Denial Around Climate Change

If you’ve come across folks who are delusional about things, you could relate to this.

Picture this, you’re sitting on a bench, sipping on your morning coffee and you see a kid walking around with a plastic bag wrapped around his neck. Give him 5 minutes, he’s gonna suffocate himself enough for it to be fatal. What do you do? Run upto to him and try to save this kid? Pretty obvious right? So then, Why don’t we do that for our cohabitants?

There are 7 billion of us. 7 billion breathing, working, functioning creatures that occupy a major chunk of the planet. Yet, we all go about our daily lives unthinkingly. While we sneak our scooters into small lanes, rush to grab our coffee, get all the paper work done with a slight frown, cover our nose when black smoke hits us, we seem to forget how co-dependent we are. 

There’s a beauty in cohabitation, one that we seem to have forgotten with the race for urbanisation.  The concept of sharing a space comes with responsibilities and we’ve not done a very good job at that. You’ve come across the video of the turtle that has a straw stuck up its nose, you’ve seen tons of plastic floating on the ocean and yet you go on about your day with your stupid little coffee mug, don’t you? Don’t we all? 

We are the bad guys here and the sooner we accept it, the lesser the damage is. You can call out to a single country for the global warming but that isn’t going to make a difference. You see people are simple, we know we kill animals, we always have, what’s the big deal in that, right? 

Well it is a big deal. Because while we stand worthy of the climate change, they don’t. While we build grey walls higher, they remain deserving of their green lands. 

But let’s not make this impersonal. Why don’t we care? Why haven’t we started working against it as a clan? Why doesn’t it affect us? 

I would say capitalism, easy politics, corporate demands, consumerism, plain old ignorance but lets go with – “Because it hasn’t hit us hard enough yet.” We’ve prayed for people affected with calamities, we’ve maintained a minute’s silent for the ones who lost their life but that’s about it. Real measures like choosing public transport, buying thoughtfully, treating our personal waste, switching to a zero-harm lifestyle are just for the you tubers right? We watch them, we try it out for a day or two and then just sit in coffee shops and demand the shopkeepers to change their products so that you’d automatically be saving the planet. For our little royal needs, the scientists are sure of a royal end. 

We live believing that all that’s given to us, is our right. And some of it is, but maybe your primary right is the climate right. But when I say you have the right to clean air, I mean you’re responsible for it as much as the next person is. In the present day, a glance at our newspapers tell us that there’s no real point waiting for the governments. We can’t gather circles and speak about how it is our fate because trying a new lifestyle is just too much of a task for us. 

They say the death of art is the tragedy of our times but I disagree. I think passiveness and the urge to look for convenient options is the real smoke of sorrow that surrounds us. While we know vertical gardens will filter the air in our cities, we’re too busy riding around in the comforts of our bikes. While we’re all trying to tone our bodies, we rarely walk to work. There’s so much we do that’s going  in the wrong direction that it aches my heart and many alike, who understand the impact of climate change. 

You know the facts and the data around climate change. The cause and effect of global warming but when are we gonna talk about how the mass beef consumption has led to mass forest fires to get land for grazing so that the burger on your plate tastes good. How the little bottle of water over the counter isn’t a mere purchase  but log that’ll choke animals to death. How, as we mindlessly go for rides, as the ozone gets cavities and there ain’t no dentist fixing those. How, as we go about with propagation, our landfills take up the lands we promise our children. 

There’s so much out there to talk about climate change and yet whenever we do, we stick to statistics. We stick with numbers and ideas and the need to drop that temperature by 2 degrees. But the need hold ourselves responsible is fundamental. We’ve done this and its our mess to clear. We’ve gotten comfortable but that’ll change when there’s constant cold, when there unstable climate will affect vegetation and we’ll starve, when the heat wave won’t just be a news from the UK but a fragment of your everyday sentences. The reality is harsh and its time everybody stops being delusional about it. There are children speaking but adults need to get the message into their thick skulls. Stop silencing young inds, stop silencing logic because it doesn’t get your revenue. Stop resisting this because its coming for all of us and some of us have decided to act. All I hope for those who are busy with their daily bread is that, when it’ll hit us, you’ll deserve it but not everybody did. 

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the word ‘Minimalist’? Some popular ideas include – an empty house, the colors- black and white, fashion, slow and pale living and most importantly a hell of a commitment. The only one I’d partially agree to is the last. So to break it down to you, being a minimalist, simply means investing your money and time on the things that serve a functional purpose and nothing else.

