Let Selfishness Save the Environment

proarbol.jpgSomeone has rightly said, “So bleak is the picture… that the bulldozer and not the atomic bomb may turn out to be the most destructive invention of the 20th century”.

Man claims to be the most developed of all species on this earth and yet it seems that this seemingly very advanced species has somewhere, lost its way. We have become so consumed in ‘us’, ‘we’ and ‘our’ needs, that we have made the gravest mistake and i.e., we have fallen prey to avarice. Avarice so great that it blinds us and constricts are very being. Man in his thirst for the proverbial “more” has reached a situation from where it’s going to be very difficult to turn back. We have come to a point where it’s essential that we make a decision, and make it quickly. A decision on not what we want but on what we must do.

What seems most bizarre is that even though most of us are aware of the environment problem; we still continue to manufacture things that are hazardous for the environment. Take the simple example of say environment friendly paper. To combat growing criticism such paper is made, but the manufacture and sale of normal paper isn’t stopped. So now the situation has actually become worse. Now, people have an option which makes them even more indifferent. This is sadly the case with virtually every product, be it aerosol cans, bulbs, plastic…the list is endless. What needs to be done urgently is the gradual phasing out of such products so that people have no option but to buy the environmental friendly products.

It might seem odd that I suggest selfishness as an option to save the environment, but believe me it’s not. It is selfishness that has got us to where we are today, selfishness for land, for water, for fossil fuels, for energy in short, for everything that the earth has to offer. But I mean it not in the routine sense of the word, but in the sense of the Bishnois who jealously guarded their trees and to this day stand up for the environment as was evident in their protest against Salman Khan for killing the chinkara. In the sense of the Bangladesh environment movement almost a decade back where civilians for their selfish interests for a better environment started a protest. In the sense of the “Save Manapouri Campaign” in the 70’s in New Zealand by locals which stopped the water levels from being raised for a hydro electricity project and in numerous other instances when people have been selfish for something apart from themselves, when they have fought tooth and nail to get something not for their personal gain but for the collective interest of society. We need more such ‘selfish’ movements. We need to start fighting for the rights of beings who can’t speak for themselves but desperately need our help, species which are on the brink of extinction.

The conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a very encouraging sign. It makes us hope that at least now, so late in the day, environment has become a priority for those in power. Let us not forget the power of one and help the environment in our own little ways. Let us not wait for the ‘other’ person to start, let’s take the initiative ourselves. We have a responsibility towards our future generations. Let us do everything we can to fulfill it. Let us be ‘selfish’ if need be and battle the hardest we ever have for something which not one or two but millions of beings deserve – a green planet.

Uttara Balakrishnan