The perils of environmental damage, whether related to water, air or soil, are as real and serious as the danger posed by nuclear weapons. We need no scientific proof to show what happens when the environment gets polluted. When water is contaminated, you get sick immediately, when air is polluted you can’t breathe, when sound pollution exists your brain and heart might explode, and when the soil is polluted, no crops can be grown. Then, why do we need so much convincing and negotiations to change our actions, so that less damage can be done to the environment?
Every year, India and the world goes on a mission to bring awareness about climate change. New rules are introduced from time to time like banning of certain kinds of plastic, cleaning drive for rivers, banning of non-degradable fertilizers and pesticides, and many more. Yet, the impact is negligible, as pollution is rising at an alarming rate.
The two primary reasons for the negligent behaviour towards environmental issues are lack of effort at the individual level, and the unwillingness to sacrifice economic gains for protecting the environment we live in.
Elaborating the first reason, when something becomes a habit, it gets very hard to change it. This results in a lack of personal effort to change something. For example, plastic has become a habit and an easy tool to carry anything. Whenever a ban is enforced to curb the use of plastic with special emphasis to avoid using polythene bags, lack of personal effort is quite evident when something is brought from the market. People constantly seek polythene bags from the shopkeepers to carry the items they have purchased for the simple reason that it is easier to carry things in polythene.
Similar is the case when people are asked not to bathe or wash their clothes around water bodies. This would require personal effort by people to change habits and find ways to wash clothes without adding to pollution in the water bodies. Even the management of waste generated at home requires one’s effort to keep the house as well as the surroundings clean.
Talking about the second reason, economic prosperity has been built on natural resources, whether it is metal extraction or synthesis of polythene. As economic prosperity starts having its impact, it becomes directly linked to jobs and survival of businesses and industries.
For example, the Supreme Court of India could not ban the manufacture of crackers because it has been providing jobs to many people and since there is no alternative to such jobs, keeping people hungry seems cruel.
Same goes for the use of plastic by organisations. The plastic packaging has helped deliver goods, especially non-perishable, from anywhere to any point in the world. This has resulted in the building of a certain economic model. Now, if the plastic is entirely banned, then business models would have to change, resulting in opening centres at each point where deliveries are to be done, whether, they are towns or villages. Until now, deliveries were ordered mainly from city centres. This will significantly increase the economic cost, which the private sector will not be able to bear alone.
All this applies to cases related to water, air or soil pollution. To minimize pollution of any kind will require changes in business models or how businesses operate along with the loss of jobs sometimes.
The real change to save the environment can only happen if the losses can be communicated and agreed upon, and also, personal efforts are ensured by society as a whole. The economic losses are inevitable whether they come up during the effort to save the environment or after the destruction of the environment. It is up to us to choose which one. The solutions, without resorting to great scientific innovations, are available all around. We just need to listen to them, and we will be surprised how many solutions are lying around.