Blowin' In The Wind
This environment day too shall pass but we must make amends to fix our broken relationship with nature.
It’s time for another ‘world environment day.’ A time when my email inbox is inundated with a range of publicity material, from self-congratulatory work, seminars and events to mark the annual green occasion on June 5th. There are some fantastic people doing incredible work in the environmental field but empty vessels far outnumber them. One of the several reasons why after 47 years of environment day celebrations we are even deeper into the crisis and exacerbating with zoonotic diseases like the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The common man thinks it’s the scientist or subject experts’ job; the experts, in turn, look up to policymakers and political leaders for mitigation measures. In this ‘Whose Job Is It, Anyway?’ everyone conveniently forgets the chapter on fundamental duties in the Constitution of India.
Environmental protection is a fundamental duty of every citizen of this country under Article 51-A(g) of our Constitution which reads as follows: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”
Even when I quiz people who tap me for environment day publicity on why June 5th? I hardly get the right answer.
In 1972, the United Nations General Assembly established the World Environment Day on the first day of the Stockholm Conference (June 5 -16). This was the first global conference on the environment. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is an outcome of this historic meet engaging governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue. Two years later, in 1974 the first environment day celebrations were held with the theme "Only One Earth" in the city of Spokane in the United States. This year it is the 47th anniversary of world environment day. And depending on which part of the world you stay there is an environment calendar too to celebrate the wonders of natural history.
Since 1987, UNEP floated the idea for rotating the environmental protection themes through selecting different host countries. How many of you remember that India has been the host country twice, in 2011 with the theme Forests—Nature At Your Service and more recently in 2018 with the theme “Beat Plastic Pollution”. And plastic pollution continues unabatedly choking natural ecosystems.
This year the host country is Pakistan with the theme ‘ecosystem restoration”.
A common popular practice on environment day is to plant a sapling or to go for a tree plantation drive. It’s a noble idea to plant a tree, but restoration ideas should factor in the choice of species, soil, environmental and climatic conditions. For example, there are landscapes were trees should not be planted. These are grassland and arid ecosystems that support many unique and endemic species. These ecosystems are being systematically encroached or destroyed by categorising them as wastelands for development or with afforestation drives to increase ‘green’ cover.
Further, restoring a degraded patch of land is also a long and tedious process. When time and public memory are short who wants to wait for over a decade to quantify success. In an era of clicktivism, favourable narratives are easily spun through the use of influencers glossing over scientific rationale and decades of non-performance pushing us to the edge of an environmental breakdown. This environment day too shall pass but we must make amends to fix our broken relationship with nature.
‘Planet Nama’ is an exploration of our impact on the natural environment