Paris Climate Accord Withdrawal – A Boon in Disguise

22nd of April, 2016 was a monumental day for the entire world. 174 parties and the European Union signed the Paris Climate Accord – an agreement to reduce pollution and tackle climate change. While terms of the agreement are different for different countries, the overall agenda is to cut down emissions and keep global warming well below the 2˚C target.

Fast forward to January 2017. The US of A has a new President and a republican no less. Donald Trump’s election promises involved redrafting many policies passed by the Obama government. Among them, the expenditure on clean energy initiatives. Republicans have a long history of climate change skepticism and believe it to be a hoax. Following his Presidential tour of the Middle-east and Europe, on 1 June 2017, Trump announced that the United States of America will be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, putting them in the same basket as Nicaragua and Syria.

But comparing the US to the other two countries would be obtuse and ignorant. While Syria is currently a war zone, Nicaragua hasn’t signed the agreement because they consider the accord to be weak. It is not binding and gives liberties to major emitters which makes reaching the 2˚C a difficult task. Nicaragua is well ahead of its peers in clean energy initiatives.

Even though Trump has decided to look the other way, not every American seems to hold the same opinion. During his withdrawal announcement, Trump declared that he represents Pittsburgh and not Paris. Ironically, the Mayor of Pittsburgh has come out in support of the Paris Accord. He has joined forces with the Mayor of Paris, proclaiming that Pittsburgh’s commitment to clean energy is still intact.

It is not just Pittsburgh though. In light of Donald Trump’s decision, the states of California, New York, Washington, Hawaii, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Virginia and Delaware have created an alliance to fulfil America’s part of the Paris deal. They aim to create a green economy without the aid of the federal government. Other global leaders have also reached out to help. Since Trump’s decision will cut down significant funds for research on climate change, French President, Emmanuel Macron, has urged American Climate Scientists to move to France in order to continue with their work.

Although America’s withdrawal is a setback, it is not completely damning. Major emitters and developing nations like India and China have pledged to uphold their commitments. Analysis by Climate Action Tracker shows that China and India’s clean energy policies outweigh slower emission reductions in the US. China’s renewable energy industry is currently the largest in the world. In February this year, they opened the world’s biggest solar farm which has a capacity of 850MW.

While developing countries are making major strides, many developed nations are already creating history, especially Germany. Earlier this year, they shattered energy records by getting 85% of their power from renewables – namely wind, solar and hydroelectric. Due to high production, the German government had to pay the people to use more energy.

Therefore it is safe to say the world is moving in the right direction. If anything, Trump’s actions have only made people more responsible. It is actually a boon in disguise. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said, one man can’t change the efforts that have been taken so far. It is the duty of every civilian and citizen of this world to play their part in saving it. It starts at the grass-roots level. While organic farming, upcycling, and clean energy are all individually important, they are all branches of the same cause – saving earth and controlling climate change. So it is crucial that we take them seriously.

As someone who hails from a developing country, I believe people who can afford them should switch to renewable energy sources, while the rest of us have to use available resources judiciously and sensibly. This includes proper water management, judicious use of electricity, carpooling, so on and so forth. Also, education is an important factor in this struggle. Climate skeptics aside, many people are still unaware of the problems they are causing to nature. They get confused between weather and climate. So it is our duty to teach them the difference and highlight how big an issue this is.

Adidas Parley and the War on Plastic

On the 10th of May 2017, Adidas launched a new style in its Parley Series. Alright! So they released new shoes. What’s the big deal?

For those of you who don’t know, shoes in the Parley series are made from recycled and reclaimed ocean plastic. In June 2016 Adidas, who were highly concerned about the amount of plastic being dumped in oceans, collaborated with ‘Parley for the Oceans’ to design products from ocean plastic. This move has received major backing from many all over the world, especially environmentalists.

For those of you who do not understand the significance of this partnership, it is high time you started educating yourself about our planet. We have been using plastic extensively, so much so that its disposal has become a huge problem. For years we have been dumping them in the oceans which has led to the formation of a ‘trash island’ in the pacific. Called the Great pacific garbage patch or the pacific trash vortex, this culmination of plastic in the ocean is causing a lot of harm to aquatic life.

