Are we the next endangered species?

By Mitul Govil

Tick. Tock. According to National Geographic, the Earth just lost rain forests with an area of two football fields for buildings, crops, industries and even recreation. With 90% of our planet’s forests gone, the air entering our lungs has become a source of disease in itself.

While we hold protests and rallies to support racial, financial, gender equality, we probably failed at a basic level when we decided to establish autocracy and tame our home itself. Serene rivers slowly found themselves degrade into muddy drains, magnificent glaciers near extinction and a hit list of other species were created when we rose to power. But just as some minds prophesied when machines mowing down trees came into existence, the clock has started to tick against us, with its arms moving faster than they ever did.

In just a span of 200 years, we have managed to deplete 541 million years worth of fossil fuels. And with 80 percent of our energy needs fully dependent on fossil fuels, we have a meager 53 years left with petroleum and 110 years with coal. Other than fuels, let’s talk about animals. To be precise, let’s talk about the largest animals that have ever lived on this planet, The Blue Whale. These magnificent marine mammals rule the oceans at up to 100 feet long and upwards of 200 tons. Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant, according to the Discovery Channel. Sounds unconquerable, right? Wrong. Whaling in the 20th century has cost this species 90% of its population, with only 25,000 of them swimming in our oceans. None of this is the worst part of the situation because, as a group, we still fail to act upon the threat that looms over us. It won’t be long till our calm waters become raging seas, cities become hunting grounds of animals we have done injustice to, the ozone hole over Antarctica spreads over our homes and humans find themselves on the top of Google search results for ‘endangered species’.

As history supports, realization generally dawns after the scope of action is left negligible. Multiple warnings, be it our melting polar caps, dying animals and climate change, are treated casually to the extent that we need to be reminded of our status quo to call for actions. A recent event in New Delhi which displayed live images of our Earth’s wildlife, air pollution and ozone layer depletion got a huge ‘response’ from the people. Shockingly, the ‘response’ was indeed disheartening because all that the crowd did, was take a few thousand photos with the display, out of which half showed the ozone hole looming over Antarctica. While the organizers, were happy with the success, little did they realize that how hollow the achievement was. Spreading awareness, you say? Probably the weather report in their smartphones is just enough to spread awareness.

Of course, there are people who are devoted to change, but the number is small because fighting for a planet of 7.5 billion people and up to 8.7 million species of animals needs a lot more than a few thousand people. In fact, conservation and restoration of our planet really don’t need policy or laws. All it needs is you. Yes, you, the reader, who can probably bring about change in a few more hundred people to use less paper, water, fuel and plant trees and take care of them. The very thought that someone else is going to save the planet is a threat to us, and change begins with us.

To be completely fair, it’s not just us who deserve to be blamed for the worsening situation of our planet. Partly, it’s the vague and sometimes difficult to follow instructions given by organizations and individuals. Most people save electricity, fuel, and water because they pay for it. The plagued field in environmental conservation is innovation, which exactly is the need of the hour. A planet with 10,000 species discovered every year definitely needs more than just closing taps and switching off lights. In an effort of innovation for saving the environment, a 9th grader from Modern School Delhi started Smiling Tree, an organization that encourages people to bring about changes in their home and work spaces by giving them a natural touch. Bringing the best out of junk material, the organization strives to combine modern aesthetics with recycled elements from everyday use.

It’s high time that we stop taking ‘Environment conservation’ as a topic of essays or a theoretical concept whatsoever. Billions of dollars are proposed to be invested in reducing the carbon footprint of countries, but here’s a thought : If each one of us could take out 15 minutes from our schedule to nurture 2 saplings, in a country of 1.3 billion people, 2.6 billion saplings will soon be helping us breathe and live easier. It’s probably high time to bring nature home.

Smiling Tree is an environmental organization started by Nirbhay Kwatra, student at Modern School, that aims at transforming homes, offices, and gardens by using recycled goods and plants. For more details, drop an email at smilingkwatra@gmail.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram for more tips on gardening, tree care etc.