While we run towards our dreams and aspirations trying miserably to keep it together and find happiness, perhaps we need to sit down with a cup of coffee and think if these dreams we keep running after, this idea of absolute satisfaction and joy is worth this whole struggle. Let’s look into why we are almost all the time in need or something or the other.

Given all that the current market has to offer, like cute Japanese stationery, millions of gadgets convincing you that you need help with just about everything, an option to choose from for every other item, a substitute for everything you probably already own and so on. Just when you decide to not go outside, you realize they’re all ready to deliver it to your doorstep. it may seem like a struggle but try to look at the bigger picture. Why are we constantly in search of something? Can we ever actually be content?

A popular blogger and minimalist, Leo Babauta wrote, ‘An ongoing quest for me, and one that I am renewing this year is to eliminate all that is unnecessary from my life.’ he continues by explaining what is truly necessary for life and that the rest can be avoided.

We are constantly engaged in making a list of things we believe we need. Seldom do we pause to question, ‘why’ and ‘Is it important?. ‘This isn’t limited to the market, even with relationships and any general investment of time or effort, we need to question if it’s truly worth it. Because if you do figure out the key to living a life that is simple and control this constant rush towards everything that your eyes fall on, that is when you’ll be a little more content and as far as happiness is concerned, well decluttering the unnecessary has never brought anybody sorrow. Unburdening yourself will ensure you control waste and save time.

Water : Too much or Too Little?

In a country like India it isn’t news that resources are kept at the doorstep for some and kept at the horizon for others. The rich and poor divide isn’t just theory around the nation, it’s a daily sight for everybody. Nobody really knows who to blame but it’s time we look into the logistics of the same.

The city of Bangalore acts as a crucial example for all that’s wrong with the entire country considering it’s the IT hub as well as the ‘Garden City’. Over the city, there is almost some construction work going on every day – be it drains, potholes, footpaths, flyovers etc. What media fails to mention is that every time there is a “crisis management” it is almost never planned, this is because there is no central account kept of all the development projects. Which means that drains are fixed right after road construction is accounted for.

This brings the spotlight to the authorities who take immense pride in boasting about all the “development” they’ve been aiding. The state has no ‘single/central plan’ for wholesome improvement which means they continue to invest millions from the treasure called ‘tax’ unthinkingly and this is problematic.

There are only a few things that are more problematic than improper management of resources, (which can be discussed on a later work) the most recent concern has been that revolving water. For a planet that is 2/3rd water we sure have a lot of water related concerns, this means both abundance and scarcity of the matter can kill the entire human race and for the same reason is something that should be written about.

In recent news, India has experienced floods in Karnataka and Kerala, two states where there were zero precautions taken for the same on a practical level. This is a result of inexperience on crisis and disaster management which is not a limited to “reaction” but also pro action. This includes coming up with a proper detailed safeguarding plans which ensure that any future disasters will cause minimal damage.  Which is absent in the present development cells.

Lets look at Bangalore City

The metropolitan city that hugs multiple cultures has drains almost at every nook and corner but the question is :

  1. Where do they meet?
  2. How is sewage treated?
  3. Are drains maintained regularly?
  4. How often are the drains blocked?
  5. Do the drains help during heavy rains?
  6. How effective are the road plans with regard to drains?
  1. Where do they meet?

These are all problems that end with revelation of the harsh reality. In practice, the locals almost always complain about how the drains  meeting up with lakes and ponds thereby polluting whatever water resources are available. This further leads to health issues and a larger problem of water scarcity.

India has not had the luxury of planning cities but Chandigarh, the shared capital of Punjab and Haryana stands as a classic example of why it should be popular and implemented.

For any piece of land to hold commercial and livelihood standards, a plan is essential. A systematic distribution of elements, a proper treatment of waste water along with other resources is a game changer for any economy.

In the city of Chandigarh not only is the commute planned but also the flow of drinking water, sewage and water bodies.  Bangalore, on the contrary rarely even carries out maintenance work for the existing drain networks. This just results in clogged drains, overflowing of water on a light downpour, scavenging and a fundamental destruction of all road or land projects.

The drains in the city usually pollute water bodies; a typical example is that of the foaming news of Bellandur lake. Other small towns usually have to wait for the local government inspections to even bring the problem to attention and then the wait for an actual situation takes another decade.