Today, there are multiple viral videos of eco-sailors trying to help marine life. Couple of videos include people trying to remove plastic stuck in a turtle’s nostrils and synthetic fishing net entangled in a tortoise’s neck. People have also found carcasses of sea birds and whales whose intestines were filled with plastic. If this isn’t troubling, then I don’t know what is. Wanting to lead a comfortable life is one thing but living an extravagant life at the cost of multiple lives, especially those of endangered species, is completely unacceptable.

As environmentally concerned people are looking for solutions to clean this mess, Adidas’ initiative seems to be huge step in the right direction.

Since its initiation, the company has been manufacturing shoes and apparels from the waste Parley reclaims. In 2016 alone Parley retrieved over 740 million tons of plastic waste from which Adidas has started manufacturing its products. They aim to convert this waste into one million shoes, which is equal to almost 11 million reclaimed plastic bottles.

Their strategy to eliminate ocean plastic pollution involves three steps – avoid, intercept and redesign. They have started gradually reducing the usage of plastic in all their practices. They collect marine debris and intercept as much plastic waste as possible even before they reach the ocean. Then Adidas and Parley together design high performance sports shoes from the recovered plastic waste.

In today’s world, where organizations are trying to associate themselves with sustainability, Adidas’ move will pay dividends in the coming years, not only to its business but also to the environment.

5 Global Issues that Highlight the Importance of Earth Day

This Saturday, the 22nd of April is a special day for me. Along with my mum’s birthday, Saturday will also be observed as Earth day. I’m an environmentalist and prior to this I was not aware that my lovely mother’s birthday would be double delightful for me, for I love the world as much as I love my mum. I like to identify myself as a global citizen rather than that of one particular country.

Earth day was first observed in 1970 in the United States of America. This date was chosen by then United States Senator Gaylord Nelson. Two decades later, Founder of the social organization, Earth Day 1990, Denis Hayes, took Earth Day global and organized various events across 141 countries on Earth Day. Since then Earth Day is observed each year and many important environmental and peace decisions are taken all over the world. Chief among them were the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit and the Paris Agreement, which was signed on Earth Day 2016.

For environmentalists like me, every day is earth day. But 22nd holds a significance in that, even people who have never really bothered much about global exploitations take some time to understand and realise the changes happening around them. Every year more and more people are gradually becoming environmentally responsible. Even though change is happening, it is not happening fast enough. There are still several issues that need to be dealt with. Let’s look at what they are.

Increasing Pollution Levels and Traffic

People moving to major cities in search of better job opportunities has been a trend for quite some time now. This influx has seen an increase in the number of automobiles on the roads, pushing pollution to new levels. Everyone using their personal vehicle has also lead to unwanted traffic and noise pollution. The situation is worse in densely populated countries like India and China. One of the viable options to tackle these problems is car-pooling ie, sharing your ride. Instead of each person using their personal vehicle to commute, people can instead choose to car-pool. This will drastically decrease air pollution, noise pollution and traffic, all at the same time. It also helps reduce expenditure on fuel since everyone shares the cost.

Climate Change Nay Sayers

Decades ago scientists discovered that, due to pollution, there is a change in global climate patterns. This phenomenon is dangerous to the earth and needs to be contained. But during Ronald Reagan’s tenure as President, this problem became a political and business issue and gave rise to a number of people with ulterior motives, who claim climate change is a myth. These people are commonly called climate change nay sayers. But even as this group tries to disrupt the actions being taken to tackle climate change issues, it is up to us to do our part in saving the earth. Reduce using Fossil Fuels wherever possible and switch to clean energy alternatives, especially solar energy.

Animals Losing their Natural Habitat

The uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels has increased environmental pollution. This, chiefly carbon emission, has led to global warming, which has disrupted the natural habitat of many animals, especially beasts that belong to the Arctic Circle. The arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate and stopping it is of a very high priority. This is another reason why people should switch to clean energy fuels.

The Ever Increasing Landfills and Mosquitoes

Presently most of the waste we generate is dumped in landfills. This mixture of organic and inorganic waste degrades the soil and along with it brings the problem of mosquitoes and rodents. The issue is more persistent in major cities where waste is being dumped in prominent locations within the city limits. This has led to various health and environmental issues. There are a number of ways we could put an end to this.

