There are literally hundreds of things I can immediately list regarding environmental decay. That’s right, I said ‘decay’. For this is not deterioration. This is not dropping standards and weather changes. This is decay. Let me give you an example. Ten years ago, when I was in college, I remember meeting my then boyfriend and his making fun of me for wearing two pairs of jeans.
Two! Whole pair of jeans, one over the other! You can laugh, but you could not deny that it used to be THAT cold back then. Even before that, I can recall three top layers, woollen leggings, thick skirts and doubled-up socks as standard uniform during school days. The layers made us walk all funny and look like swollen versions of ourselves, but they were necessary.
I have seen 28 winters, give or take, in Delhi and I have to say that things have gotten worse by the year. From the solid four months of hard winters that were extreme but natural, we have travelled to 2011 when we get a total of 20 days of winter which completely messes us up, leaves the young ones coughing and sneezing, the adults wrapping themselves in all kinds of wool and cloth to stay warm and the old people sitting in artificial heat rubbing their joints and counting their days.
It is not a healthy winter. It is a sudden burst of chilly air, smog, still-sweaty afternoons, sickness and virtually no time for settling in our thawing out because it is, like I said, 20 days of wintertime.
You may question my tirade thinking that this is supposed to be about environment and not about weather changes but you can trust me when I say that the twain are coalescent.
Our environment is decaying every minute of every day and while there are evidences that confirm this downfall with many atmospheric data and research that points in a particularly downward direction, we plebeians can feel the difference in our homes and hearts by simply living our work-a-day lives and observing what goes around us with a little more attention than normal.
For instance, the sun tan that I used to enjoy as a kid has become a really splotchy, burning and horrible-looking singe now and no, it is not my changed perspectives about being dark-skinned. Earlier, one could get rid of such tanning with homemade recipes and/or a quick wax. The same treatments today can actually aggravate the condition and leave your skin looking damaged.
Yet another case is to be made for hair quality. My entire family has silky, smooth hair that has never seen any problems. We used to live on shampoo and that was that. No regular massage or conditioning, parlour treatments or hot oil wraps.
Heck, we didn’t even bother oiling our hair like many other families because our hair was naturally healthy and grew with perfect consistency. Today, all our bath racks are riddled with leave-ins and conditioners and various kinds of shampoos and oils.
We need them because the air in summer is oven-hot and in winter it is dry cold. One could argue saying that it may just be us but to that I would say that just like you cannot get rid of oily skin by using oil-free products because it is the type of your skin and will always remain oily, similarly you cannot just up and change your hair type one day, especially if you have never had any chronic or long-term diseases or illness.
This type of change can only be chalked up to an external influence and in this case, it happens to be our environment.
You see, it always comes down to what we believe in such cases of universal importance. Science can only do so much in gathering all the data and establishing the core problem. In some cases, it will even give you the solution to immediately tackle the problem.
But when it comes to something as grand and unsurpassable as the atmosphere of our entire planet, it is in the hands of neither science nor nature to alter it, contain it or make it all better. People worked very hard and for very, very long to damage the earth to this extent, so much so, that now the first and the only totally free layer of protection that we were given as an orientation gift for inhabiting the earth (Ozone, guys, I am talking about Ozone) is no longer a gift we can preserve or appreciate.
We were also given fuels and fossils to last us a lifetime while we figured out how to replenish our energies ourselves, but even that didn’t move us enough to stop digging holes in the ground we walk on. In fact, we literally treated the earth like a child treats the first three lives of his hero in a video game that he is yet learning how to play. But sadly, there is no button we can press to Save Game, Start Over or Exit. Boy, can I paint a scary picture!
Anyway, as I was saying, the signs of nature’s decay are quite apparent if we are willing to notice. As an extension to that thought, the ways of mending our home planet are also staring us in the face, should we go looking for them.
However, we need to remind ourselves that just like it took a long hard time for earth to reach this ill-fated state, it will take as much or more time for it to regain a healthy green state of being, provided that equally earnest measures are taken to repair its core components and change our own habits to maintain progress.
Of course, once again, proactive as we are, we have begun making amends and improving our lifestyles by introducing environmentally friendly elements in our daily lives and it is a step forward. But expecting the trees to grow faster just because you carried your groceries in a paper bag three days in a row is less than practical, isn’t it?
I guess what I am trying to say is that it is a tightrope we walk today between our quest for advancement of mankind and technology and our need to maintain the natural equilibrium to sustain the planet’s life.
It is quite difficult to balance the two but it is equally hard to choose. One may hark back to the Gaia theory and find comfort in the fact that the earth will heal itself but we all know that is merely a placebo for the real pain.
I would say our best bet is to keep looking forward and glance back every now and then to see what we leave behind with each step.