Over four million people from across the world came together on Friday, to stand up for a cause that united them all. The environment. It was a gargantuan effort and behind it is an unlikely hero, a demure, 16 year-old Swede with plaited her and a grave expression. Greta Thunberg has helped make history, with a clarion call to schoolchildren to skip school, skip work and participate in the Climate Strike, heard all over the world.
The terms that Greta uses, ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’, aren’t new to any of us - they have been in use for over a decade now, drawing attention to the looming disasters of environmental degradation. And aren’t we already feeling the impact? Isn’t the average temperature rising every year? Isn’t the ice in the Himalayas melting at alarming levels? Isn’t the temperature in India hitting 50 degrees Celsius in some places and increasing as the years pass? Even Bengaluru, the Garden City, is feeling the heat. There is no time left for talking. It’s time to act.
The remedies are layered and tackling a problem of this scale requires addressing the eco system of the earth as a whole. The earth is a diverse place and preserving this diversity in nature is an important factor. For example, Bengaluru had a system of over a 1000 inter-linked lakes which would gather enough rain to meet the city’s drinking water and irrigation needs. Excess water would travel to dosnstream lakes and rivers.
Most people don’t even know about Bengaluru’s rivers but the fact it, it was once home to three - Arkavati, Vrushabhavati and Kumudavati. Of course, we have them even today, but they’re in a sorry state. They are filled with sewage and industrial waste. It is clear that our mistakes are the root cause of the problem and we must revive these rivers and lakes to give Bengaluru its lifeline back. This involves reducing concretisation, increasing green cover in Bengaluru and installing systems for rain water harvesting, to improve groundwater levels. We must manage our sewage, garbage, address pollution and in the process, improve public transport.
Karnataka’s forest cover, which stood at about 40 percent 25 years ago, has fallen to 25 percent now. A balanced eco system requires a forest cover of at least 33 percent. Widespread deforestation has impacted the Western Ghats and we have been witness to heavy land slides and flooding in these areas over the last two years. These problems are only going to get worse and more frequent, unless we address them now.
The government has to balance its developmental projects by carrying out an analysis of the environmental impact and ensure that precautions are taken instead of rushing to work after things go wrong. The government has to take climate change very seriously.
We as citizens can play a positive role too, by following a few simple solutions of our own. Here are a few:
- Can every person plant one sapling a year and maintain it? The government must also take stringent measures against people who cut down trees.
- Can we all be more sensitive to the garbage issue and move towards zero waste initiatives like composting at home, using bio-enzymes, using plate banks and menstrual cups? Can we not segregate waste and ensure that it reaches the appropriate destination?
- Stop burning garbage and leaves.
- Stop using single-use plastic, which has had a major impact on the climate, including in the oceans.
- Switch to public transport systems. The government also has a role to play in making these systems effective and convenient.
- Be sensitive to the use of valuable resources like water, electricity and food.
—The author is an Environmental Activist