Something we had to do as a part of an essay competition. I did it, but could not submit the essay on time. Oh, what the heck.
Action Plan for a Better Tomorrow
As we witness the emergence of a new era of possibility and expansion in the twenty-first century with the incredible progress of technology, we may be drawn into forgetting one of our still pressing problems — the issue of unceasingly degrading environmental and ecological condition, which still looms over our future like an ominous black cloud, and which science and technology hasn’t been able to mitigate much. The task at hand, therefore, is to formulate an efficient and organized plan enabling the global population to participate in the crusade to save the future of our species and our planet.
Generally, an ecological crisis occurs when the environment of a species or a population evolves in a way unfavourable to that species’ survival.
An ecological crisis, whether local or global, is more or less brutal and unforgiving. Indeed, it is rather a connected series of irreversible events that occur till a final point, if unchecked.
During the past decades, the increasing responsibility of humanity in some ecological crises has been clearly observed. Invasion into the environmental system by us has ultimately resulted in ecological crises like:
1 Global warming related to the Greenhouse effect
2 Ozone layer hole issue
3 Deforestation and desertification, with disappearance of many species
4 The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986
5 Numerous oil spills, fuel oil burnouts, etc.
Pollution is the release of chemical, physical, biological, radioactive or any other similar contaminant to the environment. The principal forms of pollution are:
1 Air pollution
2 Water pollution
3 Radioactive contamination
4 Noise pollution
5 Light pollution. This is the glare or vision hindrance caused by bright city lights at night.
6 Visual pollution. This refers to scarred landforms, highway billboards or any other structure or object which destroys the aesthetic surroundings.
Threat to Wildlife and Natural Habitats
Despite their central role in the well-being of people, forests are threatened by human actions on a scale and pace far beyond nature’s capacity to adapt. In 2002 alone, 10,000 square miles in Brazil‘s Amazon region were deforested due to logging, ranching, farming, and infrastructure development. In Africa‘s Congo Basin, roads built into legally protected areas like national parks by illegal loggers also provide access for bush meat poachers and contribute to an increase in forest fires.
The threats to today’s wildlife population are mainly posed by the following factors:
1 Poaching, over fishing, hunting, etc.
2 Invasive plant or animal species destroying or out-competing for food sources and habitat of a native life.
3 Climate change.
4 Habitat loss and fragmentation.
In a nutshell, we aren’t living in a happy home any more. Planet Earth is writhing under the destruction and imbalance. And if we don’t do something about it soon, we may be in for major climate changes, whole species being wiped off the face of the earth, entire ecosystems collapsing, ice ages, rises in ocean water level, in short, a colossal holocaust. None of us want that. We are the highest evolved form on the face of this planet, the only species that can assess the condition and take steps against further degradation. Every other species has a role to play on this planet. Ours is to protect them. Because if we don’t, who will?
It’s still not too late. If we decide to wake up and change the future of our planet and its inhabitants, we can still do it. The present global and individual solutions to secure a better tomorrow for ourselves and the rest of the life that thrives on planet Earth are categorized below:
To combat the rising ill effects of pollution and the like, international agreements are being made. The Kyoto Protocol (December,1997) is an agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries that ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases..A total of 164 countries have ratified the agreement (representing over 61.6% of emissions). Notable exceptions include the United States and Australia. Other countries, like India and China, which have ratified the protocol, are not required to reduce carbon emissions under the present agreement despite their relatively large populations. It is required to bring more countries, especially the industrially developed ones, into the ambit of the Protocol and to sincerely adhere to the commitments laid down in it.
The UNO must urge all nations with nuclear arms to discard these hazardous radioactive weapons that can wipe all life off the face of the earth in a matter of weeks.
Government Action, Awareness and General Methods
At present India is in strong competition with Japan for the fourth position in maximum carbon dioxide emission for any country. But according to the Energy Information Administration, by 2025 India is likely to beat Japan and Russia to occupy the third place. This is not going to come as a surprise: New Delhi tops the grim pollution charts released by a World Bank and Asian Development Bank joint study on air pollution for 20 major Asian cities between 2000 and 2003. Mumbai and Kolkata are also among the top 10 defaulters.
