new furniture, wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket, turn off your computer, T.V, etc when you go to sleep, inflate your vehicle tires properly to preserve the life of the tires, a safer ride and to save gas.
There were many milestones to save the environment in India alone. The Chipko Andolan against the indiscriminate felling of trees in UP and the Bhopal gas victims struggle inspiring movements against industrial pollution remind us to get together and work as a team for better environment. The people of Gujarat and Kerala have refused to accept a radioactive future by agitating against Nuclear Power Plants, the Orissa People’s Opposition has stalled the Balco Project at Gandemardhan and the missile base at Baliapal, in Ahmedabad, a hundred factories are involved in converting plastic picked from the roadside into recycled products. Thus, let us begin to drop small pebbles in the pot, and the water will slowly but surely rise up.