Everyone knows that mankind’s consistent march down the path towards achieving technological progress has increasingly put the environment at risk. Nobody would deny this. And yet, nobody is really interested in engaging with environmental issues seriously.
This might seem strange since these issues are well-known to us. After all, who hasn’t heard of the threat of global warming or the dangers of wasting limited energy resources? We have all been taught the need to protect our environment and its resources against contamination, pollution or wastage. We all know the calamities that will follow if we fail in this duty towards our environment. This was drilled into us in school through workshops, special field trips and mandatory morning assemblies. And with the proliferation of communications media, we have been further barraged by warnings of global warming and the hazards of neglecting the environment. Even Hollywood jumped onto the bandwagon with big-budget films like The Day After Tomorrow which intended to scare us into taking proactive measures against environmental degradation. Unfortunately the film only served to scare us out of the movie theatres! Most recently, Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth raised some well-needed concerns and hit the panic buttons more effectively.
But while we might talk about it or hold forums debating the need to do something about it, not much is actually being done.
I don’t mean to sound overly cynical and I do not want to dismiss the efforts both large and small that have been undertaken by committed individuals and organizations. I merely want to point out that there is a mind-bogglingly immense gap between what we are doing about the environment and what needs to be done. This does not only mean that we need to invest more time and money in this cause. Rather, it needs a great deal more devotion on our part. For the biggest stumbling block is our mindset. In other words, although we know of the existence of environmental problems, we do not think of it as OUR problem. We see it as something that must be dealt with in the distant future. If this attitude persists, then all is lost. In fact, no breakthroughs will be possible if we do not collectively feel the pressing need to do something about it NOW.
I could list a catalogue of issues that need to be dealt with, but this would only defeat its own end. Nobody wants to be preached to. So instead, I shall focus on one issue which I believe to be very important: water.
Water is a quickly diminishing resource in the world. In Delhi, where I live, people shamelessly waste it. They let their tanks overflow or they use gallons of water to wash their cars when a single bucket would suffice. Municipal trucks transporting water routinely leak copious amounts onto the roads. Rampant wastage of this kind takes place in numerous urban colonies when adjoining slums have no access to water while nearby Gurgaon is facing one of the severest water shortages in years. In Australia, patrol cars actually police the use of water to ensure that wastage does not take place. This, of course, is impossible in a country like India where infrastructural shortages persist and adequate allocation of resources is a huge problem. But surely that does not mean we neglect the crisis altogether. For it is clear that a crisis is imminent and will befall us sooner than we think. I do not need to elaborate upon the cataclysmic possibilities that will ensue in a world without water. Not only will wars be waged over the control of whatever limited supply of water is left, but growth itself will stagnate. We’ll have no water to drink, we’ll have no food to grow, and we’ll have no electricity to produce. Also, in the absence of sanitation, disease and sickness will proliferate and ultimately the world will become a desert rampant with disease. I’m sure this sounds dramatic, but that’s because the need of the hour is such. The possibilities of such a scenario are very likely and are becoming more so each passing year.
It’s not that difficult to conserve water. From shutting off our bathroom taps while brushing our teeth to rain water harvesting to just exercising more caution while using this valuable resource, it CAN be done. I’m sure we know that. But this is only possible if we realize the pressing need to do it. We need to become more proactive. Allied to the need of conserving water is also the need to stop contaminating it. Industrial and urban waste chokes the canals and rivers of the city I live in. The Delhi Government’s drive to clean the Yamuna River is yielding slow results, but at least a process is in motion.
The buck stops with us. If we do nothing, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
Ambar Sahil Chatterjee