Meteorologists apprehend a major climatic change due to global warming. In 2006, monsoon rain in India has shown a ‘mirror-image’ in its pattern: the rain–deficient regions like Rajasthan, Ladakh etc. have received excess downpour whereas Cherrapunji has received far less rains than usual. Purulia, Bankura, West Medinipur — the drought-prone districts of West Bengal — experienced more rains in contrast to the six northern districts now declared as drought-affected.
To effectively minimize these unstabilizing forces of pollution, deforestation and the like, the government must take proactive steps. Along with funding research work for further enquiry into ways of healing the current condition, the government should introduce rules and measures for protecting the environment of the country and look after their proper implementation by constituting regulatory bodies. Strict legal action should be taken against the offenders. Besides, it is their duty to make the citizens aware of the severity of the current situation and their responsibility behind the healing process. This message can be disseminated through mass-media like newspapers, radio, television and awareness campaigns. Unless the majority of people realize the precarious edge that the environment is poised on and come forward to redress it, no major steps can be taken to undo the damage.
The possible large-scale methods that can be considered to ensure a brighter future for ourselves are as follows:
Energy conservation is the practice of decreasing the quantity of energy used while achieving a similar outcome of end use. The option of encouraging energy conservation among consumers is a cheaper or more environmentally sensitive alternative to increasing the available supply of energy. Thus the question of considering renewable energy in place of non-renewable energy is raised. These may include solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, geothermal power, energy from urban waste, bio-gas etc. For vehicle fuel, we might consider liquid hydrogen or battery-power. And indeed some companies have come up with new-age vehicles which run on environment-friendly renewable fuel, emitting only water vapour. The government should sponsor researches to seek out more alternative energy sources and give suitable incentives to those utilizing environment-friendly fuels in the commercial field. Similarly, biotechnologists must be encouraged to develop insect- and pest-resistant vegetables with longer shelf-life, so that the need for insecticides, pesticides and refrigeration is reduced.
Pollution control does not mean complete prevention of pollution. But pollution can, however, be minimized to a large extent without expending too much time, money or energy. On the road, the use of unleaded fuel, regular emission checks etc. can ensure a much lower carbon emission. By imposing stringent laws on these, pollution on the roads can hopefully be expected to fall. Parks and greeneries help absorb poisonous gases in the environment, so planting native trees and plants along streets is another wise step the government can take. People should be educated against contaminating public ponds, pools or reservoirs with garbage or dirty laundry. This will not only reduce pollution, but also effectively suppress the spread of many waterborne diseases. For factories emitting carbon particles along with smoke (e.g. in thermal plants), a water bed may prove a cheap purifier. The government should not allow factories discharging industrial water to run without a water-effluent plant. Water purification should be undertaken for the removal of contaminants from raw water to produce drinking water that is pure enough for human consumption. Civic bodies should ensure supply of properly treated drinking water. Mining activities, especially in forest areas, causes soil erosion, destruction of wildlife-habitat, deforestation etc. The government should ensure that no mining activity is permitted without prior studies on its environmental impact and management.
Wildlife and natural habitat preservation is another very important step we must take in order to ensure a brighter future for our planet. Illegal encroaching into wild greenery and logging must be completely prevented. The rise in human population has resulted in the demand for more areas for settlements. Each passing day water-bodies and marsh-lands are disappearing to meet this rising demand. The government should not allow this to continue.
Non-government organizations have a serious role to play towards a sustainable tomorrow. They can play the role of a mentor whenever and wherever a rule is breached or overlooked. They may take the lead in various awareness programs of the government and act as an instrument for executing many government programs on eco-friendly development.
In our country the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is seeking to create public awareness in India about science, technology, the environment, and sustainable development.
