Look around yourself. Listen to the rustling of leaves, feel the bracing winds on your face, experience the trickling water slip through your fingers, hear the rumbling of clouds and the plashing patter of steady rain. Now imagine yourself in a place devoid of all this. Pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it? It may be difficult now to envision a world sans nature, but it is a dreadful reality looming over us. Probably a few years down the line, green spaces, clear water and fresh air would be the new El Dorado.
For over a century now, humans have been constantly capitalising on nature, an indispensable asset to extract monetary benefits. People treat nature simply as a warehouse of resources to serve human needs. ‘There is enough in nature for everybody’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed’ is an apt statement made by Mahatma Gandhi that throws light on the avaricious temperament of mankind.
Humans are unappeasable creatures that can go on exploiting the environment without a second thought. They never think about the consequences of their actions and time and again they’ve paid the price for this.
In the United States when wheat cultivation had expanded dramatically in the early twentieth century, zealous farmers had recklessly uprooted all vegetation. This was followed by terrifying dust storms. Black blizzards rolled in, very often 7,000 feet high, rising like monstrous waves of muddy water. People were blinded and choked as the skies darkened, and the dust swept in.
They came year after year, throughout the 1930s.
In part, they came because the early 1930s were years of persistent drought. The temperatures soared owing to the falling rains. However, ordinary dust storms became black blizzards because the entire landscape had been stripped of all grass that held it together.
The American dream of a land of plenty had turned into a nightmare.
This is only one such incident that highlights the consequences of environmental degradation.
Now, a new problem has come to the fore — climate change.
We are facing a potentially staggering expansion of dangerous heat over the coming decades. Climate change poses a fundamental threat to flora and fauna. Due to global warming, sea levels are rising and oceans are becoming warmer. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops and freshwater supplies. It might be possible that our grandchildren or great-grandchildren wouldn’t be fortunate enough to witness the beauty of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as it would be submerged underwater.
Global warming is the direct outcome of high levels of pollution. Today, pollution is the most significant issue that concerns the health of our environment. Industrialisation and modernisation encouraged the widespread use of fossil fuels. Hundreds of factory chimneys spew black smoke into the skies and large quantities of refuse and waste products pollute the air and water.
We’re producing and consuming more than ever before, and generating more greenhouse gases as a result, as well as air pollutants in the form of chemicals and particulate matter. These activities have interfered with the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. Too many of these gases result in the Earth’s atmosphere trapping additional heat.
A dangerous constituent of these gases is Chlorofluorocarbon, also known as Freon. It is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. CFC’s lower the average concentration of ozone in the stratosphere. Discarded spray cans, leaking refrigerators and the burning of plastic products release the CFC’s into the atmosphere. Depending on the type, CFC’s stay in the atmosphere from 22 to 111 years.
Due to the depletion of the ozone layer, the earth is exposed to the harmful UV rays of the sun. Exposure to UV radiation is the main factor that causes skin cells to become cancer cells and is also responsible for sunburns and blindness.
Protecting the environment is the need of the hour. If we don’t take preventive actions now, we will have to face terrible consequences in the future. The air might become too toxic to breathe, the water too contaminated to drink, and the rainfall too acidic to harvest. Children might never enjoy the sun without getting sunburnt.
It’s time that we show some appreciation for all that nature has given us. The Bishnoi people were not a bunch of lunatics who sacrificed their lives to save trees and the villagers of Reni were not some crazy tree huggers. These people understood the value of nature and fought to preserve it.
We can all do our bit to conserve the environment, starting by switching off the electric appliances, not in use and not littering our surroundings. I can assure you that our great-grandchildren will certainly respect our efforts.