It was late at night – for me anyway. My sleep time stands at around 10-1030; it must have been around that time. I switched off the lights, and was in the Balcony outside my French windows. The Saptarshi Contstellation is visible just outside my bedroom window – from the balcony. As is my habit, I looked up at the Saptarshi; only this time, there was one difference. My eyes were in 2018, but my mind was in my childhood, in the 80s, when I recalled the seeing the Saptarshi and the Mruganakshatr constellations almost every night.

 

My mind’s eyes saw them as they were seen then : bright, clear and easily visible. But now, as my physical eyes looked up, I could see only the Saptarshi – but the stars were barely visible. Most vital – I used to stay outside town both in the 80s, and now, with clear skies above me, and lots of open space; both then and now. And, even more critically, I could not spot one star in the 7-star constellation, try as I might. I just couldn’t spot it!

 

THE HUMAN FOOTPRINT

That was when my mind thought of the Human Footprint, and what we have done to the environment. And other realities came to my mind readily, like the declining severity of the winters, to take another example.  The quality of the Air we breathe, to quote a third example. Or the state of the rivers that abound our ancient land, to give a fourth. Or the crowded roads, a complete difference from what it used to be in my childhood, to give a sixth. A minutes thought, and all of us can easily think of many, many other ways in which we Human Beings are leaving an indelible footprint on the world we live in, the world that has enabled and allowed us to use it in order to live.

 

Instead of adapting to the environment, we are consistently, relentlessly changing the environment we live in – frequently without any idea of the long term impact of our decisions. And, even if we are aware of the impact, it is glibly explained away as being necessary for life in the modern world. This is a perfectly facile, glib explanation that is accepted at face value, and is used and misused by all of us as we pollute the air, the water and the environment around us. The net result of these decisions taken over long periods of time is that the current generation has precisely no idea just what the world was in which I spent my childhood!

 

OUR IMPACT

My heart aches for those clear airs, those clear skies, those bright stars, those empty roads, those lovely greens on our train journeys and car journeys; those clear pure rivers, those nice memorable strolls, those nice walks in the evenings and the mornings – things we took for granted. Not anymore; the current generation will never ever get to see and experience the lovely beautiful world our generation grew up into and inherited. And, sorry to state – spoilt it royally for the coming generation. Never has any generation had as much an impact on the environment as our has…

 

In our crazy race for growth, for development, for material welfare, for better, superior, faster, more modern facilities – somewhere along the way the environment we all took for granted has paid a heavy price. This is the world that gives us everything it has so that we may live – and we have repaid it by systematically destroying or spoiling everything that it has given us. It occurs to me –  what kind of world are we leaving behind for our children?

 

IS IT SUSTAINABLE?

This is a worldwide phenomenon; is this pace of utilization of the planet’s facilities sustainable? That it isn’t; of that there is no doubt. There is a dire need for us to move into a Carbon-Neutral, more sustainable model of life, of development and of growth. This isn’t the realm of Governments sitting and chatting in air conditioned atmospheres {itself a scathing indictment of sustainability}; but rather of the people – people like you and me. We all need to ask ourselves how can each of us individually and severally make an impact, how can we each of us contribute to make the world a better place?

 

We hanker after Cars,  ACs, more and more water for wasteful usage; we cut trees, we pollute rivers – is this sustainable? Imagine an India with a net per capita income of twice what we now earn. That means twice the number of Cars, ACs, double the water, double the pollution. Where will you drive your car? On most roads, I already reach faster walking or by public transport! What about water? Air? We dream of Urban India; where will we have an Urban population of twice the now? What will the environmental impact – cities are already facing water shortage or massive pollution, for example.  What kind of world are we bequeathing our children compared with the veritable garden of Eden we inherited?

 

The constant refrain that we are a developing country and that some price will have to be paid does not hold water. Water shortage, pollution of rivers and the air is already a known issue in some places. As the pressure on the land increases, this can only increase, not reduce. We don’t have a choice, none of us. We simply have to change to a far more sustainable lifestyle, one that can ensure that the quality of the environment does not get depleted. We and our Urbanisation has already snatched away the lovely mesmerizing beauty of a clear night sky; what other price must our generations pay?

 

CONCLUSION

This is a question all of us have to answer – and this has nothing to do with population pressure; it is a straight function of our relentless and greedy exploitation of the land we live on, the land that supports us. A fine way of saying thanks we have as a sentient people … some say we are sentient, intelligent. Are we really sentient and intelligent? Cant we see the writing on the wall – or have our desires blinded us to every other reality? When the epitaph of the Human Race will be written – what will we be remembered as – the people who destroyed the beauty of the planet? Choice is still with us…