Recently environmentalist and wild-life activist Jane Goodall celebrated her 80th birthday and her most persistent message through a life-time of work has been, "Here we are, the most clever species ever to have lived. So how is it we can destroy the only planet we have? You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."
But messages like these drown in the rhetoric of consumption and waste as we allow our lives to be driven by greed rather than need. As natural resources become scarcer, we continue to take more from the earth than we can replace. The celebrations around Earth Day are sporadic but as conservationist and green architect Chitra Vishwanath says, "Change starts with us."
Chitra's professional work in the field of organic architecture has been documented on her website http://www.biome-solutions.com/ but energy conservation, rain water harvesting, reducing the carbon footprint in building practices, waste segregation and composting are ideas she uses in her everyday life.
Her 1,600 sq ft home in Vidyaranyapura uses solar energy, harvests and recycles around 1 lakh litres of rainwater annually and welcomes over 32 different species of birds in her garden.
She says, "Our civilisation is creating a lot more than what it needs. The point is not what we can afford. We should not consume and accumulate things just because we can. The cycle of conservation must spin faster than the cycle of waste. Our cities cannot withstand more waste-generation and we must try and achieve zero waste. We should not be using plastic bags at all and we must recycle whatever we can. Saving every drop of water is crucial. When the resources vanish because they are not infinite, the earth will still be here but the civilisation will collapse faster than we can imagine now."
She adds, "We are looking at large inequity in the way we consume resources. We buy water in plastic bottles, food in plastic containers because we can and then throw them. We have people living in multi-crore homes and children of the poor who die of malnutrition."
She thinks simple things can help the planet, "Connect to the larger picture. We have a few decades to save the planet so we must pledge time and wealth to make a difference. Be sensitive to other species. Help out the less privileged. Use less water for daily activities. Reduce the use of detergents as they send pollutants back into the ground water."
She also asks why is it that home buyers are more keen to know if there is a swimming pool in a complex rather than where the building is going to get water supply from! She advises, "Plant more. Ask your builder to green the apartment roofs, conserve rainwater and manage your waste."
Chitra's husband Vishwanath Srikanthaiah helms a rainwater harvesting movement from his portal http://www.rainwaterclub.org/ and simplifies the steps that individuals and organisations can take to consume less, recharge more.
Because if we don't replenish the earth, there will be a point when it won't replenish us.