You have the power

You have the power

GREEN WORLD It's an ugly reality of the times we live in. But we can cut down on our carbon footprint, if we do it on a war footing

You have the power

The temperatures are rising everywhere; the glaciers are melting in Siberia, Arctic and Antarctic regions; islands like Maldives and Lakshadweep are likely to get submerged in another three to four decades.

All this and more is the consequence of the increasing carbon footprints we are leaving on our planet.

The United Nations defines carbon footprint as a measure of the impact of human activities on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases they produce, measured in units of carbon dioxide.

The Kyoto Protocol, an inter-national agreement adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, had set binding targets for emissions of greenhouse gases that spur global warming. However, it just led to a blame game with developed countries like the US pointing fingers at developing nations like India.

Damage control
The time has come now to get proactive and do our best to reduce our carbon footprint. For us to do that as individuals and as a nation, we need to first understand the causes and consequences of our actions.

n Problem: The worst offence, arguably, is the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels like petrol, diesel and coal. Even bio-fuels are not free from blame. The smoky emissions from vehicles using them pose terrible health hazards.

Solution: Reduce the use of vehicles employing fossil fuels. Drive only when you absolutely need to. Keep your vehicles fuel-efficient and emission-free. Car-pooling should get more popular. Use of public transport like buses and trains must be encouraged.

It’s a great idea to have cycling tracks on every road. If more people take to cycling, their health will benefit and so will the environment.

n Problem: The chaotic cutting down of trees is truly tragic. It’s good to remember that trees imbibe carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, our life source. They halt soil erosion, keep our habitat cool, and give us shade, flowers, bark, wood and fruits.

They augment rainfall; they shelter innumerable birds, animals and insects. Trees like mangroves act as buffers to tsunamis, cyclones, and also prevent natural disasters like droughts and floods.

Solution: Cutting trees without any compunction should be strictly
controlled. If cutting a tree is absolutely indispensable, then at least ten saplings are to be planted and looked after till they get strong. Planting trees in front of our houses, along the borders of fields, and growing plants on the terrace can go a long way in reducing our carbon footprint.

n Problem: Agriculture is a culprit too. Vast paddy-growing tracts
release copious quantities of deadly methane. Apart from upsetting the environmental balance, ironically, this also leads to the damage of crops as even a rise of one degree Celsius in atmospheric temperature damages four to five million tonnes of grain!
Solution: It is high time we took a ‘green lesson’ or two from some of the countries across the globe.

California in the US and Israel get scanty rainfall, but by using drip irrigation, they grow luscious fruits and vegetables, even exporting some. Countries like Dubai desalinate seawater and make it potable.

n Problem: The meat industry contributes much to the carbon footprint. Cattle is notorious for emitting methane as well as for its copious use of water and role in diminishing flora.

Solution: Vegetarianism is gaining popularity worldwide and it can work wonders for the environment.

Making a difference
International summits on climate change and government policies to curb the menace can do only so much. At the end of the day, we, the people, have to make it happen. For instance, it’s about time we stop wasting water. Leakages need to be looked into in time, taps turned off when not in use. Borewells are not to be indiscriminately dug, as they drastically reduce the invaluable subsoil water to a bare minimum. Rainwater harvesting should become our motto.

Now that cities like
Bengaluru are facing load shedding, urban Indians are waking up to the reality that we simply cannot do without electricity. But for a sustainable supply, we need to cut down on our excessive demand.

For instance, switching off lights when not needed must become a habit; street lights are to be switched off after dawn.

Also, domestic consumption of precious power can be brought down by fixing energy-efficient CFL and LED lights. Solar power can, in fact, be utilised everywhere as it is an inexhaustible source of energy, unlike the fossil fuels. Solar and electric vehicles must be encouraged. Wind power and tidal power can also be used wherever feasible.

Using the chemical CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) in refrigerators and air coolers create havoc by emitting chlorine, which has a disastrous effect on the protective Ozone layer. Rules have been framed to ban this practice, but strict vigilance is the need of the hour. Plastics and electronic wastes also pose a major problem, as they are practically indestructible.

Our “use and throw” culture is strangling us. Our motto should be reduce, reuse, recycle. And saying “no” to anything which increases our carbon footprint.
(The author is a consultant gynaecologist and writer)

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