The fresh academic session has begun and it is a happy sight to see boys and girls trotting off to school, some happily and some, who are unwilling to come out of the holiday stupor, reluctantly!
Along with the reopening of schools, an important event that we as global citizens should be concerned about was observed. June 5 is celebrated as World Earth Day, when environmental issues are raised and awareness is shared.
What is exhaled by the trees is inhaled by all living beings. Needless to say, we cannot survive without trees and greenery. On the Oxford and Cambridge University campuses every year, new entrants and graduates plant saplings for posterity. The well-grown trees there now must have been planted by an earlier generation of scholars. The trees truly breathe history, reminding the current generation to preserve the environment, nurture it and make the earth a better place for future generations.
Global warming is not just an abstract issue confined to discussion by academicians and activists. Recently, on the Pacific Coast off Marshall Islands, Japanese soldiers from World War II were washed up on the shore. That is a clear indication of the ocean level slowly rising and swallowing land mass.
It is estimated that by 2100, i.e by the end of this century, the global sea level will rise by almost four feet, inundating several islands. The worst part is that the poor countries will be affected the most.
Bangladesh, with its huge population in a critical land mass, may be one of the countries worst affected although its contribution to global warming is less than .03 per cent! The rising sea level in the Bay of Bengal may destroy nearly 17 per cent of the coastal land, displacing almost 18 million people in the next forty years.
The advanced countries and the industrialised nations contribute to the Greenhouse effect but environmental degradation is faced by the poorer countries which hardly make any contribution to the problem.
The Earth’s natural greenhouse effect makes life as we know it possible. However, human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests, have intensified the natural greenhouse effect, causing global warming.
Planting more trees and stopping indiscriminate cutting of trees should be the main strategy to eliminate the carbon footprint that causes holes in the atmosphere.
As per the United Nations’ (UN) standards, 34 per cent of land mass should have green cover. But due to the ever increasing needs of man, this green cover is shrinking. In India, the average land mass with a green cover is only around 20 per cent. The need to augment this on a war footing by planting more trees and safeguarding them is imperative.
Our country has a significant youth population. If each person plants just one tree and protects it, we can even surpass the UN standard of 34 per cent forest cover!
One youngster, Mullai Vanam, planted 89 lakh saplings that have grown into trees across the country. In Tamil Nadu alone he planted 14 lakh saplings and nearly two lakh saplings in Chennai. In recognition of his selfless service, the Green Kalam Project awarded him a gold grade and he was felicitated by former President, Dr Abdul Kalam. We need several more youngsters like Vanam to make a difference in our environment.
In the US, a project called Embracing Greenovation has been initiated to assess the energy efficient and environment friendly policies practised in various cities. A similar effort is required in our cities particularly in sectors like waste management, water conservation and population reduction.
We fail to realise that the air we breathe is an important source of nutrition to the body. As goes the popular saying, the glass is never empty as air surrounds and fills it.
‘Charity begins at home’ is an oft repeated saying. So let us begin the fresh academic session with a firm resolve to protect and improve the environment as it is important for our existence. Lives of future generations depend on how we treat our environment and protect other living creatures.
The ornithologist Salim Ali once said, “Birds can live without humans, but humans will perish without birds.”