T S Eliot’s words about April – describing it as the cruellest month – are often recalled by old-timers in Delhi. “Back in our day,” one can often hear a pensioner say, “it was never this hot in the month of April”. There was a time when winter marked its onset in the end of October. “But now it’s four months of winter and eight months of summer,” the old-timer will say if asked about the sizzling heat that Delhi has been reeling under this June. But the weather is not an issue that seems to engage many among the younger generation, as temperature increases, weather patterns change and rains fall irregularly.
Speaking to PTI on the eve of World Environment Day, Arun Krishnamurthy, founder of the Environmentalist Foundation of India, says that there is a “strong disconnect” between people and the environment because of the digital age. “In the digital age, even conservation is restricted to social media platforms and posters. People have almost forgotten what it means to be in the fields working towards real time and result in oriented conservation work,” he says. It is “imperative” to do more for the environment, he says. “Our future is at risk; hence it is imperative that we all do something. Environment conservation today is not a choice or compulsion, it is common sense,” he adds.
Social psychiatrist Harish Shetty voices similar thoughts over people’s limited connect with nature when he says, “Globalisation has taken us closer to machines and gadgets, but far from nature”. A “manipulative industry”, he says, portrays games or television shows as stress buster, but “grass, water, trees, hills and mountains are the real natural stress busters”. Sitting in a far-flung village in Alwar, where he works to conserve water, environmentalist Rajendra Singh feels that people need to know about “honest and practical work” being done on the ground.
“When governments or other organisations hold events for environment day, the common public already knows that it is just a formal talk. Nothing has ever changed by showing concern or holding an event,” he says. To improve things, you have to do honest and practical work. When somebody does actual work for environment preservation, people connect with them, he adds. Krishnamurthy also stresses the need for community participation. “Community participation is the key to the sustainability of any given project. We can clean a dirty lake in no time, but with the same force it gets dirty again as there is very little community involvement,” he says.Singh says the bias in favour of city dwellers has to go. “Those who live in cities pollute and exploit water and nature, yet they are the ones who get heard first and get basic amnesties such as cheaper water,” he says. “Why should a city-dweller easily get water while someone in a village has to suffer for it,” the Magsaysay award winner asks.
Krishnamurthy believes that the younger generation needs to be sensitised about the environment. “Education system needs to have greater focus on sensitising students towards climate change, pollution impacts and the need for conservation. Students have to be empowered into social leaders who are capable of becoming change makers for the larger good,” Krishnamurthy says. While Shetty suggests students be taught in a garden once a week and taken on field trips, Singh believes they have to taught how their lives relate with nature. “The students need to be taught in the terms of their own life examples. Just like when you have fever, you take medicine, you drink water and you rest. To heal the planet’s fever, we will have to give it water and take proper care of it so it can be green again,” Singh says.