On 5 June, we saw everyone sharing posts on why it’s now more important than ever to care for the environment. The very next day most of us usually forget all about it and go back to our lives. If we want our future generation to live a healthy life, the time to act is now and care for the environment every single day and not just on Earth Day or World Environment Day.
The year 2020 was an eye-opener as we saw a minuscule virus bring the world to its knees. Inadvertently, it allowed nature to heal and rejuvenate from the cruelties inflicted by the so-called ‘intelligent creatures', the homo sapiens. It was last year when nature announced enough is enough, now I will take charge! Whenever I hear about floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, thunderstorms, tsunamis, or any other natural calamity, it feels as if these are nature’s mechanisms to auto-cleanse, restore some balance, and basically show us ‘who’s the real boss’. Yet, we humans don’t pay much heed and go back to our old ways of abusing nature and its resources. As Mahatma Gandhi said, the world has enough for everyone's needs, but not everyone’s greed.
We hear about climate-change pacts signed by countries, but it all tends to be symbolic and alive on paper only. The pace of change for betterment and the real impact of carbon-cut policies on the environment continues to remain slow. In Delhi, every year we have days when the air quality becomes poor and we literally feel choked in the toxic air. Nowadays, thanks to COVID, we are seeing a new issue — masks strewed carelessly which affects soil quality, animals and sea life. Clearly, we aren’t learning from our mistakes. It’s not just government authorities who are to be blamed, we too as citizens are equal culprits in wreaking havoc on nature.
Our ancestors and ancient Vedas truly respected and revered nature. They lived closer to nature, cared for the environment, breathed fresh air, and led much healthier lives. Eventually, in pursuit of development, we have strayed from our culture and values. It’s time to introspect and act, for it is now or never. I am not an expert nor do I have any out-of-the-box solutions. Here are five small tips that I follow, these will in a way help you also do your bit and sustainably contribute to our planet’s wellbeing.
- Go veg (or vegan if you can!) — There is enough proof everywhere on how meat consumption contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Consuming seafood too isn’t healthy for our ecosystem and bodies. Still skeptical? Watch Seaspiracy, The Game Changers, and several other similar videos on YouTube. This isn't all fake noise. I confess I still eat eggs, but I have made a start by quitting on meat. It’s been more than seven years and I don’t crave it or miss it, thanks to tastier and diverse options available on the veg side. I am doubtful about going vegan as that involves a lifestyle change by giving up on the use of leather and fully quitting dairy and animal-derived products such as honey. I believe plant-based dairy alternatives are not sustainable ( I might be wrong) and are somewhat against the idea of going local.
- Go local — Years ago, as international travel became more common, we took a certain pride in having imported food products. It was a sign of privilege (still is for many people). Canned food, imported fruits or veggies, chocolates, chips, cookies, candies and what not! I am still fond of Belgian and German chocolates, my eyes light up when someone gets me these. I have made a start and prefer having seasonal and local produce. For the last few years, many dieticians and experts have been stressing the importance of having local and seasonal products for various reasons. One of them is — consumption of food that is sourced from other countries or faraway places adds to your carbon footprint. Think about all the fuel and emissions it took for that item to reach you. If you care for the environment, consider eating consciously and prefer consuming the local produce. It will also help to financially uplift your local farmers, supply chain providers, stores, and the entire ecosystem.
- Shop consciously — The fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits of climate change. Research by McKinsey shows that the fashion industry emitted 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions in 2018, which is nearly the same as combined emissions from the United Kingdom, German and France. Shocking right? To do your bit, shop consciously and reuse as much as you can. You can also opt for natural fabrics which decay easily and do not add trash to the soil. In our house, old T-shirts are often used as dusting fabrics, and old towels are used for mopping floors. We reuse as much as we can.
- Plant, but don’t neglect — Many people plant saplings but neglect them later. The resilient ones survive while the sensitive ones often don’t make it. Also, there are instances when stray animals ambush them. Caring for plants needs time and patience. Last year, I received a succulent as a gift and I adored it. I had kept it near my work area and often talked to it. One fine day I observed small black spots on it, I largely ignored them thinking they are temporary and will vanish. Later, the spots grew bigger and we tried to chop off the affected parts. Before we knew it, one day the entire plant had dried up with black spots all over. I Googled later to check more on this and found out it was black fungus. It was shattering to see the plant pass away gradually. I miss it! Treat your plants as your buddies and watch them thrive.
- Take care of your mind too, we are the environment — Only a happy and peaceful mind will care for the environment. So clean up the clutter in your head with creative activities, singing, dancing, meditating or whatever works the best for you. If you are happy, your positive vibes will help the earth to flourish. So, take care of your mind and emotions, as mental pollution adversely affects the environment.
Climate change is an alarming threat. The more we postpone remedial measures, the more dangerous it will become in years to come. We are already seeing excessive floods, hurricanes, droughts, rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and whatnot. Let's do our bit to avert the worst.
I am concluding with some fun facts from Statista as food for thought.
- One hectare of forest can absorb approximately six tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
- Forests provide over 86 million green jobs and nearly 880 million people spend part of their time collecting fuelwood or producing charcoal, many of them women.
- Each year, the world loses 10 million hectares of forests, equivalent to the size of South Korea or Iceland.
- According to World Environment Day Global, half of the world’s GDP is dependent on nature and every dollar invested in restoration creates up to 30 dollars in economic benefits.
Read McKinsey article on how the fashion industry can urgently act to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/fashion-on-climate#
Photo by Dhaya Eddine Bentaleb on Unsplash