World Environment Day was first celebrated on 5th June in 1972, and has since become an important vehicle through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. In the face of continuing deforestation (currently estimated at 5.2 million hectares worldwide per year) nothing could have been more pertinent than this year's theme of 'Forests: Nature at Your Service' which underscores the intrinsic link between quality of life and the health of forests. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has named India, for the first time, as the global host of World Environment Day 2011 on June 5, for "embracing the process of a transition to a Green Economy."
Environment is what we live in and breathe in. It is as much of our own creation as it is of nature.
The five sacred elements which make the environment live-able are water, air, fire, earth, and our spirit or senses. Our relationship with them helps us to live in harmony with nature and in peace with ourselves. Air, which is so essential to survive, represents our mind and knowledge. Fire symbolizes energy of the sun as well as of our bodies, which should be used for healing and protection and not for destruction. Clean and pure water is sacred to life and is like our emotions which can cleanse with love or devastate with rage. Earth nourishes life and stands for our bodies and we must take care of mother earth as we take care of our bodies.
Our senses or spirit represent our core values of ethics and responsibility as protectors of the earth and her people. This circle of the elements of life helps us to remember to consider the whole, and not merely, a part of a problem or solution.
Alas! We seem to have lost our minds, dissipated our energies, ruined our emotions, ravaged our bodies and torn our moral fibre beyond repair. Why else (in our insatiable greed) would we turn the free bounties of nature into sale-able commodities, and ravage its treasures like marauders?
Life became possible on earth because it had an atmosphere conducive to sustain living beings. But for us it became the proverbial goose which laid just one golden egg each day, enough for its owners to live comfortably. Greed overpowered common sense and we killed the goose to get all the gold at one go. This has left us gasping for fresh clean air and panting for clear drinking water, let alone other basic necessities of life.
Of course, we love to talk of global warming, climate change, carbon foot prints and bio diversity, but care two hoots about protecting our forest and now, even, agricultural lands. We love to construct special economic zones over fertile land. Industry wants to prosper on empty stomachs. As for our green cover, we do not mind recklessly pulling down trees to make way for broader roads, and bigger residential/commercial establishments. How does it matter to us if our summers are becoming hotter and winters cooler? We have our cooling and heating gadgets in place and to hell with the majority of those who cannot afford them. We systematically pollute and deplete our natural water resources, and then cling proudly to our bottled mineral water. We have also created exclusive oxygen parlours where one can breathe fresh air for a price. So, as traders we are par excellence, and having corporatized the free gifts of nature, we are bleeding her to death.
A love for our environment cannot be created merely by introducing Environmental Education as a compulsory subject in schools. It has to become a way of life to be inculcated from infancy through the influence of family and society. Only if we could encourage our children to love and appreciate nature as much as the laptop and iPod; help them to realize the importance of trees by making them plant and nurture at least one; teach them to conserve resources by simply turning off the fan, light, tap when not in use; instill in them the dignity of labour by making them do small household chores; develop their taste buds to savour delicious but healthy food; and teach them to be sensitive by loving, sharing, and caring for others!!
As far as the fifth element of senses is concerned, actions and not rhetoric are needed. Only if we can change (in letter and spirit) the ‘i’ in the word happiness to ‘y’, then You will gain precedence over I, your concern will be above mine, and all will become fine with the world.
On this World Environment Day let us do our bit to improve the surroundings in which we are living, by being a little more loving, a shade less angry, a bit more tolerant, and a pinch less arrogant in our actions and behaviour. Coupled with this, small individual actions like tree-planting drives, community clean-ups, car-free days, outdoor nature trips, saying no to tobacco and smoking, will go a long way in making our blue planet green.
Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS). She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She is also the Director of CNS Gender Initiative and CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: http://www.citizen-news.org)
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