Highlights of the essay by Sonali Punhani (India) who is one of the eight finalists of The World Bank Essay Competition 2009.
“The earth produces enough to satisfy everyone's need but not everyone’s greed.”
The Holy cave shrine of Amarnath is among the most sacred pilgrimages of the Hindus, as it is considered to be one of the three abodes of Lord Shiva. The ice Shiva Lingam (symbol of Lord Shiva) found here is a natural ice stalagmite that forms between July and September and melts thereafter. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit Amarnath each year to offer their prayers, and Sonali Punhani was among the visitors in 2006. However, an unusual occurring happened that year which stunned the more than 1 billion people in India. The Shiva Lingam had melted from a majestic height of over fifteen feet to a mere seven inches! Investigations revealed that this was due to the unexpected increase in the temperature that year—global warming, as it was later established.
This single incident changed the perception of climate change among the Indian masses. This was no longer a “rich nation’s problem” that was used to brush aside environmental concerns. This global challenge was recognized and a host of environmental initiatives were launched in India. Sonali mentions a number of them in her essay, of which I will highlight a few.
Through posters, slogan writing, puppet shows, street plays, and similar traditional media, Sonali and other members of the Eco Club of her college, ran campus-wide campaigns to promote water and energy conservation, organized national intercollegiate recycling competitions, energy conservation contests and hosted annual celebratory events like Earth Day and Environment Day. They also have an “Each One Teach One” program where each student imparts life skills to at least one individual from an under-privileged section of society. Through this personalized interaction, messages on eco-friendly strategies are imparted which are localized to the community.
They have also taken a pledge to plant a tree on their birthdays. The Delhi government has started the “Green Delhi” campaign, where free saplings are available to be planted anywhere, anytime by anyone.
Another such initiative is SmritiVan—a park where family members can plant saplings as a tribute to their departed. At a mere cost of US$10, one can choose a sapling which is then planted with a stone plaque bearing the name and message to a deceased loved one. Once planted, maintenance is the responsibility of the Municipal Corporation (of Delhi). Due to the high mortality rate of saplings, these innovative solutions, similar to those mentioned by Sophie, ensure that it grows up.
The essay also mentions other youth-led Green Initiatives launched through partnerships with NGOs and the government. According to Sonali, who is currently studying at the London School of Economics: “the credit for these initiatives goes to the awareness campaigns pitched by young environmentalists, who would also earn money by saving through carbon credits. I strongly feel that the global venture of trading carbon credits by adopting Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) is a novel idea. According to economists, a green fiscal stimulus can provide an effective boost to the global slowdown. Green credentials are already becoming evaluation criteria and thus creating green solutions will enable firms to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market.”
Asking everyone to adopt the 5R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle, the essay concludes that each generation should take a pledge that they will leave the world safer than they found it as. “We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrowed it from our children.”