  • Proper Waste Management: Segregate organic and in-organic waste at the source, at your homes. The organic waste can be composted and can be used in rooftop and kitchen organic farming. The inorganic waste on the other hand can be recycled.
  • Upcycling: This is a relatively new concept and is better than recycling. Here, used products, especially plastic and glass objects, are crafted into something really gorgeous and aesthetically beautiful. Consider alcohol bottles for example, instead throwing them away, craft them into candle holders or chandeliers. If you aren’t able to do it yourself, give it to skilled artisans who can do it for you.

Synthetic Fertilizers Poisoning the Earth

For years now, farmers have been using synthetic chemicals in order to increase crop yield. But many of them are not aware of the fact that these chemicals affect the natural fertility of the soil and pollutes ground water. These chemicals also have adverse effects on humans through our food. Hence it is important that we put an end to it. How do we that? By promoting Organic farming. In this kind of farming, all synthetic chemicals are banned. People only use natural and organic certified products for farming. This farming practice is good for the environment and all life forms.

Apart from all this, there are a few things which everyone can do to preserve the earth. Planting a tree, refraining from littering, switching the fans and lights off when not necessary, using paper bags instead of plastic covers are just few of the simple but essential things one can do.

Every New Years, many of us make new resolutions but never keep them up. For a change make a resolution on Earth Day instead. A resolution to play a part, no matter how small, in saving the Earth. Remember, we have but one earth. It can survive without us but we can’t survive without it!

The Time for Circular Design is Here

We are living in an era where people are gradually trying to lead a more sustainable life. The internet has helped us understand the hardships others face. It has also made many of us aware of the dire condition the earth is in.  Concepts like organic farming and clean energy projects are big steps in the right direction. Of all the new responsible ideas that have cropped up, upcycling seems to be the most interesting.

Upcycling is the Need of the Hour

While development and implementation of organic farming and clean energy projects require people with a certain skill set, the same is not true for upcycling. By now most people know what upcycling is. It is the process of repurposing used materials in order to reduce the waste that goes to landfills. Converting liquor bottles into candle sticks is a good example of upcycling.

I found the concept of upcycling very interesting and have been doing quite a bit of research for a while now. This research of mine has led me to a concept which is much better than upcycling. As we saw, upcycling is the process of repurposing materials that are deemed waste. Now this is good, but imagine if the products are designed in such a way that there is no such thing as waste or bi-product. Welcome to the circular economy.

The Circular Design

Most existing businesses have a linear economy. Their mantra is, ‘buy, use and dispose’. In this type of economy, the earth is converted into a giant landfill. Once a product is used and worn out, it is thrown away and replaced by newer, “better” objects. The circular design looks to change this attitude.

The circular economy is a path to sustainability. Instead of the usual cradle-to-grave approach, circular design deals with a cradle-to-cradle approach. Companies who implement this concept in their business produce high quality products which have better durability and longevity. Once the products are worn out, the company provides the customer with the tools to repurpose them or they take back the products and repurpose the products themselves. The aim here is to make the customer the owner and not just a product-consumer.

The concept of a circular economy is derived from nature itself. Everything that occurs in nature, goes through a cycle. Even when an organism dies, it becomes a part of the soil and over time enriches it. So there is no real waste. People are now trying to implement this in businesses.

The circular design promotes the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. It aims to reduce waste and pollution by design.

Understanding Your Business Needs

Before implementing a circular design it is important to understand the system in which it is to be applied. Misinterpretations can lead to chaos. Transparency is critical for a circular economy to thrive.

In case of bigger commodities like automobiles or expensive furniture, people are more willing to repair instead of discarding them. It is the smaller, cheaper products which are disposed of rather casually. The circular design will completely change this outlook, and help us a long way in preserving nature.

Water Water Everywhere! Not a Drop to Drink Anywhere!

Since I was a 10 year old, pollution is a word I have been hearing almost on a daily basis. But until I was a young adult I was never really able to grasp the severity of it. These days, from the air we breathe to the food we eat and the water we drink, one has to take extreme precautions.

But among all of them, it is water that everyone warns you to be very careful about. The most precious drink in this world can also be the most lethal, thanks to the effluents and pollutants that we have been dumping in water sources for generations.

