Opinion : Climate change is real, collective effort is fundamental: Lets’ Beat the Trash

Khyandi Lad or Police Bajar in Shillong after the rain . Image by the author

By Banshanlang Marwein

Mind you if I ask a question, why there is a global warming? The answer is absolutely upon us, sadly most of the time we end up adding more fuel to the fire. Whom do we blame? Just like what the world leaders are doing the blame game when it comes to climate change and the responsibility to save the environment, we are also doing the same. The marine lives today suffer because of our gluttony, instantaneity, sluggish and irresponsible behaviour towards the environment. Not only did the marine lives suffer, it also bounds back at us. The obsession with using of plastics such as straws, cups, bags, bottle etc., has cursed us big time.

The boisterous dumping of garbage on the streets and the neighbourhood are things that we love the most. Not to mention the other severe impacts on the environment we made through smoke from our cars, industries, unscrupulous mining activities among others. In an interesting and welcoming development, the European Parliament has approved the ban of single use plastics which includes cutlery, cotton buds, straws and many other single use plastics and more stringent action against the polluter, if implemented this will be a step ahead in curbing pollution.

The year 1972 was a historic year as far as the discourse on saving the Environment and the debates on climate change is concerned. After the Stockholm conference held on June 5 1972 –June 16 1972, the UN later that year decided to celebrate 5 June as World Environment Day,United Nations Environment Programme was established the same year. The International Panel on Climate Change and the United Nations Framework for Climate Change was also established in the year 1988 and 1992 respectively. Nonetheless, it does not mean that before these years there was no discussion or there was no global warming or environmental problem happened. Through the findings of IPCC in 2013, human activities are the main causes of global warming. In 2018, the IPCC issued a special report on the effects of climate change, if we are to limit the global warming to 1.5 ‘C it will need hasty, extensive and unparalleled changes in all aspects of society, noted the IPCC. The paybacks that human and the environment is very clear if we can limit the global warming to 1.5°C as opposed to the 2°C which we can possibly face an ecologically safe and enduring society. The IPCC also noted that the impacts of climate change can be avoided if at all collective measures are taken. WHO estimated that around 7 Million people lost their life every year from the contact to ‘fine particles’ which is a mixture of polluted air.

Khasi food items being sold in Iewduh in Shillong . Image by the author

As India and the rest of the world celebrates (rather introspecting the abuse we made) the World Environment Day on 5 th June, it is indispensable for all the stakeholders including individuals to follow up the key measures to curb climate change and get back the serenity of our environment (is it possible?). More than celebrations, we need actions, more than reactions we need practical solutions. Interestingly the theme this year is “Beat Air Pollution”. However, it is very discouraging to learn that 15 out of 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India reported Greenpeace and IQ Air Visual in 2018, those cities are Gurgoan, New Delhi, Ghaziabad etc., In this connection, South Asian Region is one of the most polluted region in the world with countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan tops the chart. The air pollution in big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Beijing etc., creates havoc not only to human beings but other beings in the city and its surrounding also. Plastic being one of the most dangerous causes of pollution and in turn it adds up to the existing problem of global warming is one thing that we as ordinary citizen can avoid.

That being said, the issue at hand is very diverse and technical, as ordinary citizens it is equally important to be informed and follow suits. Christian teaching is to love your neighbour as you love yourselves, so if we consider the environment as our neighbour, it would be a prodigious effect towards the contribution for a safer environment. The question here is, are we doing that or are we abusing it? In fact we can do a lot as an individual also.
As I pen down this piece I feel guilty because I was not able to contribute much to the protection of the environment. But I think a simple act of not littering around the city and its surrounding is way better than just being the cause of the problem. I avoid using taxis or cars as much as possible, instead I prefer cycling or walking and as a traveller I understand how important it is to make our environment safe as no other gift can ever satisfy our busy and occupied life than being out there in the clean air and beautiful nature and find ourselves. One thing that as an individual or community we could do is that the teaching on how to love and respect environment should be the way of life. Planting trees on every environment day has been a common exercise either by government establishment, individuals or private enterprises but without the follow-up programme it is absolutely pointless. Because lakhs of trees are planted but what happened to those trees plated every year? Probably a necessary follow-up is required. I also learnt that some government establishment took the initiatives of plastic raids this is one way of contributing. Moreover, if saving the environment is about spending crores of rupees without bearing fruits and for photo ops then I think we should rather stop it right away, if we don’t learn from here, when do we learn then? In fact planting trees should be mandatory in every households so that we can we can take care of it easily, it becomes difficult to take care of large numbers of tress when planted if the authorities does not take a necessary actions to do so.

The threats of global warming have already started and it would be a disaster in coming years if we cannot prevent global warming anymore. It is needless to realise that we are part of this climate change and the blistering heat. If we avoid using cars and walk instead or use public transport, reduce the use of plastics and take part in various activities that promotes protection and saving the environment that would be a great initiative to start with. Grand salutes to those individuals and groups who have just started the campaigns and also those who have been doing over the years in small towns and cities to clean the environment by a no litter campaign, one citizen one tree campaign, cleaning the tourist spots. The theme this year reminds us that beating air pollution should not only be our daily mantra but it should also be internalised that we won’t need somebody to tell us to end polluting the environment.

As the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that every 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe an unsafe air. We should always be one step ahead in saving the environment and ensure a fresh air if we want to save ourselves.

Delhi and other metropolitan cities are choking the unwelcome air and it is very sad to learn that because of the blistering heat, lives have been lost and people are caught with various ailments. I remember when I went to Mc. Leod Ganj in Himachal, a place that is believed to be with clean air and natural beauty but on the way to Triund Trek, unscrupulous throwing of plastics and bottles are everywhere which is clearly understood that this was done by people who visited the place.

One simple act of switching off the lights, AC or fans when not in use would make a difference. But it is again human tendency that we hardly do that, this write-up is a gentle reminder for the same. The act of turning off the water tap properly whenever we finish using would be an impact in a different way. In fact, instead of studying or reading in one private AC room, let us try to minimise the use of energy being exhausted unnecessarily by studying in a common room.

The world knows about Mawlynnong village in Meghalaya being the cleanest village in Asia and they do yearn to visit such village. Such fame made us so proud. Unfortunately, the plastics and garbage thrown by the tourist and travellers is not a surprise anymore. If such village turned out to be a dumping ground because of our obnoxious behaviour towards the environment, it would be really disheartening and very sad story. The tribal villages are relatively clean in most cases unlike the urban spaces that have become a joke to the idea of cleanliness which Iewduh in Shillong can be cited as the best example for the same. It is really not right or reasonable to blame one individual or a group for such chaos but we as residents and city dwellers are part of it.

At the end of the day, it is not what we cannot do unless we try but the sad part is we are too occupied with our own busy schedules. The question remains, isn’t it important as a responsible citizens to do something for a better tomorrow? Let us become the catalyst of change in such an egocentric and reckless world. Let us in fact exercise our already existing knowledge of saving the environment. Last but not the least; it is a sincere entreaty to government establishment that a safe and secure environment should be ensured to all including animals, rivers and the whole ecosystems. If we prioritise ending air pollution and the destruction of the environment, a secure and better life would see the light of day, if otherwise, the threats of global warming is growing fast which will be difficult to tackle .

( The author is pursuing his Doctoral studies at the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament in Jawaharlal Nehru University , New Delhi )

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