Unless each one of us takes responsibility for the environmental crisis at the individual level, the Earth is doomed.
We are living in unprecedented times. Due to human activities, the entire web of life on Earth has been pushed towards the brink of disaster. Indeed, we may have already crossed the threshold of irreversible changes in our ecosystems.
Isn’t it a reflection of our shortsightedness, that instead of facing the extent of the environmental crisis, we refuse to even accept the situation? Because if we accepted the situation, we would have to take responsibility for our actions in creating destruction across the Earth.
If at all we accept the environmental crisis, we tend to blame individual countries for being responsible for greenhouse emissions, or deforestation or air pollution. We think that the problem is caused due to the USA, or China or some other faraway country.
But the responsibility has to rest with the smallest unit at which actions are taken– individual humans. It is the actions of individual humans, when added together, which are causing the ecocide of the Earth. Therefore, it is individual humans whose actions will collectively, help to either preserve or destroy the Earth
In this spirit, I offer the following confessional for my personal role in the global environmental crisis. I also accept, that as a middle-class, globalized, urbanized citizen of India my contribution in the destruction of the environment is proportionately much larger than my countrymen, if counted on a per capita basis.
My contribution to Global Warming through energy consumption
- Every time I have flipped a switch to turn on a Light Bulb, Fan, Air Conditioner… or a Toaster, Oven, Mixer Grinder… or Hair Dryer, Clothes Iron, Geyser… or Television, Computer, DVD Player …. I have contributed to Global Warming & particulate emissions.
- Even when I did not flip the switch, I have still been partly culpable, whenever I was consuming electricity at Offices & Shopping Malls, Hotels &Restaurants, Schools & Colleges, Airports& Railway Stations.
- In India, about 68% of Electricity production comes from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Coal is a huge pollutant at all stages of its lifecycle including extraction, transportation & usage.
- In India, many coal deposits are found beneath dense forests. Thus, mining for coal leads to the destruction of some of our most biologically diverse ecosystems.
- Then, The burning of coal causes emission of pollutants like Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Mercury compounds etc. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/brief_coal.html#bf-toc-4
- Coal based power plants also consume huge amounts of water.
Thus, my usage of electricity is directly & indirectly causing pollution of air, water and land, destruction of forests and over consumption of water resources.
My role in fossil fuel emissions
- Every time I have driven a car, or flown in an aeroplane, or travelled in a train, I have contributed to Climate Change.
- Transportation is one of the biggest contributors of fossil fuel emissions. Whether I commute to work, or travel for business, or drive for a holiday, each time I leave behind a smoky imprint in the air filled with greenhouse gases, hydrocarbons, volatile compounds & particulate matter. Ironically, I have travelled a number of times to get close to nature, while causing further pollution in the process.
- The modern economy, has also made it extremely simple to create a huge environmental impact. By entering a few keystrokes, I can a book a flight to any corner in the world, which would leave behind an enormous carbon footprint. Whenever I need to travel to a destination, whether for business or pleasure, I have chosen the “convenience” of flying, completely ignoring my flight’s impact on the environment.
However, I have lessened my impact, each time I have chosen trains over aeroplanes, buses & metro railways over cars, and chosen to walk instead of taking an autorickshaw, bus or car.
Thus each and every action of mine, big or small, deliberate or unintentional, ends up having an impact on Planet Earth.