Every person, or at least those who are reading this are, I’m sure, aware of the reasons for water pollution. So instead of looking at the source, we are going to see its affects (to all life forms) and the steps and precautions required to make oneself safe.

Estimates in 2014 showed that water-borne diseases accounted for more than 3.5 million deaths per year. These diseases are a direct result of chemicals in the form of pesticides, industry effluents and so on. The most common water pollutants are chlorides, nitrates, lead, arsenic and flourides. While chlorides can cause reproductive disorders, nitrates affect oxygen flow to the brain and causes what is commonly referred to as ‘blue baby syndrome’. Lead affects the central nervous system while flourides damage the entire spinal cord. Arsenic, which is as lethal as its counterparts, causes liver damage and skin cancer.

Addition of chemicals to water bodies consequently increases nutrients in the water, giving rise to algal bloom. Since the chemicals are mostly toxic, the algal bloom is usually dangerous and is referred to as harmful algal bloom (HAB). HAB can cause serious ailments like rashes, respiratory problems and other neurological effects.

Now many people would have often come across the terms that have been discussed here and even the issues that are persistent but the seriousness of it can only be grasped when experienced first-hand. While many of us can claim to have been affected just because of a case of diarrhoea, there are more pressing issues out there. A few years back I, along with a few friends, visited a local slum. It was a social visit. We were there to help them in any way we could. The plight of many people there affected me greatly. There were people suffering from lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), skin cancer and constant stomach pain and they weren’t even aware that water was the major cause of all these issues. Since then I have personally taken it up as my duty to educate as many people as possible about these issues and how to lead a hygienic life.

Although as individuals we can only make so many changes, together, we can make a real difference. Instead of striving and rallying for unnecessary causes, it is for issues like these that people should try to force governments. At the end of the day, the government is there only because of the people and for the people. It is high time that we took a stand and made a difference. Also make it a point to talk to peers. Help them give up their bad habits and lead a sustainable life.

Pollution: The Adversary We have Learnt to Live With

‘Pollution’ – a word which we hear very often but do nothing about. It was almost 14 years ago when I actually realised that pollution wasn’t just a topic in school which helped me score marks but rather an issue everyone in the world should be concerned about. That was when I was 10 years old. Through the years my concern for the environment has grown enormously, but sadly so have the sources of pollution.

Growing up, I have heard many people say how beautiful western countries are. It was usually the USA or the UK that they spoke about. The irony was that these were the same people who littered in public places without a second thought. As an environmentalist and as human being I consider it my duty to educate my fellow homo sapiens about the various types and sources of pollution and methods to contain them.

Not many people are aware of the importance of segregation of waste at the source. It is the most basic thing every child should be taught. Separating organic waste from non-biodegradable waste makes recycling much simpler. Since organic waste can be composted and most inorganic waste can be repurposed or upcycled, the amount of waste that goes to landfills can be drastically reduced.

Kitchen or rooftop garden is a concept that is on the rise in many major cities throughout the world. It involves growing edible plants in your balcony or terrace. The best part of such home gardens is that nowadays, most urban dwellers prefer organic farming. This means using natural fertilizers and manure. Luckily there are many companies which provide solutions and technologies which help compost organic kitchen waste. This compost helps increase the fertility and water retention property of the soil. By using this in your kitchen gardens, you can increase your produce.

While there are efficient methods to responsibly dispose organic waste, handling synthetic waste, especially plastic is of higher concern. Research by the National Geographic Society shows a gigantic accumulation of plastic debris, spanning from the Western shores of North America to Japan. Called the Great Pacific Garbage patch or the pacific trash vortex, it comprises of Western Garbage Patch which is located near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch which is located near the US. The patch does not exactly look like a giant island as many think, but rather comprises of tiny bits of plastic called ‘microplastics’. Almost 70% of the debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

So how do we tackle this issue? First and foremost it is important to reduce the use of plastic, especially polyethene covers. It is wrong to expect governments to ban plastic as it does have its uses. But when we stop using them, the demand for it decrease and simultaneously the production. Once the production has been taken care of, we move onto the plastic that is in existence. This is where upcycling comes into play. Instead of dumping it in landfills, any plastic product that is considered waste can be repurposed into materials of utilitarian value. Consider for example vinyl records. Unless you love vintage products, most of the old vinyl records are just pieces of junk unless you decide to get creative. There are many upcycling companies who now sell clocks and other funky wall hangings repurposed from the vinyl records that were previously deemed waste.