In the international arena the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the largest and most experienced independent conservation organizations active in more than 100 countries.
Other notable organizations involved with wildlife or animals are WildAid, People for Animals and branches of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
Greenpeace is a non-profit organization with a presence in 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
You can also donate through the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) or http://www.globalgiving.com
What You Can Do
It’s not like the only steps that can be taken are by governments and NGOs. Each of us as individuals can take up responsibilities and bring about enormous changes in the scenario if we want to.
Heating and cooling
§ In summer, keep shades drawn to keep the cool in. In winter, open shades to let the sunlight warm rooms.
§ Plant trees around your house to cut cooling costs in summer.
§ Wash clothes in warm or cold water, not hot.
§ Clean or replace the air filter on your air conditioner.
After heating, refrigerators and freezers are generally the home’s next two big energy eaters. Together, these items account for nearly eight tons of heat-trapping emissions per household per year.
§ Size counts. Make sure you buy what suits your needs. Items too large or too small waste electricity and your money.
§ Unplug. Unplug toasters and cell phone and other chargers when they’re not in use. Cable boxes and video game boxes, and to a less extent TVs and VCRs, use almost as much energy when they’re off as when they’re on. So turn them all the way off.
Lighting accounts for about 21 percent of commercial energy consumption and about 12 percent of home energy consumption. In terms of heat-trapping pollution, that means the lights in the average household produce just over a ton of carbon dioxide each year. Here are a few steps to lower those numbers.
§ Use energy-efficient lights. Changing just one 75-watt bulb to a compact fluorescent light cuts roughly 1,300 pounds of global warming pollution. They also last up to 15 times as long and save you money.
§ Turn off lights. A good chunk of lighting expenses is from rooms that stay unnecessarily lit.
§ Use natural light to help light rooms.
§ Install motion-sensors so that lights automatically turn on when someone is in the room and turn off when empty.
Conserve Natural Resources
§ Turn the water off when scrubbing dishes, take shorter showers, turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, and water your lawn in the early morning or late evening. Practise rainwater harvesting. Areas affected by arsenic pollution can be benefited by recharging ground-water with pure rainwater.
§ Opt for reusable and recycled paper. Write and print on both sides of the paper.
§ Never buy products like tortoise shell, coral, or ivory; shark fin, turtle soup, tiger meat, bear paws, traditional medicines containing animal extracts and other products made from threatened or endangered animals. If you see such products on sale, inform the relevant authorities and warn the potential buyers of legal risks if caught.
§ Plant trees and build a birdhouse in your backyard.
§ In farms keep patches of bush as wildlife habitats and leave old trees standing, especially those with hollows suitable for nesting animals. Never disturb a nest, burrow or hole.
§ Join a conservation activity organization or group in your area.
§ Take public transportation, walk, or ride a bicycle instead of using a car.
§ Avoid unnecessary honking of horns.
§ Use marked garbage disposals instead of the pavement, and carry your one own trash home if there aren’t any disposals nearby.
§ Take your own reusable bag to the store and try to buy products and food with little or no packaging.
§ Instead of throwing out old toys, books, and clothes, donate them to a hospital, daycare, or charity.
The problem of degraded environment is grave and far-reaching. To remind yourself just how far environmental changes can affect life, you can refer to the mass extinction of the vast array of life in the Permian-Triassic and again in the Cretaceous-Tertiary ages. Those were times when no intelligent life had spawned as yet on Earth to take in the situation and prevent its degradation. Today the picture is as different as you could expect. Our species is evolved enough to protect the environment and the rest of life on earth, and most ironically, it is the one species causing the greatest harm to it. But we have still not crossed the threshold. We still are in a position to believe that we will turn around and make that difference the world has been waiting for. The problems, the imbalance, the negatives will strike in all possible scales, from the individual to the regional upto the international. And we shall fight back in all of those scales, from the international to the national down to every last person. Every species, every animal, every leafy foliage will get its chance to breathe and live on this precious planet. That is our vow, for we are the world, together.
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