Most of the people are unaware of the pollution of water. This is typical of cities were overcrowding is a growing concern. This means high risks of communal diseases and damage beyond control.

  • How is sewage treated?

The bbmp along with all other state municipals have slight to no clue about waste water. This isn’t a local issue, it’s a national issue considering almost to state treats their waste water is a resourceful manner. The grey water is never flittered and sent for irrigation nor is it sent for treatment. Which means that we continue to exploit water until we can complain about its unavailability.

The sewage doesn’t collect in one big area, it is disseminated at various spots and because the covered drains are usually blocked due to the ignorance of the citizens, who take much pride in throwing out their garbage into the nearest water body, it isn’t surprising that treating this water would take a lot of effort.

Having stated that, other than private hotels and some companies, there is no real public sewage treatment plants. Most of the sewage is diverted to the lesser populated parts of the city, a disaster of a idea.  [https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/why-bengalurus-sewage-treatment-plants-may-never-be-enough-city]

  • Are drains maintained regularly?

The city has closed drains, which is admirable but these drains have slots for the water to run in which are very conveniently always blocked therefore cancelling out the very purpose of the drains. A simple way to avoid this and many other damages is by maintaining what we’ve already invested in. 

This doesn’t mean waiting for the rainfall to dig up freshly constructed roads in order to fix clogs. This means a regular check on the drains, proper filtering of waste, designing roads in favour of the flow and using assertive methods to ensure people aren’t throwing around garbage wherever they want.

  • How often are the drains blocked?

To clearly understand this, one can refer documentaries like “This is how we do it: cleaning a sewage.”  In simple words, drains in the country are blocked by a range of things like – construction waste, heavy plastic, cans and sometimes even dead animals.

In Delhi, the major internal stormwater drains were were caused by garbage, so much that TOI carried the news.  [https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/most-internal-stormwater-drains-blocked-by-garbage/articleshow/]

In the city of Bangalore, as depicted in the picture attached, the drains are blocked by as small as tea cups to unmanaged plastic.

The problem comes when we realise how quickly our drains block. MG road, the primary spot in the city were maintenance work isn’t as rare as the rest of it, drains get clogged the very hour after BBMP clears out waste. This indicates that citizens are just as responsible for clogged drains.

  • Do the drains help during heavy rains?

The city is currently experiencing a late monsoon, thanks to global  warming and the general ignorance around environment. What is worse than unnaturally heavy rain? Rain with nowhere to go. This is one of the reasons drains were built in the first place around commuting areas. Taking a drive around the city during a downpour accounts for the quality of the rains, not only does the water have no escape (due to blocks) but the water from the drains comes right out. This is because of the point mentioned in the introduction – improper management of resources. As the roads and drain maintenance is done without central plan, the roads are no longer slant slightly towards the drains but are the other way around. This is clearly evident in some parts of the city, thereby, yet again, cancelling out its very purpose, which is the sixth point of the argument made.

This ignorant use of water that is used and of the usable rainwater is to be looked upon while we complain of both water scarcity and floods. Planning the use and reuse of our resources sustainably will not only minimize our present chaos but also safeguard our future. The city of Bangalore represents all cities in the nation, one can only imagine the damages caused in areas with lesser commercial value.

Here are some images taken through smart phone while observing the water chaos in and around the city.

The Right Kind Of Waste

My last blog was about taking waste disposal seriously. It got me into thinking, how do we differentiate the right kind of waste from the giant pile of mess?

The whole biodegradable versus non-biodegradable is too obvious here. Let’s break it down to a practical level, shall we?

To nobody’s surprise, FMCG Products win the trophy for generating the biggest pile of garbage. Why? because we believe that there is no immediate alternative for the same. Since this includes everything from toiletries to over-the-counter medicines, people often choose to not look for any solutions.

A start would be – look into the recycling quality, purchase refill packets, consider a store that sells items loose (like food grains) and find your personal way of storage, switch from shampoo bottles to shampoo bars, try out bamboo toothbrushes, keep plastic off of your shopping list.

Medicine packaging usually has better recycling potential but unfortunately for some countries, including mine, the options are limited. People either don’t segregate at all or simply collect a separate pile because they can’t burn them (there are others who simply throw them away, but why talk about the mindless?)

Food waste is another popularly misunderstood issue. If you throw your food in a plastic bag, that’s not biodegradable. Collecting wet waste and ensuring that it gets decomposed is an understated responsibility.

