More than 7000 cities and towns across the globe participated in the Earth Hour 2014 last weekend. The event that started in Australia in 2007, is observed on the last Saturday of March every year, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time. Individuals, communities, households and businesses are encouraged to turn off all non-essential lights during this time, as a symbol of our commitment to the planet.
With so many problems of serious consequences facing humanity today, it is impossible to assign one or the other to top of the list. There is over population, climate change, clean water shortage, increasing cost of living and out of reach healthcare, heart disease, obesity, traffic and noise pollution, terrorism, wars, corporate greed, and one could go on and on. In recent years, civil unrest and demonstrations have dominated the news in various parts of the world, showing the public’s disdain for their governments. Countries with democratic system are also suffering from the burdens of deeply rooted political discontent, with their leaders leading the way. All this, under the constant threat of nuclear and biological war, with rogue nations keeping the rest of the world hostage.
There are no easy solutions to the problems. These problems are primarily of our own making, and we must take responsibility for them like adults. Complaining, arguing, retaliating, and such actions are useless and counter-productive, and simply get in the way of those who are trying desperately to correct the wrong. However, simply taking responsibility is no longer enough. Action is required, and there is no time to waste. The environmental changes that are happening, regardless of whether they are caused by human activity or not, should be ringing alarm bells in our collective heads. Blaming the Earth or humans will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem faced by all.
It is a daunting task to comprehend the full magnitude of the problem. There is hardly a place left on the planet where humans have not left their footprint. The insatiable feeding frenzy that began with the industrial revolution continues to grow like fire. With a growing population, the needs and demands from the planet are also increasing exponentially. Forests are disappearing to make room for human settlement, and feeding livestock. Overfishing is causing serious imbalance in the natural food cycle on which humans depend entirely. Carbon emission in the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels is depleting the Ozone layer, putting all life forms on the planet in danger. The candle is being torched from both ends. As the dominant species on the planet, we must take responsibilities, along with the privileges that have been taken for granted.
President Obama has been a champion for green technology from his first hour in the office. However, it is in his Healthcare Policy reform that we can appreciate his underlying approach to healing the planet. This policy reform has come under attack from the beginning. While no plan is perfect, and there is no way to make every single person happy, this policy underscores the responsibility humans owe to fellow humans, especially those who are not as fortunate as the rest, and have no access to medical coverage. The message of compassion is loud and clear in this reform, for no society can survive if its citizens are not compassionate by nature. Humans can have no hope of achieving lasting relationship with the Earth, if there is no understanding and empathy with our own species.
To feel compassion for our only home in the Universe, a good place to start is by feeling compassion for fellow humans. If we cannot see why this is important, we have lost the most fundamental quality of our species, Humanity. No one is claiming that this is the perfect solution. By its very nature, only those who have more, can give more, and those who barely have enough, can only accept help at this time. It is important to realize that nothing on this planet belongs to one nation, or any one person. Manmade rules have typically favored those who made the rules. Even in the modern political systems, there are laws that govern the public, while more suitable laws govern the elites. For example, elected officials in the government enjoy better healthcare and have the ability to raise their own salaries.
The changes must begin with individuals through grassroots movements. To practice being kind to the planet, we can begin by being kind to all humans. To practice being kind to all humans, we can practice being kind to ourselves by consuming less meat, driving less and using high efficiency vehicles, supporting local businesses, and being content. If every individual can take personal responsibility, putting an honest effort, the planet will heal from within. Earth Hour, though symbolic, needs to be practiced not just once a year for an hour, but every day, and every hour. The compassion we show for the planet now will show its beauty and magnificence to our children, and generations to come.
Opinion by Amit Singh