According to several indicators such as melting glaciers, rising sea levels, reduction of forest cover, depletion of the ozone layer, overconsumption of ground water, unprecedentedly high air and water pollution, oceans choked by plastic, global warming and climate change, we seem to be on a high-speed roller-coaster ride towards an environmental holocaust, that could occur sooner than later. However laudable the “How Dare You?” rhetoric of Greta Thunberg at the UNGA meet may have been, sloganeering and talk have their limitations in shaking the conscience of those who can make a difference at the global level. At that level, it is a faceoff between the insatiable greed of nations and enlightened world governance. There are no prizes for guessing which of the two is winning hands down at this moment in history. Can the tables turn? Yes. Will the tables turn? Not until you and I want it to happen.
We are an emotional species. We get carried away by catchy phrases like “we have borrowed this Earth from our children” and “How Dare You?” We feel satisfied organising essay competitions, walks and runs to ‘Save the Planet’. The photographs look good in glossy reports generated to drug some bigwig into an artificial sense of achievement, force a misplaced belief that lots of good work is happening and that ‘All is Well’. Precious little is happening and Sir, ‘All is Certainly Not Well.” We need to alter our understanding about ‘Saving the Planet’ and for a moment, take a look at Humanity from the Planet’s perspective. The Earth has been around for approximately 4.5 billion years and may continue to exist for another 4.5 billion, maybe more. Species have come and gone and Humanity as we know it, has been around for barely 10000 years. So much for resilience of the Planet vis-a-vis Humanity. It may be more sobering to view the future through the prism of ‘Saving Humanity from Itself’ rather than ‘Saving the Planet’. The Planet will surely outlive humans. It is Humanity that is in the self-destruct mode. We have a choice – make a U-turn or continue hurtling towards an assured wipeout.
This is a call to Action. Do not depend on world or national leaders – politics has no sentiment and political statements are more often than not, for optics and short-term gains. Who cares about what happens to the world in 50 years when political uncertainty recurs every 5 years or even less? Global statements, national aims and local objectives are impossible to align and therefore a top-down approach is destined to fail. In the rarified atmosphere of global or even national leadership, there is too much political stake for the global or national good to prevail over narrower vested interests. The answer to my mind lies in shaking our conscience at the individual and local levels and act in every possible way to reclaim our environment in the manner that Nature had designed. Lesser individuals and organisations have little to lose politically or economically and will only gain incrementally with every small action to preserve or restore environmental normals. The collective gains could be substantial. Hopefully, this bottom-up approach would help galvanise public opinion in increasing concentric circles for better sense to eventually prevail and proliferate. Let us therefore reduce consumption, save water, food and resources, recycle waste, shun plastics, turn to Nature for advice on what to correct and very importantly, choose our public representatives carefully – pick those who share our belief that Humanity must be saved from itself.
Prophetic were the words of the Mahatma when he famously said “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed”. This greed has brought us to where we stand today – looking at a disaster of unimaginable proportions in the face. If our individual and collective consciences do not awaken from their deep slumber and we continue to act in such hopeless greed, nothing can stop the extinction of Homo Sapiens from Planet Earth.