It was World Environment Day on 5th June.

The day came and went without too much fanfare. Some token tree plantations, lots of photo-ops, the same hackneyed speeches and that was that. You more or less waved the day a desultory adieu, happy to throw the faint tinge of guilt off and pack it up to be donned again next year.

That’s what you’ve been doing for years. Come 5th June, you get get a tired little bee up your bonnet and tell yourself, “This year surely I will plant a tree or two.” The day skids past you on roller-stakes, you catch the bee and squash it with your slipper.  “Next year for sure”, you promise yourself.

You’ve been doing this ever since you first heard of World Environment Day.

If you did manage to get up off your hands and plant a few (or a hundred) trees, kudos to you. Well done. Something done, something accomplished. You’re miles ahead of those limp folk who promise but don’t deliver. But here’s the pin before you float off with your personal cloud nine.

Planting the tree is a fine idea, no doubt. But even if 75% of the land on earth were covered with forests, it still wouldn’t be enough. You know why? Because of the plastic we’ve generated over the years. That stuff doesn’t die… at least not without belching out such rotten chemicals as to poison all living beings.

Let’s say we stop using plastics completely from tomorrow. While that would be decidedly wonderful (though impossible), we’ll still have to deal with the plastic we’ve already generated. Until last year, the total amount of plastic on earth had exceeded five billion (B.I.L.L.I.O.N!!) tonnes. Mind you, this is when plastic hardly weighs anything at all. Can you imagine the volume of the thing!?

Assuming  we’ve added nothing in the interim- which we have- we’ll have that five billion tonnes in our face for the next twenty years at least. Only, we have been generating plastic in the interim too, haven’t we? Hand over fist, as a matter of fact. On a conservative estimate, we generate 350 million tonnes of plastic every year- and the figure is growing.

Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.

~ Jacques-Yves Cousteau

They haven’t yet found a way to breakdown plastics in a way that doesn’t create toxic chemicals. No matter how many trees you plant in honor of World Environment Day, the plastic will still remain. It isn’t going away, ever. I hope you find the thought scary. And yet, we relentlessly continue churning out plastic like those self-destructive lemmings one hears about. How pathetic is that?

What are we hoping for? Who do we think is going to save us?

I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.

~ Kurt Vonnegut

They might make Mars habitable before the Earth chokes and dies, but that’s too slim a chance to take, isn’t it? Frankly, if that’s your plan for dealing with the elephant in the room, I must say I’m not impressed. You seem to be the biggest Pollyanna on earth!

The enormity of this began to dawn on me couple of years ago, I sank in despair. After many months of deliberation, having balanced practicality with a need for decisive action exquisitely, I decided to take three steps that were doable. The first one is a lesson in awareness to myself and other two as an attempt to arrest the damage by a tiny bit.

First, I decided to put minimal plastic in the garbage.

Now I’m not saying, I haven’t cheated. I have. Yet, I have managed to hold back over  80% of my plastic waste from the trash can. The upshot is that I’m petrified of the plastic I have collected in my house in three blessed months! It is truly, absolutely appalling!

To arrest the deluge (and this is the second step I took), I stitched half a dozen fabric carry/ tote bags made with recycled/upcycled fabric, naturally. I made them as pretty as I could to help keep me inspired. When I go shopping, these are the bags in which my veggies and staples arrive. For the individual veggies, I carry a bagful of clean, washed old plastic bags. I will stitch some smaller carry bags/ pouches for these too, later.

Thirdly, I have sworn never to buy a bottle of packaged water. In the first place, I don’t see why I should pay for a resource that’s as much my right as anybody’s. Yes, I do need to carry my own water bottle, which I am happy to do. If the bottle happens to get empty, I stop by at a restaurant and get it filled… usually for free. And no, I haven’t died of a water-borne infection yet.

To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.

~ Theodore Roosevelt

In fact, we stopped buying water nearly two years ago. When we went for a twelve day road trip to Chhatisgarh and Orrisa, we did not buy a single bottle of packaged water during the trip. None of us fell ill, including my seventy-seven year old father. Yup, we’re all tough.

Google to see how plastic is dumped in the oceans. See how it is dumped into landfills and the kind of toxic gases the landfill emits- gasses which are odorless and colorless but are very harmful. Please, I beg you, know what you are contributing to when you nonchalantly toss that plastic bag into the trash. Let it get you good and scared. Like really, really scared. Unless you get scared, we’ll just end up choking ourselves to death.

What steps do you take to help keep our home healthy?

Picture Mine. (c) Dagny|Serenely Rapt

Earth: The Only Home You Have