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.