Our present day life is governed by modern technology in all the spheres of our daily activities. This transformation of lifestyle, which has taken place mainly over the last 100 years, has been extremely rapid and multidimensional during the last few decades.
While this has provided mankind with great strides in the quality of life, at the same time it has led to uncontrolled and callous exploitation of the natural resources and generation of wastes and pollution, which have become not only difficult to manage but also quite unsustainable as far as the nature’s balance or equilibrium is concerned. Consequently, this unprecedented human progress has come with a heavy price tag and caused very serious environmental problems in the world such as soil, air and water pollution, greenhouse gases, climate change, freak weather patterns causing storms and floods, rise in temperatures and sea levels, endangering of many kinds of plant and animal life etc. In fact these are just some of the major environmental challenges confronting the world community and the actual list is very long.
Though at the global level these issues can mainly be tackled by the governments of the various countries in collaboration with the international bodies, the industrialists, businessmen and we as individuals can, if the right amount of awareness is created, play a major role in mitigating the adverse environmental impacts and thus make our lives more sustainable in the long run. Simultaneously, we can also cut our cost of living as the key lies in conserving the resources( some of which are non-renewable ), and reducing their consumption. The concept and practice of leading an environment friendly life is termed as ‘Environmental Living’ or ‘Green Living’.
Role of individuals
In this article, we are mainly focusing on the ways and means by which the individuals in their personal capacity or as public representatives can contribute to the society in leading and promoting environmentally sustainable lives so that the future generations can inherit an ecologically balanced set of resources and habitat. Admittedly, the challenges are enormous and appear to be insurmountable; however, the remedies or the corrective measures to be followed can be simple, which can check the degradation processes and even lead to reversible changes in the long run. The crux of the matter is to make the best efforts to conserve the natural and man-made resources and to reduce the rate of consumption as much as possible. Both these aspects are discussed in the paragraphs below.
Some Conservation & Consumption Reducing Measures
On a daily basis, we can conserve energy by avoiding wastage, and by reducing the use of air- conditioning, heating, lighting etc, together with the adoption of low powered or energy saving devices, and switching off unused appliances rather than keeping them on the standby mode. In addition, if there is a choice, we should go for one of the renewable sources of energy like hydro power, wind power or solar power instead of thermal power.
Another important energy conserving measure is proper insulation of roofs, walls, windows etc in houses and other buildings, along with planting of rooftop gardens, wherever possible.
Similarly, the usage of fuels such as gasoline, ethanol, diesel, natural or petroleum gas etc can be curtailed by avoiding unnecessary trips and long idling, proper engine tuning, correct tire pressure. Wasteful burning of fuel whether in the cars or kitchens not only leads to excessive consumption but also generates extra heat and flue gases, which add to the air pollution.
Clean drinking water is a very precious commodity; therefore, it should be conserved and its wastage prevented by all means. Likewise, we should conserve( and prevent from pollution) the surface water resources such as rivers, lakes, canals, etc and groundwater resources like aquifers and wells,, as these are used for potable purpose, irrigation and in industries.
Recycling or re-use of paper, bottles, plastic shopping bags, cartons, plastic and metal containers, drums etc should be practiced, wherever feasible, as this will lead to reduction in both consumption as well as pollution.
Treatment and recycling of waste water (other than sewage) from houses and commercial buildings can be another useful water conservation and waste reduction measure.
Other Environment Friendly Measures
Public representatives can play a role in providing parks, green belts, wildlife parks, forests and other similar natural environment to clean the air, and for recreation of the people. Individuals can contribute by planting trees and other plants, growing vegetables or fruits in their backyard, developing green lawns and other such measures.
Use crops, vegetables and fruits grown with organic manure instead of chemical fertilizers as these are not only much healthier but also help in reducing pollution. You can also aim to reduce the use of insecticides and pesticides as much as possible, as these are major sources of soil and water pollution.
Environmentally-conscious individuals can reduce consumption of all kinds of consumer goods as a general policy and avoid the use of disposable items, wherever possible, as these add to pollution. Further, higher consumption accentuates the problem of trash disposal, which is already very acute due to scarcity of landfill sites
Avoid pollution of oceans, beaches, rivers, lakes, canals and other water bodies to preserve the fish and other aquatic species. Pollution also threatens the survival of the mangroves, which protect the sea-shores against tsunamis and other tidal storms.
Also, learn to appreciate the Earth and respect nature; keep the natural parks and other recreational areas like beaches, holiday spots and mountain resorts clean and pollution free.
If possible, use herbs and medicinal plants for treatment of different ailments (under expert guidance) as these are generally harmless and free from side effects.
It’s also important to avoid unnecessary cutting or damage to trees and other plants, as these provide oxygen to the atmosphere. On the other hand, more trees should be planted to make up the depleted resources. Similarly, do not scare the wildlife or hunt them unnecessarily, as this disturbs the ecological balance and could also endanger some species.
Lastly, the pressure on the natural and other resources of the world especially the food supply is increasing day by day due to the tremendous population increase mainly in the developing countries. This is a major cause of environmental degradation as increased demands have to be met with enhanced supplies thereby generating more pollution. Accordingly, this trend needs to be checked for sustainable living.
Although the major sources of pollution in the world are the industries, the people as individuals or as public representatives with some awareness and modification in their lifestyle, can play a significant role in controlling further environmental degradation and even contribute towards a reversal of the situation by adopting sustainable “environmental living.”