I myself have bought wall hangings, a clock, a keychain holder, chair and table, posters and other awesome stuff, and my room look lively these days. The products are made from either reclaimed wood, old vinyl records or some or the other kind of non-biodegradable plastic, which would otherwise go to landfills or oceans causing harm to nature, flora and fauna.

Along with plastic another major cause for concern is global warming and climate change. Again, back in school we did learn about methane, CFC’s, vehicle emissions, industrial emissions and effluents, and aerosols. We also learnt about the depleting ozone layer, arctic melting, increasing sea levels and global warming. But how many of us have taken the steps to tackle these issues? Again, like toddlers do, we point fingers at one another or the government. But has it ever occurred to you that common citizen like us are the actual force who can put an end to all of it by working together?

At 23, I am pretty young. But in this short space of time, I myself have seen drastic climatic changes. I hail from a humble town called Ooty, which lies all the way up in the Nilgiri hills in India. While I was growing up as a school child, the months of June and July always saw heavy rains, December to January was when the frost set in, and March to May was when the sun was up and shining. But over the years things have changed. For a few years, the rains were delayed and then they completely disappeared, the summers have been hotter and winters are not what they were 15 years ago. When someone like me can see the changes, I do not understand how people in their mid-50s say they can’t.

Now that I am living in a metropolitan, I see too much population, with a lot of vehicles, causing too much pollution. The so called educated class is doing things which are contrary to that title. For instance, as a person who has lived here for over a year and a half, it makes me question the use of personal vehicles by almost everyone for commuting when actually the need of the hour is fewer vehicles on roads. With many companies sharing workspaces, isn’t it common sense to carpool? Why take five different cars when five people, all from the same area or on the same route to the office, can use one car and split the cost of fuel?

It is high time people stop being ignorant and take action. The world needs us as much as we need it. If you are indeed a responsible parent and a responsible human being, then I am sure you would be more concerned about pollution than you are about your child’s grade. Do not force them to learn for marks. Instead encourage them to learn for gaining knowledge. Take actions and inspire the next generation to follow in your footsteps. For without the world there is no you nor I and all the materialistic things would mean nothing.

Natural, Organic and Herbal – The Difference

In recent times, I have noticed a rather larger number of people talking about organic or natural or herbal products. The terms are so misleading that I thought they were one and the same. I wasn’t one for checking the ingredients of a product. If someone I knew told me it was natural and good, I blindly went for it.

Now, if there is one good habit I possess, it has got to be reading. I love reading Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Fredrick Forsyth, John Grisham and the list goes on. What I also like is stumbling upon random, interesting articles when I am aimlessly surfing.

It so happens that the other day, while on my online adventure, I landed on an article which spoke about the difference between organic, natural and herbal. Me, being the misinformed genius that I am thought, “Is there a difference?” I started reading and blimey! Not only are they different from each other, they are so different, I wonder how many people notice it. So I decided it was time I took matters into my own hand to educate my fellow ‘lovers of the natural’ about the obvious differences.

First up – natural. As the name suggests, products in this category are supposed to be fruit-basket-391414_960_720.jpgmade from completely natural products like flowers, vegetables and fruits. None of the ingredients are supposed to be synthesised in labs. The catch is, the raw materials can be subject to synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals. But in reality, not all natural products comprise of completely natural ingredients. Since there is no regulation on the word ‘natural’, even products that contain just 1% of natural ingredients can be termed as natural. I sincerely advice you to check the ingredients before a purchase. As you can see, names can be deceiving.

Moving on to organic. “Organic” is the buzzword of the century. Organic products are similar to natural products in many ways. Many argue that they are the best of the rest, since no chemicals, not even synthetic fertilizers can be used to manufacture organic products. The
y simply can’t contain any chemical additives. Companies are required to follow stringent rules and regulations to get an organic certificate for their products. To gain the ‘organic label’, a product must comprise of at least 70% organic ingredients. Certifying agencies, be it government or private, are very particular about this number. Organic farming encourages soil and water conservation and reduces pollution.

