It does not demand a herculean effort or great perspicacity to understand that it is because of the conducive and clement environment on earth that life exists, we exist. Many explorations over decades, involving painstaking research have revealed that hostile environment that exists on numerous planets, far and away, hitherto known or even unknown, does not support life and no life has ever thrived out there. Do you realise that we might be immeasurably lucky as well as utterly lonely in the entire universe, both at the same time! Our precious planet, earth which in nothing bigger than just a spec of dirt in the entire universe, adorns a very unique place unlike any other celestial object. Evolution of the most intelligent life form, the humans on the earth has been nothing short of an immensely magical event that appears thoroughly incredible, an effort which is both complex as well as laboriously slow, on part of the Almighty, over billions of years.
Do you agree that in the present times, the talks around rampant environmental degradation, rising pollution levels and global climate change, have gained unprecedented momentum, like never before? Do introspect for a moment longer on what was the urgent and pressing need for Greta Thunberg, a teenager, to take up cudgels against the powerful nations and governments at the UN conference on a seemingly insignificant and insipid subject like environment? Did you observe the vengeance and wrath in her voice when she addressed the gathering comprising heads of governments? You might be surprised to note that today, environment change poses a clear and imminent danger more than any other factor such as slumping economy, rising unemployment, job loss, terrorism, violence or poverty. Greta feels that the need of the day is to make our lives more sustainable, less intrusive or disruptive, to strike a balance and live a life of harmony with our environment. We need to genuinely introspect and critically examine our actions, where we went wrong that has brought us to a dead end like the one, we have reached today. Have we ignored, lost sight of or taken it for granted that the delicate balance in our environment, that we had been endowed with, has been disrupted beyond repair? For all we know, we might well be on the brink of a major climatic upheaval and our existence might be at stake in very near future.
[ Also Read: Pollution – awareness is the first step towards curbing it ]
A pertinent point to ponder, here and now, is our insensitivity and reluctance to acknowledge this as a big enough problem to command our undivided attention that is sure to threaten our very existence on the planet in the very near foreseeable future. Some of us feel that climate change is a hoax, not for real. This regressive thought sets us back on our commitment to act. True, climate change might not have been a serious problem back in the 80s or even in early 90s but there is no denying the fact that it has acquired a monstrous proportion today, that needs to be defeated at any cost. Our demeanour is such that we seem to have no awareness and hence are completely clueless and unprepared to fight the menace posed by climate change. Though all countries recognise this as an international calamity yet no country has bound itself the way they should in doing enough to mitigate the scourge in a meaningful manner. Another peculiarity is the fact that we, as a society, have not realised the full impact as well as the magnitude of the problem that’s confronting us, and still choose to look in a different direction. We seem to turn our thoughts away from the problem. The civil society needs to seize the issue and mount pressure upon others so that it becomes a mass movement and the governments take note of the same, moving them to serious action. Most nations are not even thinking about alleviating the problem as they feel that it is the onus of developed and rich nations of the world since they are the ones who caused it. So, why worry. What they forget is that environment is a shared resource, it knows no boundaries, what happen in India has a far-reaching impact in Canada, USA and elsewhere too. Anywhere on the planet a fossil fuel is burnt, it leads to harmful repercussions for the entire world.
We will certainly do well to understand the connection between the environment and development or progress. There is a deeper connection between our environment and development that you might think there is. Look around you and observe the things in your immediate environment that you think are markers or signs of progress and development. In other words, those objects that are the manifestations of modern technology and times that we live in. You might choose, computers, phones, furniture, fans, lights, bottles, pens, pencils, food, books, vehicles, watches, toys, bus etc. Please do permit me to decipher the finer details for you. Let me ask a simple question, where are all these objects manufactured? What a simple question it is, of course, in factories and industries. Do these factories and industries run on some kind of energy? More often factories utilise electrical energy that is produced in power plants? Energy is the buzz word since nothing works without energy. Electrical energy is used by all electronic gadgets for their operation (whether A.C or D.C), to light up our nights, to keep ourselves warm in winters (Air-conditioners and heaters) and to entertain us when we power up our TVs, computers, mobile phones, electronic games, gadgets etc. We use chemical energy (of the fuel) to cook food. The more developed we get, the more progress we make and as development reaches more of humanity and households, our demand for energy shoots up. To derive more energy, more fuel would be needed and burnt to satisfy increased energy needs. Thus, leading to a higher volume of undesirable gases getting released and accumulating in our atmosphere.
[ Also Read: Plastic Pollution – avoid single-use plastic ]
Electrical energy is produced when fossil fuels like coal, gasoline, petrol, diesel etc are ignited or burnt. Other fossil fuels like paraffin, furnace oil, coke etc are burnt in factories and industries in the manufacturing of all the articles and objects named above. Electrical energy is also produced using solar energy, wind energy and at hydro power generation plants. These sources also called as renewable sources are cleaner but more expensive than fossil fuels which explains their low proportion in the overall energy mix. Most of the energy that we consume comes from burning of fossil fuels and when a fuel is burnt, obnoxious complex products of combustion are released into the atmosphere that make it poisonous to breathe. The major gas of combustion is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, that traps heat energy in its molecule thus leading to global warming, a phenomenon leading to a general rise in temperature of the planet. Global warming leads to melting of glaciers, gradual rise in sea level and submerging low-lying coastal areas or even entire continent. Since we cannot imagine living without energy therefore release of carbon dioxide gas is continuing unabated and increasing significantly year-on-year. Build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a necessary evil and hence, we cannot escape the deleterious effects of global warming. It is the environment that pays a heavy price when we make progress.
This is where we need to be mindful of the finer points such as energy mix and energy efficiency that will lead our way forward into sustainable future for the mankind. The first and foremost thing we can do is to reduce our reliance upon fossil fuels such as petroleum, paraffin, natural gas and oils and increasing the proportion of energy derived from renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, and hydel. The second is the invention, use and mass adoption of energy efficient technology and saving unmindful wastages of energy. Remember, a penny saved is a penny earned! Such technology, though developed by rich countries, should be deployed in all the countries of the world without any border restrictions and trade barriers. A manner in which this can work is by way of government to government transfers. These two factors namely, energy mix and energy efficiency, can together change the game and herald an era of harmonious development and environment protection. Using renewable energy, conserving energy and adoption of energy efficient technology are the only things that will save the day for us.
[ Also Read: Learning to manage our waste ]
As we speak, there are more questions than we have answers to as the energy puzzle remains still unsolved. Are we so selfish that we want to consume all the resources including the fuel available in the world to satisfy our current needs and demands and not care a bit for our posterity? What will they live on in case we are unable to find enduring or long-lasting solutions to our energy needs? Are we not being overtly greedy and in turn harming our own selves ultimately? Are we not trying to delude our own selves into believing that it just a hoax? We need to think and act fast in the larger interest of whole of humanity before time runs out on us all.