It is June 5th world environment day once again! and there is the usual fanfare of tree-plantation ceremonies, of exhibitions and programmes meant to highlight the significance of the day. Most newspapers and even the electronic media have given the necessary coverage. Not many however seem to highlight the theme this year which is ‘Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with care’. The theme therefore brings out some key dimensions which are critical for the environment.
Long ago Mahatma Gandhi reminded us that “our earth has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed”. He definitely hit the nail on the head. Growing consumerism, inordinate consumption patterns, a high degree of competition in order to “have more” has caused irreparable damage to our planet. The growing gap between the rich and the poor is a clear sign that a fairly large percentage of the world does not bother about sustainability.
The most common picture of the environment is of a little plant being nurtured by sensitive hands. The grim reality however speaks of a very different story. There is growing insensitivity to the whole of nature: water, land, forests and air. Forests are destroyed overnight to help industries come up; air and water is polluted because no one bothers to pay attention to pollution control; garbage is thrown anywhere as long as it is not in my own courtyard. The three Rs: reduce – reuse – recycle seem to be meant for theoreticians.
Any meaningful impact on the environment can take place only if there is a meaningful solidarity with one another. Global warming, climate change and a whole range of environment and ecological disasters are also essentially because we are not in solidarity with one another. Selfishness has taken centre-stage and we all want to do our own thing and remain a kind of an ‘exclusive club’ and perhaps waiting for another environment day to come. The care and preservation of the environment is everyone’s responsibility not of just a few.
Environment day is a clarion call to every citizen to be sincere about mother earth. Many do think that cosmetic activities impact on the environment. A discerning person will truly be aware that if one is serious about healing our broken world, much more needs to be done. It is therefore important for all of us to get our act together and to sincerely respond to the cries of mother earth. Until such time, the dreams of seven billion people may only go up in thin air!
Happy Environment Day!!
( Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)