Earth Day: What You Can Do To Save Your Planet

Science is unequivocal about the impending danger the world faces and the proofs it has presented. Our own experience of the last few decades corroborates that. When the crisis is knocking on the door and the knowledge to deal with it is available, what are the factors at the level of general attitude and belief that is preventing mass climate action? It’s our life and it’s our planet. Do we have any alternative? Here’s my take on Earth Day.

Let’s do a social experiment — randomly strike up a conversation with someone and ask them to list five problems that are facing Earth.

Most likely you will find mentions of COVID first, overpopulation, poverty, communal conflict, war and violence in various orders and combinations. You paraphrase the question and tell them that you didn’t ask about the problem faced by humans only; you meant Earth; with all its physical features and living beings. That might unsettle them for a few seconds, but the knowledgeable ones will rattle off terms like global warming, rise in GHG emissions, pollution of air, water and soil, climate change, and blah blah.

That proves that the Knowledge regarding the danger posed by Climate Change is not limited to the laboratories of universities and scientific communities but has reached the common people. The role of media in highlighting the issue is indeed laudable — it has alerted the world about the impending danger and brought it to the personal, national and international agenda.

But has it succeeded in telling the world that their single-minded pursuit of happiness through material consumption and their depredatory arrogance to alter the face of the Earth for its convenience, what is called the anthropogenic activities, over the last hundred years which have brought Earth to this place? Also told that everyone must mend their ways if they want to invest in Earth to save themselves. The answer is surely negative. The gap between Knowledge and Practice is huge.

It’s time to assess if Knowledge alone of the impending danger is enough to change our attitude towards the things around us, our Beliefs that one day someone will find a solution to it which acts as the barriers for us from adopting new practices and doing our bit which will contribute to the collective actions?

The newest IPCC report [1] paints a troubling picture. Climate change is already impacting every corner of the world, and much more severe impacts are in store if we fail to halve greenhouse gas emissions this decade and immediately scale up adaptation.

These days words like sustainability find mention in every written and spoken word by every possible type of organisation — corporates or political leaders. The words of the corporates try their best to tell that they are doing their bit and in absolute compliance with the environmental norms of the country. Green Awards are bought and sold telling the world that we are the best at it. The words of the political leaders only talk about what we need to do soon not what shall have to be done.

The next few years offer a narrow window to realise a sustainable, liveable future for all. Climate change endangers the well-being of people and the planet and any delayed action risks triggering impacts of climate change so catastrophic our world will become unrecognisable. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the IPCC report “An atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership”.

While the window for the world to do something is closing it has not shut entirely and there are tools that can now be quickly and cheaply deployed.

But some of these steps must be drastic, like a major transition in the energy sector by particularly moving away from fossil fuels, use of carbon capture and storage technologies, various demand management strategies like building compact cities where walking and cycling are easier, public transport is electrified, and buildings are retrofitted to cut emission.

IPCC for the first time also published a chapter on demand-side measures, which are, in fact, lifestyle changes that can bring large reductions in GHG emissions.

These include low carbon buildings, optimising floor space, minimising food waste, encouraging plant-based diets, shared mobility, greater use of electric vehicles, teleworking, and extending the life of products.

Science in the last few decades has unequivocally prescribed what all needs to be done by the leaders, policymakers, policy implementors, industry owners, investors, and the public at large under the various category of activities; what is missing is the serious determination at the level of individuals in their various capacities to resolve to catch the bull by its horn and not only preach but practice both at the organisation and personal level.

One thing you are realising after talking to many. They all have heard about it, but they have not thought that they had contributed to it. This reaction is not limited to a common man. Everyone almost everyone waiting to be told what to do daily at the level of their organisational activities and lifestyle.

The knowledgeable and the privileged who have houses overflowing with appliances, wardrobes filled with clothes, and multiple cars spilling onto the roads after filling their garages are now thinking of buying an EV. This is one more consumption that satisfies their purchasing impulses but this time it is riding the moral high horse of being pro-environment. Many have already installed Solar Power Plants on their rooftops and the acquisition of an EV will earn them the Green Badge and a licence to continue with their old lifestyle. Someone must break their heart by telling EV is not that green and they need to cut their unnecessary travel and to the SPV owners that their responsibility wouldn’t end after installing the plant, they must remember to clean the panels regularly to keep it working at its expected efficiency. That’s the kind of change in lifestyle which is needed. And it’s not easy to establish it across the society.

At this stage what we don’t want anymore is further scientific evidence or forecasts. We don’t need more activists led by a few green terrorists but millions of sensible people who commit themselves personally and through their organisational action to a dramatic lifestyle change.

Can they be us? Time to think about it on Earth Day today.

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