“In environmentalism, everyone is a student every time, everywhere”.
I am here to make a plea but it might sound like a warning. This is not a prophecy but it’s a fact. We live in an era of numerous international conferences, seminars for understanding sustainability, and struggling to make sense of the dynamic nature of climate change. The world leaders are attending summits and deliberating about environmental concerns which are still not prevalent news yet it signifies progress. But the ultimate question is how many of us care?
Let me prove it to you. Try naming three environmentalists under 10 seconds. Now try naming 3 movie actors in 10 secs? Well, the result is not astonishing. Our ability to name three actors highlights the influence of reiterated matters on human minds. The more we are exposed to the news, the more details we capture eventually. This is also a matter of exposure to information concerning the environment. I wonder, had we been exposed to continuous environmental debates on TV or listened to pleas of farmers and activists on the need for protecting the environment instead of advertisements we would be in a position to understand and act for conserving biodiversity and may be preventing the next pandemic.
Human beings have an innate ability to protect what we love. Whether it be a mother protecting her kids or a kid hiding her candies. What if we loved the environment? Won’t that solve many problems?
According to Ramachandra Guha, in India, we are in the middle of an age of ecological arrogance where our leaders are stuck in the five-year electoral cycle and are hostile to the environment. Well not all of them, there are an entire bunch of leaders who are fighting this war against human-made disasters and trying to reverse the effects of our previous deeds. I call them volunteers. What is more empathetic than investing your time and energy in environmental protection without expecting any monetary benefits in return. Well, I must call them smart because they know that they are investing in their future and building a better place for all of us to live.
Volunteerism has long been considered an important strategy for overall sustainable development. Centuries ago humans have protected forests by respecting, worshipping, and building spiritual bonds with nature. All these people were volunteers in some way or the other. They volunteered to protect nature. The Chipko Movement has shown the triumphant spirit of volunteerism. At times all it takes to stand for a cause is to believe in it and face the problems with courage, maybe by hugging a tree-like in the Chipko Movement.
I believe the factor that differentiates an environmental volunteer from that of others is ‘sensitivity’. They don’t need a reminder to plant a tree or to segregate waste because there is a constant bell that rings in their conscience which is a ticking clock of time that denotes the arrival of the end. When volunteers gather there are no discussions about climate change is a hoax or not rather they talk about the probable solutions just like policymakers.
I don’t think we should stop ourselves from involving emotions to issues that are supposed to be dealt with logic like climate change. One language that is common between all of us is the language of humanity. What we lack as a group of people concerned with nature is that we fail to ‘feel’ nature and there is no wonder or awe for nature anymore. We have debates and discussions on the Paris climate agreement and thus everything is based on dry statistical analysis which is important but it doesn’t talk to our conscience.
The ethos of volunteerism is a basic expression of humanity. It invokes the values of reciprocity, empowerment, and solidarity. The urge to create change is strong among the youth and one way of full-filling it would be through volunteering. Volunteering is considered as an altruistic job. The qualification of being a volunteer is probably to have a big heart which in a way denotes the willingness to acknowledge and contribute to the betterment of the realities of life.
Yesterday we were ignorant, but today we have raised our voice, and tomorrow we will solve this together. Let that be our Mantra.