World Environment Day 2023: Plastic, initially hailed as a revolutionary material, has become an omnipresent pollutant. Its durability and resistance to degradation, qualities that once made it versatile, are now leading to its accumulation in our environment
It is said that “change is the only constant,” but certain truths remain eternal. One of them is the profound wisdom of our ancient culture and the reverence it holds for Mother Nature. Our Vedic scriptures – the timeless repositories of wisdom – constantly remind us of our sacred bond with nature, urging us to protect, preserve and co-exist harmoniously with all forms of life.
The Atharva Veda elucidates this relationship beautifully: Mata Bhumih Putroham Prithivyah, meaning "Earth is my mother, and I am her son." In the Vedic era, the respect for nature was woven into the fabric of everyday life. It was not only seen as an existential necessity but as a divine entity that nurtures and sustains life.
The ancient seers believed that the Sun God, Vayu (Wind God), and the Water Goddess bless us with abundance. They held trees in high regard, equating a tree's worth to ten sons. A sacred shloka meaning “a pond equals 10 wells, a reservoir equals 10 ponds, a son equals 10 reservoirs, and a tree equals 10 sons,” reflects this thought beautifully.
Over time, however, as humanity got busy in materialistic pursuits, we lost touch with our roots. The once vibrant India, teeming with lush greenery and pristine waters, is now home to some of the most polluted cities in the world. Our race for progress has clouded our vision, and in our ignorance, we have ravaged the very bosom of Mother Earth that nourishes us.
But it's not too late to mend our ways. We must awaken to the call of Mother Earth and strive towards sustainable living. One of the critical challenges we face today is plastic pollution. From littering our landscapes to choking marine life, the plastic menace is a grave, global environmental problem that requires immediate action.
Plastic, initially hailed as a revolutionary material, has become an omnipresent pollutant. Its durability and resistance to degradation, qualities that once made it versatile, are now leading to its accumulation in our environment. From the deepest trenches of the oceans to the remotest corners of the earth, plastic waste is everywhere. Microplastics have infiltrated not just our water bodies but our soils, air, and consequently, our food chain.
Recognising this urgency, the United Nations declared the theme of World Environment Day as 'Beat Plastic Pollution'. It is a call to action for all of us to unite and drastically reduce our dependence on plastic.
As responsible citizens, we can contribute significantly to this cause. Refusing single-use plastics, using eco-friendly alternatives, recycling, reusing, and proper disposal of plastic waste can lead to a monumental shift.
Moreover, we must encourage our corporations and governments to adopt and enforce sustainable practices. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), where manufacturers are responsible for treating or disposing of post-consumer products, is a significant step in this direction. Policies that promote the development of eco-alternatives, stringent recycling regulations, and strict enforcement of plastic bans can help combat this issue.
Many nations, including India, have begun to take action. The Indian government, through its Swachh Bharat Mission, has implemented several initiatives to manage and reduce plastic waste. Innovative solutions like converting plastic waste into roads have been adopted. Many organisations are running awareness campaigns and working towards plastic-free offices.
Internationally too, steps have been taken to address this issue. Plastic Bank, a social enterprise, has established recycling centers in developing countries, offering incentives to local communities to collect plastic waste. Movements like #BreakFreeFromPlastic, Clean Seas campaign by UNEP, and initiatives like the New Plastics Economy by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation are also making significant strides in this direction.
As we embark on this journey to safeguard our Mother Earth, we must remember that every action counts. This World Environment Day, let us reconnect with our ancient wisdom, strive for co-existence, and pledge to leave a healthier planet for future generations. After all, "The Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth."