The world is under great threat of extinction. We are globally surrounded by the blanket of destruction. The swords are hanging on our heads. The glaciers are melting at a high rate. The sea levels are rising. The coastal areas are being washed off. Either places are experiencing severe cases of drought or they are being flooded. The recent Tsunami which washed away zillions of people and thousands of places could again horrify us if we leave this world to deteriorate. Medicines have helped in reducing epidemics but the increased pollution level has caused a series of diseases such as asthma - because of dust and smoke; eczema-caused due to detergent use; Brain damage because of lead; and to top among them all we have cancer caused because of Suspended Particulate Matter(SPM) in air.
The Global Summits have been a big failure. Long discussions on environment have taken place at various summits. The Kyoto Protocol or the Montreal Protocol have been implemented - but only on papers and documents. We've witnessed the recent global Earth summit which was again a big failure. The world has developed but it has simultaneously deteriorated. With developed nations, blaming the under - developed and developing countries and vice - versa, nothing effective can be gained. We have to remember that any pollution from one corner of earth would affect the entire human race. And not only are we effected but also the flora and fauna of the earth. The history of Earth Summits, etc has proved that these great executives cannot do much; you and I at the local level will have to make endeavors.
We are all very familiar with the terms - Ozone layer depletion and Global warming. The issues of ozone layer depletion and global warming over past few decades have resulted in climate changes. Though ozone layer contributes only 3 to 4 mm thickness, yet it is a life- saving protective cover for all the biota of the atmosphere. Ozone layer prevents the harmful Ultraviolet radiations from reaching the earth's surface and causes temperature inversion in stratosphere that helps in maintaining stable climate conditions. But with constant use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCS) in refrigerator, air conditioners, aerosols the ozone layer is being completely destroyed. The ozone hole has been discovered over Antarctic. Because of this, amount of ozone in the atmosphere is naturally fluctuating by small amounts all the time. It is affecting the seasons, changing wind patterns and other natural factors. Due to weakening of ozone layer, there will be less absorption of ultraviolet radiation and hence more ultraviolet radiations would reach earth's surface causing increase in temperature. The substantial increase in surface temperature would cause global warming at global level.
The major issues and problems have risen because of mass scale deforestation. In 1985, a government report in Australia warned that two-thirds of the country's tree cover had been destroyed and that more than half of the agricultural land was in the need of treatment for erosion. In the Third World, the desert is expanding unchecked. Around the area of Sahara in Africa, a new desert is being created at a rate of 420 acres (170 hectares) an hour. To stop desertification of land, we will have to take steps to plant trees and recover forest areas. Various social movements like the Chipko Movement and Apiko Movement have brought fruitful results.
The next important step that ought to be taken is harnessing of solar energy. Solar energy is the cheapest and most abundant form of energy. Solar energy falling on the earth in an hour is almost equal to the total energy used by the population of the world in a year. The solar energy must be harnessed and used in solar cookers, heaters, furnaces, water heaters, etc. The solar energy can also be harnessed and used in big torches that might light up the nights. The big business houses must take up large - scale production of eco-friendly solar energy harnessing items. They have the potential to undertake such novel ideas. The youth of today should be made to think and use their creativity to produce and use eco-friendly techniques. Many devices like - solar water heater, has the potential to supply hot water only at day time. Techniques should be thought to make hot water supply available at night also. The water heater can use direct solar energy at day time whereas at night the solar cells, that convert solar energy to electrical energy, can supply the electricity input.
The major problem with the people today is that we do not think of repercussions of our actions. The plastic that we use so commonly has innumerable harmful impacts on the earth. It takes millions of years for these plastics to decompose. An Australian company has come up with a novel plastic packaging product that, on coming in contact with water, vanishes into air!! Manufactured by Plantic Technologies, this biodegradable plastic has the same look and feel and properties of strength, stability and shape like that of conventional plastic. What sets it apart from its petrochemical counterparts is that Plantic is made of maize - commonly used to make bread and pasta. It is this composition that makes Plantic renewable, sustainable, and non-toxic. Recently launched in the market, Plantic is the world's first, truly environment-friendly plastic that is competitive in terms of cost and functionality with petrochemical based plastic. It can biodegrade in any environment, thereby allowing multiple disposal routes into any waste stream. Efforts should be made at all levels- international, national and individual levels to replace traditionally manufactured plastic with plantic for this small effort would make a large impact on the environment.
Another area of emphasis should be the use of recycled items in our daily lives. Example: a wall decorated with plastic glasses could give an illusion of mirror. The Rock Garden in Chandigarh is a spectacular example of creativity and reuse of wastes. The whole garden is a beautiful picture of recycled wastes. The broken utensils, broken bangles and mirrors have been used to decorate the place and build a boundary wall also. The pencil shavings can be used to make beautiful cards. There are various remarkable recycled papers available in the market - more beautiful than the original ones, their usage should be encouraged.
One way to contribute to sustainable society and development can be building an eco-house. The eco-house is not different from one traditional house in terms of comfort. The only difference is that eco-houses strictly follow the green concepts of not over- building, recycling existing buildings if possible; protecting, enhancing and restoring the site; maximizing energy efficiency; creating healthy indoor environment; utilizing green operations and maintenance, minimizing waste; using renewable energy for heating, cooling and electricity generation; using local material, or materials with low embodied energy. How this helps, can be understood by the US Department of Energy estimation, the buildings are a major source of pollutants that cause urban air quality problems and contribute to unhealthy climate change by accounting for 49% of sulphur dioxide, 35% of carbon dioxide, 25% of nitrous oxide and 10% of particulate emission.
The existence of varied alternatives of resource use creates a need to make rational decision about the use of natural resources and change in technology. A new push is desperately needed. There are plenty of non-wood pulp sources. For instance, paper can be made from 100% bagasse fibre. Pulp made from such agro waste is cheaper than wood pulp. Also, one hectare of hemp can produce as much usable fibre as four hectares of trees. Hemp paper is more long lasting than wood paper, stronger and both acid and chlorine - free. It can even be recycled seven times as against four times of the wood - based paper.
Other measures that must be taken at small levels by individuals is - to promote traditional methods of rain harvesting, like building of raised embankments to collect, and store rainwater. This water seeps down to raise the groundwater levels. Secondly, we should try to minimize the use of synthetic pesticides since they add to the environmental pollution. These pesticides reduce soil fertility and also seep down the soil to mix with the ground water. Instead, organic manure should be used. A new culture, vermiculture is one of the alternatives to the fertilizers. It is a concept of getting the organic manure but the difference is that the manure is produced by the activity of earthworms. The degradation of organic wastes by earthworm consumption is known as vermicomposting. The earthworm is physically, an aerator, washer and mixer and chemically, a degrader and biologically, a stimulator in the decomposing sub-system. The vermicomposting is eco-friendly, less expensive and beneficial in nature.
For a healthier earth, steps should be taken to control vehicular pollution. Large emissions of carbon gases, nitrogen gases, lead, etc from vehicles cause large rise in pollution levels, which also contribute in changing the climatic conditions by increasing the temperature of the earth.
Large measures have been taken to control pollution and thereby control climate change but still the rate of deterioration is much higher than the rate at which the eco-friendly measures are being implemented. People in the world today have awakened to the need for taking tangible steps towards the existence of a sustainable society. A need for sharp decline of population in developing countries has been felt along with the rational use and minimum waste of resources. Materials must be recycled and reused and determined efforts must be made to conserve the life-support system and aid in its regenerability. We must follow a basic philosophy of blending environmental and economic needs into a connected whole so that the human beings work in harmony with nature.