“How dare you?” thundered Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg at the UN climate summit this year. She was confronting the nations for the devastation they had unleashed on planet earth even as they talked about money and the economics of power. She was compelling them to face the fact that they would be responsible for the remnants of a wounded world they would leave behind even as generations after suffered the consequences.
And indeed we should be asking ourselves on an individual and national level: “How dare we?” Bhutan for now is a carbon neutral country and we should be absolutely thankful for this. But even as we try to shine the gloss of being an environment-conscious nation, danger signs that we are becoming complacent are already showing everywhere.
People are dumping waste in their surroundings, failing to segregate waste properly, the simplest initiative they could possibly take to create a cleaner and greener environent; the number of cars is burgeoning so we as a nation are using more fossil fuels and contributing to atmospheric emissions, we are importing packaged food and consuming them like there is no tomorrow so the package waste in our landfills are overflowing, and though plastic bags are banned there are no alternatives so life goes on as usual.
What do we do? First, before we start preaching about the effects of climate change and other environmental issues, it is important that we walk the talk. Initiatives must begin at an individual level, then spread to family and society, to the nation and finally the world. It might not necessarily be in that order but every little step counts.
Second, creating awareness is one step closer to the battle won. We must fight for advocacy especially among communities where there is little knowledge about the effects of environmental degradation. Climate change and global warming are not myths. They are real. And they are issues that must be combated.
Third, as a nation, we have the responsibility to bear the torch. We being a non-contributor of carbon emisssions, when our leaders represent the country at international summits and conferences must raise awareness and advocate for the cause of environmental preservation and fighting climate change and effects like global warming.
All of us cannot be the Prime Minister or an Ambassador but we are individuals who can make choices. We have been blessed with free will. Therefore, it is up to us to exercise our will and make choices that are healthy, environment-friendly and good for the society and world.
For example, we can carry re-usable bags instead of using plastic bags. We can replace buying bottled water with a reusable water bottle. We can stop using plastic straws. We can eat more local. We can make our own cosmetics and toiletries with tutorials from the net. We can compost our kitchen waste and use it on our plants. We can upcycle cartons, jars and containers. We can choose to travel by public transport or walk over using our own cars. We can segregate our waste properly.
There are so many things we can do to love and heal our planet. But the onus lies on us to do the right thing.
Our lifestyle is a choice. Destroying our planet isn’t.