Climate change is not something that will happen sometime in the distant future. It’s here! And, it is making its presence felt more than ever through scorching heat waves, frequent cyclones, droughts, and melting glaciers. But what can you do as an individual?
Will cutting down on meat consumption, use of plastic, and electricity put the skids on climate change? Well, you will be surprised. Your lifestyle changes can influence the people who live around you. Surprised? Let’s examine this further.
Your change may not be yours alone
A change in lifestyle concerning climate change is uplifting, and you change with it. But what you do may trigger a change in those around you too. Here’s an example. Solar panels are one of the single most effective methods to reduce your carbon footprint. You know it, and everyone else knows it too. But it's something you put on the back burner, something that you can revisit soon.
But what happens when you install solar panels on your roof? Sure, the initial installation cost will set you back a bit. But from there on, you can reap the benefits. Not only are you doing your bit for the planet, but you can use all the electricity you want without putting a dent in your budget.
People know a good thing when they see it. Soon enough, there will be a cluster of houses around you, all sporting their solar panels. They will probably even use the same vendor you did for the installation. And this is just solar panels! Imagine what you can do when you start cycling to work or cutting down on your water bills!
You don’t have to shout from the rooftops to bring about change.
Neighbours are a curious lot. When they see something radical going on in the vicinity, everybody wants to get onto the bandwagon. Especially when they can benefit from it. The best part is, they get bragging rights on how they are doing their bit for the environment and don’t have to worry about their electricity bills. But it’s not always about personal gain. Here, we have a few examples of people who set out to do the impossible and came back to tell their tale.
The forest man of India
Deforestation is a serious concern with the rampant destruction of forests the world over. It's easy to think that this is not something in your power to change. Well, Jaydev Payeng, the forest man of India thought otherwise.
Payeng began his tree planting journey in 1979. His initial foray into reforestation began with bamboo trees. As his confidence grew, he moved on to other species of trees as well. Planting trees took a lot of time, and it was hard work. But gradually, the trees began scattering the seeds themselves.
The resultant lush forests began attracting visitors. Not only birds but deer, rhinos, tigers, and even elephants made the forest their home. All in all, Jaydev Payeng managed to convert around 1,360 acres of arid land into a green sanctuary for animals. Quite a feat for one person to accomplish!
When one scrap of trash became a movement
Most beaches in urban India have more plastic and paper waste than sand. It’s so easy to look the other way, thinking there is not much you can do about it. Afroz Shah, a Mumbai-based lawyer, felt differently. He made it to the ranks of the UN’s top environmentalists just because he chose not to look the other way. Awarded the Champions of the Earth award in 2016, Afroz’s journey began at Versova beach in Mumbai.
Frustrated with piles of garbage washing up on the shore every day, Afroz and his neighbour Harbansh Mathur began a beach clean-up. It took around six to eight weeks before people started to notice him. The movement picked up, with more and more people joining the effort. The results were seen in just 52 weeks! Today, the garbage-strewn beach is just a bad memory, all due to Afroz’s clean-up drive.
It is how you perceive things that make all the difference. More than an unpleasant chore, Afroz saw his beach clean-up venture as a date; in this case, with the ocean.
They call him Eco-baba
The rejuvenation of a river is not something that would come up on anyone’s individual agenda. However, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal is made of sterner stuff. And the river in question? The Kali Bein, a tributary of the Beas river.
When Balbir Singh saw that the river was on the verge of extinction due to industrial and domestic pollutants, he gathered volunteers to help him clean the Kali Bein. With his army of helpers, Sant Seechewal cleaned the silt and removed the growth of hyacinths from the water. Once the desilting was completed, the banks of the river were given a makeover using fruit and flowering trees. With the river restored, the water woes of the Doaba region in Punjab were a thing of the past.
It does not end there. With the aid of the Punjab government, Balbir Singh came up with the idea of an underground sewerage system. The sewage water is stored and treated using natural methods and is later used for irrigation.
A sense of empowerment
You, too, can do your bit by installing solar panels, starting a compost pit in your building, or even picking up garbage from public property. And while it may seem daunting, all that is needed is a trigger to start the domino effect. The momentum will take wings, and the sense of empowerment you get from accomplishing something meaningful is unbelievable.
You don’t have to do it alone
Yes, the idea of taking action is scary, but you need not be a lone wolf. It's easy to work on an idea with friends, family, or neighbours. Working in tandem is easier when you have your friends supporting you.
You have more power than you can imagine. Afroz Shah is an excellent example. He doggedly went about picking up garbage from the beach, unafraid by the massive task ahead of him. And though it took a few months, his project became a movement, and he accomplished his mission. All it takes is perseverance.
It’s all about conscious living and making the right choices. A gradual change in behaviour and opting for a sustainable lifestyle is your first step. And if we work together, we can probably begin the process of healing our wonderful planet.