Written by Rohan P Unni | Header
Photo credit: dreamstime.com
“How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” These words of a young school student named Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York hit the policymakers around the world and held them responsible for inaction in tackling the world’s most neglected existential crisis - climate change. This crisis is threatening the life of all the species on our planet. Why should our co-inhabitants on the planet suffer for the ruckus we human beings have created? The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has alarmingly risen from about 280 ppm before industrial times to about 417 ppm in 2020. The average temperature globally across land and ocean surfaces in 2019 was found to be 0.95°C above the 20th century average of 13.9ºC. Our planet is warming, and we are witnessing extreme climatic conditions. Floods, droughts, heatwaves, hurricanes, wildfires, etc. are becoming common around the world. Aren’t we accountable for the adverse change and damage we are causing to our unique planet? Children around the world must become aware of the repercussions of environmental damage so they don’t make the same mistake.
Needless to say, children nowadays are much more conscious when it comes to environmental issues. Environmental education deserves the same attention that subjects as mathematics, science and arts get. But often living examples such as the dynamic Greta Thunberg are necessary to inspire young minds. Greta Thunberg has emerged as an icon of the climate change movement around the world. She was the voice of teenagers in Sweden, urging political leaders to enforce strong climate change action and advocating the notion of reducing the carbon footprint at an individual and family level.
The carbon footprint is simply the amount of greenhouse gas emitted directly or indirectly by individuals, families, communities, nations, organizations, etc. These are expressed as CO2 equivalent. Be it eating, washing, bathing or commuting; each has its associated carbon footprint. Individual behavioural changes are pertinent to tackling an unavoidable crisis like climate change. This calls for a role reversal in a society where children influence adults and bring out behavioural changes at the family level. The lessons learned at school about the environment are to be imbibed and nature must be carefully nurtured with the coordinated effort of family and community. Children need to be inspired to become climate change warriors without needing their involvement in school strikes for climate change action. Here are ten widely agreed-upon measures or guidelines to reduce carbon footprint and be called a “climate change warrior”: 1. Being energy economical: Electricity consumption has a direct implication on your carbon footprint. Switch off appliances when not in use. Replace conventional incandescent bulbs with the LED ones. Make the most of daylight and natural ventilation. Try spending most of the time outdoors. Reduce your screen time. Wash clothes in cold water.
2. Optimal water usage: The energy associated with pumping groundwater and water treatment is significantly high and is now given attention by researchers. The concept of water-energy nexus has emerged and is crucial to fully understand the interaction between water and energy. Minimizing the water consumption during bathing, washing, gardening and cleaning can help reduce water footprint.
3. Dietary changes: Reduce meat and dairy consumption as much as possible. Cattle and poultry farming drain a lot of resources like water, food crops, land and energy. There is a significant carbon footprint associated with every stage of meat production and transportation. A diet that is predominantly plant-based is healthy too and hence advisable.
4. Travel: Discouraging adults from unnecessary travel and commutation. Avoiding frequent car travels and using public transport facilities like the metro and local buses instead. Taking a short walk for shopping can add up to significant emission reduction. “Work from home” culture is promising to reduce unnecessary commutation and is expected to become popular in the post- COVID era.
5. Embrace cycles: The solution for sustainable mobility has been known for decades. Embrace cycles for a cleaner, sustainable, healthy, lively, happy and optimistic future. Cycles are one of the greater inventions of humankind. Cycling is a common remedy for most modern and global problems. The ailing planet doesn’t desire engines. A cycle is a child’s best companion, accompanying him/her to school, tuitions and shopping markets. It has numerous health (physical and mental) benefits as well. It enables people to come out of a sedentary lifestyle and lead a much more active one.
6. Rooftop solar panel/solar water heater: In areas with a good number of sunshine hours, electricity generation using a stand-alone system can be considered. This includes a combination of solar panel, charge controllers, batteries and inverters. Excess energy can be supplied to the grid. Water heating consumes a large amount of energy; hence solar energy could be employed for thermal water heating if possible.
7. Vacations: Try to avoid flying for long-distance travels within the country. Choose trains instead whenever possible. Trains are economical, comfortable, much more fun and safer. They have a significantly lesser carbon footprint than flying.
8. Vocal for local: Purchase local products instead of imported ones. Try to get fruits and vegetables directly from farms. Supporting local businesses is necessary to lift the economy from the havocs created by the COVID pandemic.
9. Shop less and smart: Shopping should not be a hobby. Avoid plastic bags totally and make use of reusable bags. Unnecessary items only go to waste. A minimalistic lifestyle is the key to happiness and a sustainable future.
10. Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: Reduce household wastes. Composting is an effective method to process your organic wastes. The manure can be used in your garden itself. Solid waste management is quite challenging on a large scale in communities. Children tend to be fascinated by interstellar bodies, the notion of aliens and earth-like planets. Human beings are continuously exploring the universe and trying to find “Planet B” which can sustain life. However, none can replace this unique planet which we call home. The home which we share with plants, animals and other living beings. This has to be preserved, cherished and sustained for our children and grandchildren. We are not the masters of this planet and have trivial rights over its overwhelming yet dwindling resources. There is no “Planet B”; never another home like planet Earth!!