A billion acts of Green in India

By Nikhat Parween

New Delhi [India], April 22 (ANI): Ghulam Kausar, a small farmer from Katihar district, Bihar is woe-begone "We work so hard on our fields every day, the whole year round.

But things have been going topsy-turvy , the last few years. We don't know when it will rain or how much. And when it starts raining, we don't know when it'll stop. It disturbs the way we've been cultivating our land and the worst is that this is affecting our crops."

There is of course a wider explanation to what Ghulam is experiencing. Global temperatures are predicted to rise in the coming decades. Climate Change expert Nagraj Adve has explained the pattern of rising global temperatures. Typically it spikes then it staggers for a while and finally plateaus.

The cycle repeats itself, playing havoc with seasonal patterns and quantum of rainfall. Mr. Adve was speaking at a Panel Discussion, " Our Planet is Warming up- How Can Rural Communities Cope" on the occasion of Founders' Day (2016) of Charkha, an NGO that works to empower rural communities with communication skills to articulate development concerns.

These changes impinge on existing cultivation patterns, disturbing the entire agricultural cycle. Says Adve, "Sometimes the changes in temperatures are too erratic or too fast for farmers to cope". Despite their best efforts then, agriculture does not yield enough.

They are then forced to look for other livelihood options.

Ghulam had to take up painting jobs -banners and hoardings to offset losses in agriculture. But it is not only a loss of earnings that he is bemoaning. "Sometimes I feel that we give importance to other things and not our land. That's why our earth feels neglected, gets angry and that's why there are floods and quakes."

Ghulam's lament is borne out by a rapidly changing environmental scenario that is threatening not just agricultural patterns but life systems in the oceans, forests, land. Climate Change is today the biggest environmental challenge facing humanity with implications for natural ecosystems, agriculture and health.

The world is paying a heavy price for modern developmental processes, technologies that have polluted the air and water and degraded the earth. This led to a day being dedicated to issues of environment and sustainability. The marking of the Earth Day, April 22 1970, lay in the need for public consciousness on air and water pollution to force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

Earth Day brought together students and diverse groups fighting against oil spills, polluting factories, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, loss of forests and wildlife. They could articulate a new narrative of development, fully aligned with a sustainable environment. Today it is easily one of the largest secular observances in the world. It is celebrated by more than a billion people every year to change human behavior and provoke policy change.

The Earth Day Network a large collaborative network of non-profit organisations, government agencies and business leaders has been leading this. A Billion Acts of Green, a global tree planting initiative has been launched, the world's largest environmental service project.

Closer home, this message resonated. Allotted a government quarter in Patna, Mohd. Salimuddin noticed a dump yard at the back. Taking out a little time every day, to work on the plot, he grew seasonal vegetables, planted fruit trees and even flowers. Without knowing about the global campaign or the significance of Earth Day, Salimuddin was instinctively doing the right thing. And finding great joy. "Even a few moments, early in the morning are enough to relieve stress and feel refreshed!" says Salimuddin. Then on a more reflective note adds, "We should think about how we can give back to this earth- each according to their own capacity. "

A Billion Acts of Green is undoubtedly an effective way of mobilizing the world community to think and act collectively on critical environmental issues of the day. But unless their collective voice is addressed by policy makers, it remains at best, a community effort to raise awareness.

Afreen Khanum, a medical student at Patna University believes that it is not enough to only plant trees. "Today all countries are in a race to outdo each other in producing missiles. But is anyone paying attention to how this will affect the environment?" she asks. There is wisdom in the words of this young woman. But it has a slim chance of reaching let alone influencing international forums where hard-nosed negotiations on environment and climate change take place.

In all fairness, diverse opinions particularly from the ground should inform international negotiations on issues that deeply concern the entirety of life on earth. Often however it is a lone voice that drives home the message "All I can say is that we should stop meddling with our environment and this earth. This could result in something terrible for all of us.", says Ghulam Kausar, farmer, Katihar.

The views expreessed in the above article are that of Nikhat Parween of Charkha Features. (ANI)