There are various ways to deal with food waste, my favorite observation in these past few days have been – crows. Strangely nobody’s favorite bird but a perfect solution to food waste. Crows not only provide direct pick up of the waste but also don’t come with any peculiar demands. So maybe next time, don’t be so hateful towards them.

That’s a picture of a tender coconut water seller near my place, or as I like to call him “the coconut wala.” The reason I mention him is that this man feels quite alright to throw the coconut shells behind him (as you can see). Is that waste? yes. Does that cause discomfort to others? Perhaps it does. But it is still biodegradable, right? If you think that’s okay, that’s exactly what’s wrong.

Do not use “but it’s biodegradable” as an excuse to throw waste wherever you want. If you throw paper on a tiled floor, it’s not gonna decompose itself. Understanding this difference is so very crucial. This isn’t an alien concept to anybody and yet we forget our basic learning of biology whilst we try to understand the human brain.

Why do we need an Eco government?

For any country to have the potential to grow, it is important that it has an active government. An eco-conscious crowd needs the help of the government just as much as the ignorant do.

A simple way to explain this is, segregating waste in homes and workplaces only to have them all collected together by a garbage truck. This serves zero purpose whatsoever. Similarly, collecting e-waste, passing it over to other companies or agents who promise to recycle but dump all electronic waste into the land. And then there’s the other side of the world, where garbage trucks are non-existent so people just dump their waste into rivers or farmlands or anyplace that doesn’t directly belong to them.

So where do we begin? Perhaps we need to divert our attention from ‘garbage disposal’ to ‘waste management’, this involves having a public body taking care of the waste collection, segregation, recycling, and reduction.

Now segregation is great but people often forget that wet waste, if eliminated correctly, can be useful and this tiny little step could actually ensure that we don’t let decomposable waste be out there in undesirable places. There are many ways to do this but I believe the easiest is to collect the waste in pots filled with soil and left to some earthworms, preferably in the sunlight. (Let me know if you have any ideas for the same)

The paper waste, also biodegradable, is often collected for recycling purposes. Although governments do encourage citizens to recycle paper, I personally believe that ‘Reduce’ is the way to go. Paper bags have seemed to gain much prominence but we mustn’t confine paper as the only alternative to plastic.

E-waste, a much larger problem at hand has been a cause of worry for various countries. While most countries dump their electronic waste on foreign lands, some dig their own graves. Either way, this is a matter of concern as we seem to have new gadgets coming in every day but not one of those are fully recyclable (there’s a business idea). Germany sure stands out for it’s recycling efficiency, the country’s law holds the companies responsible for the reuse and recycling of their product, which I think is ideal.

Another popular example to follow would be that of South Korea, where recycling and environment-friendly waste management is basically a law. Products come with symbols denoting their recyclable capacity and efficient segregation is practiced at a grassroots level. My favorite of all is the idea of ‘frozen waste’. The idea is to store food waste in small bags in the freezer, this eliminates odor and also allows maximum utilization of the garbage bags, made specifically for this purpose. The small country ranks third in the list of countries with the most efficient waste management and for good reason.

While I encourage individual management of waste, I also believe that an eco-conscious government plays a vital role in any country. The world at large must see the possibility of drowning in waste and take necessary preventive steps in time (i.e, right now).

When Do we usually care?

We all care too much don’t we? We work the extra hour, we study until we get validations, we run to relieve the stress, we try to stay updated with everything, we constantly try to improve. Its lovely that we do care about all these little things, it’s just a little odd that we care about things that are specific to just us.

Do I think that’s bad? no. Do I think we need to seriously reconsider things we prioritize, uh huh!

We’ve all build our four walls, a space where everyone and everything except high-speed internet is restricted. We’re basically turtles trying to make our shells pretty. This is partly because we have convinced ourselves that beyond those walls, there isn’t much worth investing time in. So we keep watching all those YouTube video about how to organize an already arranged place to make it more ‘liveable’. Some of us also take drastic steps like adopting a pet or getting a plant. In our attempts to beautify this personal space, also popularly known as ‘home’, we keep forgetting to look out our windows.

While we struggle to hang that frame with a picture of Iceland on it, we forget to enjoy the annoying crappy city we’ve gotten too used to. We spend hours to make sure everything is in its place and to keep our homes clean, how many times do we think of the same while stepping out. We live with this bizarre idea, one I fail to understand, that it’s okay to litter, spit and avoid using dustbins in public spaces because you don’t live there.

