By Aditya Mani:
‘Don’t Litter’, ‘Save Water’, ‘Save Electricity’, ‘Each one Plant one’, ‘Save the Tiger’. 5 issues, 5 gold medals. 16-year-old Rohit is ecstatic. Each year on the 22nd of April, fondly known as International Earth day, Rohit gets an opportunity to do his family and himself proud. A gifted writer and by no stretch of imagination a greenhorn at pictorial art, Rohit looks forward to such inter and intra school competitions where he can showcase his brilliance at aesthetics and creative imagery. As far as Rohit is concerned, these attempts at spreading awareness among school children are just excuses for gaining recognition by drawing insanely green caricatures of ‘Mother Nature’ or by painting a rather morbid picture of the human race engulfed in either war or starvation.
Ironically (but not surprisingly), Rohit, when not under the harsh and discerning scanner of his school, believes in the exact anti parallel of the principles that he portrays on his canvas. Does Rohit care to switch off the lights when he leaves a room? No. Does Rohit purchase belts that aren’t made by the merciless skinning of animals? No. Furthermore, does Rohit even care about the phenomenon of global warming? No.
This hypocritical demeanour of Rohit is far from bizarre. In fact, the hypocrisy isn’t even his own fault. Rohit conforms to the norms of modern-day society. His parents, his teachers, friends and even his role models belong to the same school of thought. Sadly, the phrase, ‘practise what you preach’ is as redundant as a cassette player.
The prime examples of this hypocritical mentality are manyÂ celebrity spokespersons of climate change. Proponents such as Al Gore who speak vehemently against the ill effects of global warming and who urge people worldwide to adopt greener habits, end up wasting a lot more precious resources than required. For example, his own electricity consumption is more than 20 times that of an average US household. The natural gas required to heat his sprawling mansion is equal to that required by a small colony in USA. For the screening of his acclaimed documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, he had flown hundreds of guests from Europe to USA on private jets, again contributing massively to his already immense carbon footprint. [source]
Also, top musical celebrities like Sheryl Crow and Madonna try in their own way to spread public awareness about the climate change, but inevitably do more harm than good; this is due to the fact that when they travel on concerts (which is more often than not), they take with them their entire entourage and most of the time, by jets. Actor John Travolta is very vocal about alternative sources of fuel, but has 4 private jets parked right outside his houseÂ [source]. The ‘Live-8’ concerts that were intended to teach through music, the way to build a healthier and greener future has actually burnt a lot more resources in terms of fuel, electricity, food and water than it could have hoped to save. There are thousands of factories and industries worldwide that refuse to carry out Green policies, simply because the cost of doing so far outweighs the incentive meant to be earned by implementing them.
Even if one were to put up an argument stating that such overconsumption is only for the greater good of humanity by rustling up mass awareness the only piece of advice I can give him is to open his eyes. To buy energy-saving CFL bulbs from the neighbourhood shop, people use cars. Plastic bags are frowned upon when given by roadside vegetable vendors, but gladly accepted when distributed in an air-conditioned supermarket. The same firecrackers that are banned during festive occasions like Diwali, magically turn up when either the Indian cricket wins or some local politician. Most NRI’s don’t even dare mix their garbage types in the foreign land, but have no qualms whatsoever in sullying places of national heritage back here in India.
In the present century, although any argument on climate change or its remedies may be done to death, fact of the matter is that no one is living it. Despite the information overload, the urban population fails to take responsibility for its actions or even right its wrongs. Walter Kelly has very aptly stated in his sardonic comic strip ‘Pogo’ in 1970 – ‘we have met the enemy, and he is us’. Need I say more?