By Aishaanyaa Tewari
Edited by Anjini Chandra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
By geological standards it wasn’t so long ago when humans started using patches of land for agriculture and the domestication of animals. It feels like yesterday when the first chimney poked out of London’s skyline and coughed out black clouds of ‘bad air’. It’s almost as if it was this morning when we heard of the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion for the first time. By these standards it was just a moment ago when we all realized what we were doing to the environment.
My identity is no longer confined to being an Indian, I am more than that, I am a citizen of the world. I attend my Environmental Education classes, I wait for my monsoons wearily because they are two weeks late, I put sun-tan lotion of a higher SPF than what my skin tone requires because the sun is harsher than usual. The winters aren’t cold enough.
These everyday observations and the omnipresent green campaigns make me realise that if an issue is picked up so often, everywhere, it must really be important. Then I thought some more, thought of what it has got to do with me.
I am not a farmer who will see the cracked and parched land, thirsting for water. I am not one of those who are forced to pay, out of nearly no income and left with the only option of taking my own life.
I am not a fisherman who waits by the shore of the lapping sea in patient meditation, catching fish in his vast net. Most of the time, they are left with algae, a few fishes here and there and a lot sea water flowing back.
I am not the chief of a tribe living in the obscurity of a forest, worshipping the forces of nature and who is now afraid of the erratic expressions of their Nature God.
I am not a poor child cooling off in the Ganges, during the Indian Summer.
I am a girl who gorges on “farm-grown” delicacies, completely unaffected by what goes into producing it, I binge on sea food in my exotic holidays, I am a student who scribbles on stationary made by cutting endless rainforests and I am an ordinary pilgrim to the polluted Ganges.
“I am a citizen of the world” I read one day, finally understanding that climate change could be because of that sheet of paper I made a plane out of, or my study lamp that I kept switched on. It is with this knowledge – that climate change isn’t restricted to India’s late monsoons but also a storm hitting Japan or “bronchitis causing” CO2 in New York – that I sit here, thinking of ways to end this, thinking of remedies we can come up with to have bluer skies and a greener Earth.
If we talk of strategies and the changing of mindsets, the first remedy is to modify education. An average student learns about tornadoes and gets a hundred percent on her test, but it ends there. We have to convert information into knowledge. Educators should see that we have not been successful, on a wide spread basis, in convincing the citizens of the world to act in environmentally responsible ways. We need a practically constructed curriculum based on the most recent research, a lot of application based teaching and seminars and workshops with environmentalists and pioneers, who can guide students. There appear to be too few nationally focused efforts to prepare future citizens to make environmentally sound decisions or to participate responsibly in environmental maintenance and remediation.
Only a fraction of our young learners are being exposed to logically developed, well-articulated Environmental Educational programs. Unfortunately, the majority of the instructional materials, fail to develop skills associated with investigating and evaluating issues or with responsible citizen participation. They mainly deal with increasing awareness levels, not in behavioural changes.
Moreover, the media doesn’t play an active role in promoting peoples efforts. Very few focus on skills associated with an individuals citizen ownership and empowerment. The media also fails to affect behaviour because it only relies on awareness.
The government has to come to the rescue for the students who want to pursue a career in this field. It should encourage students by making more environment protection schemes, award grants and research scholarships available. More jobs should be created and the jobs which already exist should have an environmental dimension to it.
Realistically speaking, coming up with ideas and engineering them for use is not the hard part, it is the social engineering that is tough.
Gary Stix says, “This requires fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship.”
The vicious circle of degradation and pollution continues because one action engenders ill effects. This calls for a drastic change or at least a modification in lifestyle. Buying large packs rather than small sachets will reduce waste. It will also help in bridging the gap between developed and developing countries, where the per person waste generation is much higher in the former than the latter.
There are many solutions which have been proposed to tackle climate change and the most important of them is change in attitude, along with the awareness that this is a very urgent and pressing issue. We need more individuals to feel for this cause with all their hearts, even when climate change does not affect them directly. I conclude with these inspiring lines from the song ‘Earth Song’ by Michael Jackson, which speak of the tragedy and urgency of this issue.
What about sunrise?
What about rain?
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain…
What about killing fields
Is there a time?
What about all the things
That you said was yours and mine…
Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores?