Except on Environment Day, that is. 

Sounds as cynical as it gets, I know. Hopefully it is also actually as cynical as I mean it to be. Just the other day, at Delhi’s Lodhi Garden – child and I were doing some reading outdoors – we saw a man on a nearby bench throwing off a wrapper like it wasn’t even a thing—a thing to be considered, that is. Because, you know, one just throws wrappers wherever one happens to be at the moment the last edibles in the wrappers have been gobbled down.

Now, normally I make it a point to put on my kindest face and point out to offender-strangers—strange offenders will do too—that they may have ‘unwittingly’ or ‘unintentionally’ littered. (My theory is that telling them off rudely will make them litter with a vengeance.) In my last outing though, I felt a sense of disillusionment and kept the silence, minus the peace. Because I was not feeling any kindness or politeness; all that I wanted to do was ask the bugger to buzz off. 

That way, children are lucky to be relatively free of the trappings of niceties that don’t let most of us adults speak our mind. While we are going berserk dealing with our conflicts, some real and some in our mind, the little ones will just say whatever it is they have to say and get on with the rest of their day. 

Take this Environment Day day, for example. Going by some of the press releases and the ‘quotes’ that are released by companies, one does wonder how much of it is tokenism – and how much is a genuine summing-up of things big and small that they have been doing with consistency and commitment as their ‘bit’ to heal the planet. I say this because the spurt of activities and avowals of commitment to Mother Earth seem to be, in many cases, programmed towards achieving maximum mileage and print/digital space. 

Then I read my 11-year-old’s post on her blog that starts like this: ‘World Environment Day is not important. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do anything for it. However, why isn’t everyday World Environment Day? We should be environment-friendly every day. We should be saving the world every day. I should not be sitting here writing this. You should not be sitting wherever you are reading this. We should be out there, saving the world!’ 

As simple as that, right? Sitting in our cocoons and insulated worlds, we talk about being environment champions when we may not bother about being energy-economical in our own homes. 

The thing is, we have reached a situation where we need to look at alternatives to everything we use – our energy utilisation, our clothes and cars, our food (packaged and processed food even more so), our appliances. You name it, and we need an alternative.

However, to reach that alternative space is an uphill task like no other. Especially because the majority of us are not even thinking along those terms. We are still in a ‘use and dump’ state of mind, instead of taking the ‘use and reuse’ option with much seriousness. Why? Because it’s easier and has been the way we do things. Reusing needs a certain bent of mind, it demands discipline, some thought goes into the process, and it is an act of responsibility. Dumping is irresponsible but also nobody gets penalised for that.

There is no dearth of information–gyaan, if you may–about the repercussions of fooling around with nature, or about what actions are needed at every level to halt the deterioration right now and here. The extreme weather events this year shouldn’t surprise us, considering that experts have been crying hoarse about the possibility of this very thing for years now. We are surviving (may I say barely?) in a world that’s already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times. It will get warmer of course. 

In the meantime, let’s not turn a blind eye to irresponsible actions, whether by individuals or by corporations. Individuals throwing away their used packets are as detrimental to the planet’s health as corporations not having a clue about what happens to the packets they bring into existence in the first place. Companies mining, generating and burning coal; individuals using coal energy. Too bad, both.  

I do have the mind to tell those buggers to buzz off, to do something good, real and meaningful. I will someday.