Bizarre as it may be, I was far from being an environment-conscious citizen till not so long ago. For me, protecting the environment began (and conveniently ended) with the simple application of the ‘do not litter’ principle. Now you might be wondering if years of being taught about the degrading condition of the environment failed to create an impact on me, what was it that made me sit up and take notice? Here is a compilation of ten extremely disturbing facts about the environment that served as an eye-opener:
1. The latest Global Burden of Disease report states that 620,000 premature deaths occur in India from air pollution-related diseases.
2. According to the Centre for Peace and Development Studies (CPDS), if we continue at our present rate of destruction, the earth could lose almost 25% of the 1.4 million species of flora and fauna, a loss which might prove to be a greater threat than the thermo-nuclear war!
3. So you have been eyeing this fantastic phone that has recently been launched in the market. But before you buy it, ask yourself a simple question: Do you really need it or have you become a pawn in the hands of the market forces? For 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste are generated worldwide every year, very little of which gets recycled. Additionally, toxic chemicals like lead, mercury and chromium from these discarded electronics infect the people who work in ‘e-waste yards’ as they expose themselves to hazardous materials every day.
4. Though I am pretty confident that all of you are aware of the population explosion that has taken place in the last few decades, here’s another startling fact about the same: the human population has grown more in the last 50 years than it did in the previous 4 million years. In fact, the United Nations believes that we’ll reach 9 billion by 2050. Such a large population will put a huge strain on already stretched resources, making severe food and water shortages far more likely.
5. Climate change no longer implies global warming alone. For instance, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said that by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa may be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. Moreover, it also estimated that in some African countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%, thereby severely compromising agricultural production, leading to even worse malnutrition.
6. Ever wondered what the true cost of cosmetic beauty is? All the chemicals in our personal products get flushed down the drain, into our soil, water and air, thereby contributing to environmental pollution and increasing its toxic burden. The petrochemical-based products also deplete the planet’s natural resources. In addition, animal ingredients like tallow, collagen and animal fats are also extensively employed in synthetic cosmetics, implying the slaughtering of thousands of animals.
7. The loss of forest on an average of 1.3 million hectares per year has resulted in the loss of topsoil equivalent to 30 to 50 million tons of food grains a year. This at a time when millions of people die due to starvation.
8. As the CPDS pointed out, India’s daily intake of pesticide residues in food is among the highest in the world; the residue levels in crop samples from grain-rich Punjab are among the highest in the country.
9. And did you know that one ton of carbon dioxide that is released in the air can be prevented by replacing every 75 watt light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs!
If this did not wake you from your slumber, I don’t know what will. It is high time that we do our bit, which boils down to the 3 R’s- Reduce, Recycle and Reuse. For, environmental deterioration is not a distant phenomenon, but a dangerously close reality.