Earth Day 2020: Taking sustainable choices to the post-lockdown world

Prajakta Joshi
Wednesday, 22 April 2020

For the first time in probably decades, the population across several major cities in the world is breathing fresh and clean air. The garbage generation has reduced significantly. Wild animals and birds have begun making appearances in the urban scenes.

Pune: For the first time in probably decades, the population across several major cities in the world is breathing fresh and clean air. The garbage generation has reduced significantly. Wild animals and birds have begun making appearances in the urban scenes.

Amongst many other lessons that the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has taught us, lies the lesson of the importance of sustainable choices in day-to-day life. 

Although these choices have been imposed upon us in one of the cruellest settings in the world right now, it has never been more evident that the smallest of such sustainable choices can bring about major changes in the environmental situation.

So what are some of these changes that could make a difference in our approach towards the environment in a post-lockdown world?

Also Read: Earth Day 2020: Healing the planet by staying indoors

Choosing public transport
“The present Air Quality Index (AQI) in almost all the Indian cities has shown how important it is to regulate the automotive emissions,” said Sujit Patwardhan of NGO Parisar, an organisation that has been working for years to encourage people to use public transport.

With the industrial as well as vehicle emissions under control, the air quality, even in the Delhi and NCR region, which is notorious for its worst air quality, has improved significantly.

As per data from System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) associated with the Union Ministry of Earth Science and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, the air quality of Delhi has remained to be in the ‘Satisfactory’ and ‘Moderate’ categories since the lockdown has begun, which usually floats between ‘Poor’ and ‘Very Poor’. Pune’s AQI has been in the ‘Good’ category for several days. 

Also Read: On World Earth Day, go green with music!

“We need to learn from this and start choosing public transport in the post-lockdown world. That is the way ahead if we wish to maintain good air quality,” Patwardhan said.

He also insisted that for people to choose public transport over private vehicles, the government needs to strengthen the public transport infrastructure.

“It needs to be more accessible and convenient. The government must invest in making it a better option. We need to decide whether we want to change how we think and act after the lockdown or not,” Patwardhan added.

Also Read: Earth Day 2020: Let the planet breathe

To litter or not to litter
Sakal Times reported a few days ago that the garbage generation in Pune had reduced by around 500 metric tonnes per day. Along with almost no waste generation from the hotels and restaurants, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) Solid Waste Management Department Head Dnyaneshwar Molak pointed fingers at the reduction in littering on roads.

“Around 200 metric tonnes of waste per day was generated by the hotels. So you can calculate how much waste gets thrown on the road every day. Since people are not on roads now, the littering of the roads has reduced drastically. But is it so difficult to make that choice every day?” Molak questioned.

Harshad Barde of SWaCH Pune also pointed out that since people buy only what they need, the consumption has reduced, and so has the garbage generation. Why can’t we follow this in our daily life, lockdown or not?

A minimalistic approach
“I have literally been living in two pairs of clothes for the past three weeks, and I have realised that it is possible to live like this,” said Quality Education Support Trust (QUEST) Academic Fellow Sharduli Joshi.

She added, “We need to redefine our’ needs’. This period has definitely shown us that we can live with so fewer things. Of course, it would not be the same after the lockdown is over, but we must think while buying anything while using everything that we have - do I really need this?”

A minimalistic approach towards living life suggests that we must only keep what adds real value to our lives. The past few weeks have made it pretty clear to everyone, what are the essentials and what are not. But are we going to live by it?

Sustainable preferences
“It all comes down to sustainable preferences,” said ornithologist Pankaj Koparde.

However, environmental activist Kishori Gadre said that it would be very difficult to continue to make these changes on a practical level after the lockdown.

“This situation is certainly bringing awareness amongst the people, no doubt. But we have to understand that a sustainable approach is more of a compulsion rather than a choice right now. After the lockdown is lifted, there are chances that these changes are going to fizzle out as the people are going to have to prioritise other issues like livelihoods over everything else,” she added.

However, she also presented a flipside to this. “We cannot deny that there is awareness. So if such changes are channelised collectively by the government, a large number of people would respond positively, as they have seen what small changes can do to the nature around them. But without a channelising agent, things will fall apart again.” Gadre stated.

“We are staring at several pro-climate changes today. The carbon footprint has reduced, we have majorly cut down on the consumption of the things that generate most garbage. But these are all short term effects. We are doing all of this because we have no other choice. Are we going to take these habits ahead, to the post-lockdown world remains to be tested,” Koparde added.

After all, it all comes down to how much we need and what we don’t. As Mahatma Gandhi has stated, “The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for anyone’s greed.” 

The lockdown has shown us how we need to live. But are we going to carry these lessons forward? Or are we going to forget all the experiences these couple of deadly months have taught us?

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