The Race to Extinction- An Open Letter to the Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar
Updated: Mar 9
"The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations."
~ John Paul II
Mr. Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Indira Paryavaran Bhavan, Ali Ganj, Jorbagh Road, New Delhi – 110003
Subject: Remedying the Climate Change Issue.
In my school, Environmental Studies or EVS, as we liked to call it, was a subject we had for classes 6 to 12. My older cousins used to tell me that it is a very scoring subject, that it improves our mark sheet. Unfortunately, I could only study it for two years as it was discontinued after that. It was my first touch with nature. It was the first time I understood what a beautiful world God has provided us with. And it was also the first time I learnt how destructive we humans are. The books for EVS for 6th Standard contained chapters for pollution, deforestation, soil erosion and many more human-made disasters which have made the environment what it is today. These issues are still rampant.
I would like to be able to say that that was the point I started caring about the environment, but that is not the case; my revelation came about only a few years ago. I'm guilty as well as glad. Guilty, because it took me so long, and glad because even though it took so much time, I still reached that point.
This was an environmental realisation which threw my whole lifestyle under the bus. I started caring about which part of my lifestyle hurt the environment, whether I was using too much plastic, whether I was wasting a lot of water, whether I was doing anything to stop climate change on my part, what kind of shampoo or toothpaste was more environment friendly, what are the alternative options to plastic and things like that. However, these were small changes. I used to believe that they were enough, believed that if a million people accepted such a lifestyle it would make a difference. But to get a million people to follow a simple lifestyle is tough, and without a basic environmental understanding, it becomes more of a mammoth of a task.
Seeing the current climate situation, it is quite impossible to ignore the need for environmental studies in schools in our country. Now more than ever we need our coming generations to understand the impact our little actions have on the environment. Our scientists are telling us that we are in a state of climate emergency, if we don’t do something now, our survival will be at risk in the coming years. We need our younger generation to understand that we don’t stand a chance against climate change if they don't stand with us.
Burning of fossil fuels has caused CO2 emissions to rise to a dangerous level which in turn impacts the climate all over the globe. The U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, described the urgency of the moment last year: “July was the hottest month ever. These five years will be the hottest five years on record. We see the rising level of the ocean taking place, the highest concentrations ever of CO2 in the atmosphere … we are dealing with a very dramatic threat, not only to the future of the planet but to the planet today.”
In light of the speech made by Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit in the previous year, it's quite clear that the world is changing its perception and we need to change with it. As she says, “Change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
We need environmental studies to shape young mind towards climate justice. At this point, we need everyone to fight for climate justice, not only the Millennials and the Gen Z. The next 2 years are going to shape the climate for an eternity. Hopefully, you already know the seriousness of this grave situation we all are in.
I would be immensely grateful if the subject is added to every classroom in every school in our country. It would be incredibly helpful if my younger brothers and sisters understood the importance of nature. I am doing everything in my power to help them understand the gravity of this situation, but I could never compete with a teacher's power to make his/her student learn.
Further, the ban on plastic, polythene bags and anything made of plastic that is below sixty micron needs to be stricter. The people shouldn’t even have a choice in using these harmful products. These products should not be in the market any more because the oceans have already been filled with garbage be it plastic or any other toxic product. Marine life is struggling to survive underwater day by day. Every day there are fishes as big as sharks and whales washed up on the shores of beaches all over the country and nine out of ten times it’s because they consumed the garbage which we threw into the ocean. Water covers about 71% of the earth surface, yet it is as polluted as the land we live upon, maybe even more so. I would like it if our government took action regarding the dumping of waste into our water bodies.
Further, we need groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth at a local level as well. These groups have become a necessity. They should be organised to educate the people regarding waste disposal, recycling and what basic steps are necessary for every human being to take. People residing in cities, as well as rural areas, need to be educated about climate change. Education is the only way forward.
In addition to that, many environmental-friendly things come at a considerable price. The price a consumer has to pay to save the environment is far more than living a normal non-eco-friendly life. The prices on most of these energy-efficient things like LED light bulbs are considerably high. That is where the government plays a very important role. It needs to encourage the production of these eco-friendly goods and supplies. And further, these 'green' goods need to be publicised and made available everywhere in the country, not only in the big cities. We need to make eco-friendly the new normal.
These actions can only be achieved if local groups and the government work together. The government has the funds as well as the legal means to implement these actions, and public groups can alert the authorities of any illegal, corrupt businesses being carried out and the government has the power to go after these businesses.
To sum up, there is much that needs to be done to save the environment if we still want to live on this planet, as I don't think there is a possibility of living on Mars, no matter what Elon Musk says. In the end, it's only the common people who are going to suffer the most, and we have the power to take control of this situation, but only if we have the backing of the government. I would be highly obliged if even there is a small start in the eco-friendly direction. We start by taking control of small issues and then taking over the big ones.
Aniqua Zaki, a final year student of BA LLB (Hons.), Jamia Millia Islamia University.