Environment literally means surroundings or the conditions we live in. In ecology it is also called an ecosystem, which can be defined as, “a structural and functional unit exhibiting independent existence”. Environment is basically a system of two components: one is the biotic component and the other is the abiotic part. Biotic part entails all living organisms, such as animals, plants and microbes while the abiotic component includes all the physical conditions prevailing in an environment, such as light, water, soil, temperature, rainfall, etc. Both these components come and function together as a single natural unit.
Almost all of our daily requirements are met by our environment: food, water, shelter, oxygen, shade, fodder, and the inventory goes on. Everything we need to survive on this earth comes from our surroundings. It makes sense, then, that whatever benefits us, we must cherish it. We are bound to take due care of the environment so as to enable the perpetuation of living organisms in general and of human being in particular.
World Environment Day is an occasion to spread awareness about the environment and the actions necessary to protect it. This year’s theme is about ‘Restoration of Ecosystem’. How can we restore our environment back to its original and pristine state? ‘Sustainable use’ of environment and its resources is the only way to preclude further damage to the environment. It advocates the use of resources in a limited and reasonable way, so as to not deplete them all at once. For instance, if we need to cut down a tree, we must plant two in return. If the environment provides us with pure and potable water, we ought to keep it clean. Sustainable use means to be careful as to the usage of ecosystem services and replenish them in whatsoever way we can.
However, of all the creatures that dwell on the earth, man is the only animal that has been degrading the environment at a rapid and never-before speed. We as humans stand at number one when it comes to polluting the environment. Everybody is witness to the unchecked degradation of environment going on round the clock around them. Unnecessary use of pesticides, industrial wastes, mining and exploration, and construction activities are some of the practices that dominate our day to day life. These continue to be the reason for bad environmental health. With the advent of plastics and other non-biodegradable material, the extent of environmental wreckage has been drastic in the last three decades. Not a single part of the environment has been left pure; soil, water, and air all are fraught with pollutants and perilous substances. It is beyond imagination how immensely we have polluted our environment.
Not only humans have to bear the brunt of environment degradation but all those helpless animals which don’t even know what the degradation is all about. A good number of animal species have already vanished from the earth owning to environmental change brought about by humans and many others are on the verge of extinction. Unless and until we propagate a caring approach vis-à-vis our environment, we will see more extinction of keystone species and realise their importance only when their link in the ecological web, of which we are a part, is broken. Global warming, untimely rainfall, floods and seasonal variations are nothing but the overexploitation and alteration of environment at the hands of humans.
If we really want to preserve our environment from further damage, we must take steps at both community and individual level. People have to come forth and actively engage themselves in order to preserve the environment. The government alone can do nothing unless people start at their individual level and adopt a proactive approach towards the conservation of environment. If we are able to clean our homes, we should also be able to ensure that our villages, our towns and cities are clean. Proper disposal of daily household waste, minimal use of plastics, proper management of filthy drainage, to mention a few, are some of the easy steps we are all capable of taking. Parents ought to inculcate in their wards right from childhood the value of cleanliness of their surroundings. Moreover, wherever possible, eco-friendly products should be given preference.
As already said, we must be proactive in order to lessen environmental degradation. Programmes, seminars and lectures on environment conservation will not avail in the least unless we partake actively with firm resolve in environmental conservation. Environment Day should not be limited only to 5th of June; every day for us should be Environment Day. It is bizarre to see how calmly and constantly the natural environment has been supplying us with all our requisites and what we do in return to it. Does it make any sense to be unfair to that which has been supporting our life?
The writer is a scholar at Kashmir University. [email protected]