Is scale all- important?

I’ve talked before, in my post on Green Warriors, of the loneliness of trying to do the right thing on your own. In an effort to scale up a little, a year ago, I undertook responsibility for environmental initiatives in our local Residents Welfare Association. First and foremost among these initiatives has been increasing awareness of waste segregation, recycling, composting, etc. Months of work have got us to a point where segregation is a topic of conversation, and ten families have agreed to try composting their kitchen waste. I’m trying to overcome my shyness in speaking about these things in public fora. We’re planting more trees and trying to implement rainwater harvesting in our neighborhood…

My neighborhood is probably a typical suburb in India. The residents are busy making ends meet, bringing up and educating their kids, and getting as many of the good things in life as they can. There is little time or thought for the larger good. If they don’t fling their garbage in the road, as some do, they’ve done their bit for the environment.

Many in this community are retired, and one would expect that these senior citizens would have time to ponder on the state of the world. Not so. Those who are not in the rat race are busy pursuing God. God and Nature seem to be mutually exclusive – God knows why. In this scenario, my strenuous efforts to avoid each single piece of plastic sometimes seem pointless and delusional.

I was discussing this with two young people – my daughter who is, willy-nilly, part of the plastic-avoiding brigade, and my nephew, who is not. They were united in the view that efforts and sacrifices on the personal front are useless because they have no impact. When one considers one’s personal contribution or withholding of plastic as a percentage of the vast landfills of the city and the world, this appears to be true. If you want to make a difference worth the effort, they said, approach large corporations and get them to stop using plastic. Lobby with government agencies. It is up to the government to abolish plastic, chemical farming, fuel-guzzling and air-polluting private transport and so on by promoting alternatives. Citizens cannot be expected to struggle against such widespread and unavoidable evils on their own. There are studies showing that the international plastic lobby is so strong, it will never allow plastic to be phased out. Etc, etc.

All true, maybe. But I can’t wait for the larger picture to change; not can I accept that it’s not going to change whatever I do. I believe each of us has to step up at a personal level, do whatever we can to save the environment. We need to own up to what our species is doing to the planet and take individual responsibility. Scale or no scale; impact or no impact.

Here’s a helpful infographic that’s doing the rounds on WhatsApp.

So, what do you think, readers? And more importantly, what do you do? I hope to see a more cheering picture emerge from your responses.

9 responses to “Is scale all- important?

  1. I am a firm believer in bringing about personal change. We carry cloth bags, drinking water, don’t use straws/ disposable glasses and so on. Try to spread some awareness, sometimes it works, sometimes we meet with a wilful NO. Carry on!
    My husband does the composting in our flat balconies – I’m happy to harvest our tomatoes and haldi..
    You’re doing a great job, don’t stop!

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  2. Love what you are attempting to do, Harini. I used to buy bottled water each time I waited at the KIA before flying out. I now carry a small water bottle from home in my hand bag that I refill from the tap when it gets empty. Gandhiji’s “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” is my call to action. I recognise the importance of scale and impact but I strongly believe that for change to sustain, it has to start with the individual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you’d say that about Be the Change, Kajoli! It’s so nice when your friends believe in the same things that you do. It doesn’t always follow, but it’s always a shock when they don’t.

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  3. Many years ago (way back in the late 60’s) it was impressed on me that one person could make a huge difference. I started sewing bags to take with me shopping. I’d get strange looks but soon I started seeing more and more cloth bags whenever I went to the market. I like to think I started a trend in my home town.
    I still use cloth bags for shopping, or going to the library or going just about anywhere……and I am proud to think I have prevented the use of plastic bags in at least a few families. I stopped allowing my husband to buy plastic water bottles. He has used the same metal and glass bottle since we married. Neither one of my sons buys water in plastic single serving sizes either..and I became a HUGE proponent of using a bamboo toothbrush years ago. It was a pain finding them, but whenever i did I would buy four……….and figured each of us had a decent long lasting brush for at least a year and a half…instead of just a month or tow use like we had with the plastic ones.
    I have composted for years, and now all my neighbors are also composting since they have seen the sizes of my organic veg. It doesn’t take much effort to bring about changes…..Gandhi was correct.

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    • I’m so glad to read about your efforts, Suze – it’s very similar to my story, and so reassuring. I couldn’t act differently if I tried,, but I still wonder – will this really save the planet? Is the only result of my actions the easing of my own guilt, as my nephew claims? A lot of people have told me this: don’t go around carrying a load of guilt and laying it on others as well. Be happy, and things will take care of themselves. A geologist friend, who takes quite a lot of trouble to live a sustainable life, says: don’t worry, Earth will fight back! I don’t know. Maybe one shouldn’t think about it too much, just do what you have to do and forget about it.

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  4. Trying. Stopped using bottled water. Not taken flights in 2 years(not a no flight guy, yet, but reducing to very low levels), carry a bag around, shifting to hankies, give used LED bulbs to e-recycling. And I am now getting defensive looks from everyone around me the moment I refuse something that I stand against. I guess am now officially the vegan in the party that everyone hates.
    I know in terms of scale it doesn’t amount to much at all. But more than the change you want to be and all that, when I see a lot of garbage on the streets or all those plastic covers clogging everything, I don’t want to be a part of that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re so right, Vaidya! About the defensive looks and about not wanting to be a part of ‘that’.I can’t understand how so many of us manage to live with it. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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