If cleaning your house comes naturally to you, then not dirtying the public should be instinctive. This includes not peeing on the walls (what on earth is that about anyway), not throwing down that cigarette butt (because one bad choice is enough, really), not using plastic and just being a responsible and sound person in general.

While speaking with a college student, I happen to discover one of the most fascinating responses to “why don’t you care?”, to which he responded, “I do care but then again… there are people to clean garbage. Also how am I supposed to pick waste from the ground in front of everyone.” It’s interesting to me how we are all extremely self-aware and conscious when we are asked to pick up waste and dispose it rightly but somehow extremely shameless when we do litter.

So here’s what I think we should do, while we clean our rooms and try to make our space ‘homely’, let’s try to make our public spaces clean as well. We could do tiny things like :

  1. Carry the waste home if you don’t find a dustbin
  2. Always carry a cloth bag, don’t use plastic
  3. Don’t litter. Take the trouble of finding a bin
  4. Use public toilets, they exist for a reason
  5. Take public transport, or try to.
  6. Find ways to reduce producing waste

And most importantly, consider it your right, to TELL EVERYBODY WHO
DOESN’T CARE, TO PICK UP THEIR TRASH.

It’s Never Too Late To Care

Picture this – bright blue sky with calm clouds swaying with the wind, dark and light green grass, tickling your feet every time you try to wiggle your toes. The flirty wind touching your skin, running through your hair and as you stretch out your hands to feel it, passes through the gaps of your fingers and then slowly runs away from attachments. Just as the whisper of wind leaves your ears, a chirping of a strangely familiar birds from a distance. The buzzing sound of the bees, they’ve started their work too early while the butterflies keep chasing each other, it’s too beautiful to be working anyway, right? Now allow yourself you breathe in this beauty, the slight chill you feel between your nostrils, clear light air, carrying the faint smell from the flowers, do you identify it? Let it out slowly, let yourself relax and consume all that’s around you because let’s be honest, that’s not going to be real for much longer.

Long gone are the days when we could sit down and take in a view with a deep breath, today we just run around covering our noses with masks and hope to fly to our destination because leave flowers, we don’t even have the luxury of scentless air, its all perfumed with premium wet waste odor, with a pinch (or sometimes the whole jar) of sewage smell and just to ensure that it is strong enough, we also have a million vehicles smoking out thick black gas.

So how’d we get here? Sure we evolved too much and invented a whole bunch of things to our credit but how many of them came back crashing on us? Lets not go down the tragedy lane. It’s simply depressing to look through history and ponder upon all that we’ve screwed up. So for a change, let’s look at things we’ve done right.

While we have the fastest and ‘coolest’ sportscars on our roads, we also have affordable as well as luxury electric cars that make sure you can drive to places without gifting nature the warm black smokes (the cuter name for carbon monoxides and nitrogen oxides). We now have solar energy options because it’s unlikely for hydroelectricity to function for much longer. There’s an eco-friendly option for just about all our daily needs like – utensils, packaging items, storage options, personal care, etc.

Companies like package free, bamboo India are quite popular in their contribution to ensuring a greener and waste-free lifestyle by providing consumer options and alternatives to products. There are indoor plant varieties being sold almost everywhere, smoke filters made available, glass, steel, and wooden items sold at cheaper rates, cloth bags being sold in supermarkets but what good it is if nobody understands the need for these?

Having these alternatives come to you at your doorstep if you’re willing, would mean nothing if you don’t understand the gravity of the matter. While taking plastic bags, if the thought of it suffocating a sea animal occurs to you, would you still buy it? While asking for that straw, if you think of all that contaminated waste, would you still choose to not drink it directly from the cup? When you hear about how plastic toothbrushes do not decay or get recycled and form enormous plastic domes on various wastelands, do you think of switching to wooden or wheat-fiber ones?

Because if you find joy in ignorance, then sure, enjoy your little plastic palace and let it slowly drown you. But if you see the beauty in nature and believe that you can make a difference then don’t use plastic. Don’t let people say ‘you care too much’ or ‘are you crazy or something?’ when you try to reduce waste because while the crowd waits for waste disposal system to do some magic and turn toxin to trees, you could make the change, however little it may seem. Nothing is more classy than caring about the right things and taking the effort for the same.