Finally, there is herbal. The term ‘herbal’, is usually associated with medicine. These are products that are made from herbs and plant extracts which have specific medicinal properties. In countries like India, China and Egypt, herbal medicines have existed for many millennia. Herbal products can be chemical free, but more often than not, they aren’t. There are no rules dictating the percentage of herbs an herbal product should contain. Most of the herbal products in existence comprise of a large number synthetic chemicals and just a handful of herbs. Again, it is highly essential that you go through the ingredients of any herbal product before you purchase. It is always better to research about such products rather than walking into a shop and picking one up, without really knowing what you are buying.

So that’s the difference between the much coveted organic, natural and herbal products. Hope you find it informative, and make responsible and sustainable choices henceforth.

Solar Power: The Sooner We Switch, the Better

The rapid depletion of fossil fuels and increasing global pollution has forced economies to look for alternative sources of energy.

Although there are many sustainable options, they need certain climatic conditions and technical specifications to work.

Among the lot, it is solar energy which seems to be the most viable alternative. Available in abundance, harnessing solar power has been the greatest challenge.

For decades, scientists have been developing technologies that can capture and store the energy for long periods. Even though we are a long way from achieving complete success in this endeavor, the available technologies do allow us to use the sun’s energy for various applications. The most commonly used device for this purpose is the solar cell or photovoltaic (PV) cell.

Primarily PV cells are used to convert solar energy into electrical energy. Almost all of us have used photovoltaic cells in our lives. Most calculators contain a single solar cell which keeps the calculator operational in case the battery runs out.

Over the years, as the price of the cells dropped, their application and usage drastically increased. Previously used in remote and individual houses, solar power is now being used in large scale, both for domestic and in industrial applications.

As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India, only 55% of rural households had access to electricity in 2015. Many villages in the country are not on the national power grid. This implies, entire villages still lead comparatively primitive lives. The growth of the solar power industry is gradually changing the rural scenario.

Apart from the government, responsible private industries, NGOs and individuals have, over the past few years,  worked with many remote villages lying outside the national grid and helped bring sustainable solar power to their villages and homes.

A developing country, India is currently the forerunner in the clean energy development sector. In 2015, they launched a Global Solar Alliance with 120 countries at the Paris Climate Summit. This is aimed at providing cleaner energy and withdrawing from non-renewables at the earliest. In January 2016, as a part of their clean energy strategy, the state government of Maharashtra made solar water heaters compulsory for all upcoming buildings.

Germany is another major promoter of clean energy. Back in May 2016, due to their high renewable energy production, the price for electricity went negative and consumers were paid to use electricity. This goes to show that not only is renewable energy good for the environment, it would be beneficial for the economy as well.

The need for clean energy has become bigger than ever. Twenty eight high net worth investors from 10 different nationalities have joined forces to form the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. Headed by Bill Gates, this venture is focused on funding clean energy companies across the globe. Members include Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani, Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos among others.

Elon Musk is another major advocate of clean energy. SolarCity Corporation, a subsidiary of Musk’s Tesla, provides the largest solar energy services in the United States. The company is one of the founding members of The Alliance for Solar Choice – a rooftop solar power advocacy effort across the United States.

Governments, along with the rich and famous, are working on various clean energy projects, keeping in mind both its citizens and the environment. We, as the common people, should do our part by saving as much energy as possible. Those of us who can afford to install solar power systems should switch from regular power usage at the earliest. The cost of installation might appear expensive but in the long run, it is worth the money spent. The need of the hour is sustainability and it can only be achieved if everyone works together.

Global Warming: A Conversation that Should be Taken Seriously

Global warming as we all know is a major cause for concern. But it was not until fairly recently that I became aware of the fact that there are people who think it is a myth! Now I can imagine many of you reading this, shaking your head and smirking. I am with you in thinking, “Who on earth are these simpletons?” How well-educated people doubt an actual global crisis is beyond me.

I was very curious to find out why these people thought global warming is not fact but fiction. My research led me to Ronald Reagan. The whole topic of climate change and global warming became a political issue during his presidency and the republicans have since maintained their notion that global warming is not real.

It was not until 1997 when certain scientists joined the nay-say bandwagon for the first time. Research by Greenpeace and The Guardian showed that major fuel and energy companies were funding these scientists and their group.

One of the main “evidence” given by these deniers is that they had neither seen nor felt any major difference climate in their lifetime.

At 23, I am pretty young. But in this short space of time, I myself have seen drastic climatic changes. I hail from a humble town called Ooty, which lies all the way up in the Nilgiri hills in India. While I was growing up as a school child, the months of June and July always saw heavy rains, December to January was when the frost set in, and March to May was when the sun was up and shining. But over the years things have changed. For a few years, the rains were delayed and then they completely disappeared, the summers have been hotter and winters are not what they were 15 years ago. When someone like me can see the changes, I do not understand how people in their mid-50s say they can’t.

At this point, many of you will no doubt mock people for not believing in global warming and will question their scientific temper. But should we really when the so called educated people of our country wouldn’t care less about the issue? At least most westerners have an opinion on the matter while we are outright ignorant about it. Education or rather the lack of it seems to be the problem.

Lack of education doesn’t mean illiteracy, it means the way we are taught isn’t right. Children are taught about the global pollution problem not as something that we should be worried about but rather as a topic which can help them score marks during examinations.

What is the point of teaching children about the different layers of the atmosphere, about the ozone layer, about greenhouse gases and global warming, if we are unable to instil in them the moral obligation to save the earth?

Now that I am living in a metropolitan, I see too much population, with a lot of vehicles, causing too much pollution. The so called educated class is doing things which are contrary to that title. For instance, as a person who has lived here for over a year and a half, it makes me question the use of personal vehicles by almost everyone for commuting when actually the need of the hour is fewer vehicles on roads. With many companies sharing work spaces, isn’t it common sense to carpool? Why take five different cars when five people, all from the same area or on the same route to the office, can use one car and split the cost of fuel?

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution claims 7 million lives worldwide every year and a major contributor to this are the fossil fuel driven automobiles. This shows that people have to become more responsible and should resort to more sustainable methods of travel.

 

Ocean Pollution: Plastic in the Waters

The invention of synthetic polymers was initially lauded by everyone. It could be moulded into any shape and size, and it was highly affordable. As long as it was produced in limited quantities, reused over prolonged periods and disposed of responsibly, plastic was a useful commodity.

But over the years, the amount of plastic produced has been gradually increasing without any sustainable mode of disposal. Nature enthusiasts have constantly voiced their concern over the excessive use of plastic and its ill effects on the environment.

One of the primary modes of plastic disposal has been dumping it in the oceans. The World Wildlife Fund has documented the adverse effects this has on marine life. Aquatic animals mistake the plastic for fish and consume it. This has led to the death of millions of fish and other ocean species. But the problem doesn’t stop there. Even birds of prey, mistake plastic for fish and die when they consume it.

As the production and usage of plastic continuously increase, so does the amount of non-biodegradable plastic waste that goes into the oceans. This in turn increases the number of deaths of both birds and fish. A 2006 survey by The United Nations Environment Program estimated that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. The survey also showed that plastic caused the death of over a million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals. The numbers have drastically increased over the past decade.

Research by the National Geographic Society shows a gigantic accumulation of plastic debris, spanning from the Western shores of North America to Japan. Called the Great Pacific Garbage patch or the pacific trash vortex, it comprises of Western Garbage Patch which is located near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch which is located near the US. The patch does not exactly look like a giant island, but rather comprises of tiny bits of plastic called ‘microplastics’. Almost 70% of the debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

Steps need to be taken to clear such debris and curb any addition to it. Governments have done their part by prohibiting sailors from dumping plastic waste overboard. But this is something the government cannot control once the ships are in the waters.

Rather than looking to the government for help, we the citizens should do our part in reducing the production of plastic. As long as there is a demand for it, the plastic industry is going to keep producing more and more.

The first step towards curbing plastic is by educating people. We should stop buying new plastic products and instead recycle and upcycle since it can be reused any number of times in many different forms.

By being a little imaginative and creative, all of us can play a big part in saving our oceans, the marine life and birds.