I have a close and personal relationship with the Sun. I am named after him as I was born on a Sunday!
The Sun is an infinite (at least in terms of human time scales) and renewable source of energy which is also by far the most important source of energy for us. Primary productivity (photosynthesis) is driven by sunlight and all our fossil fuels are derived from plants which existed millions of years ago.
Unfortunately like most things that Nature provides us and especially when it is provided for free without any demands being made, we humans tend not to respect or value it and in fact very often end up abusing it. The symptoms of this abusive and dysfunctional relationship that we modern humans have with Nature, is the reason for many of the existential problems we face today. This includes – climate change, pollution of air, water and land, widespread modification, fragmentation and destruction of natural ecosystems and accelerated extinction of species. Several of the armed conflicts, extensive and desperate human migration, some of the outbreaks of new diseases and the widespread deterioration of mental health all have their roots in the way we have treated nature in the name of development. In fact environmental deterioration has been one of the major factors causing the collapse of at least some of our ancient civilisations and we would err greatly if we are not learning our lessons from history.
‘Connecting People to Nature’, is the theme for World Environment Day 2017. My take on this is that we are all almost always connected to Nature despite our best efforts to disconnect ourselves! A simple but extremely essential activity like breathing requires oxygen to be present in the atmosphere and it is Nature that generates this oxygen. It is time that we acknowledge the debt we owe to Nature and drastically change our attitude towards her.
For me it is fundamentally important to respect and connect with Nature almost every minute of my life. This can only happen with an attitude which does not fear Nature but embraces her with curiosity, wonder, respect and love. Unfortunately decision making today is based on arrogance derived from our scientific knowledge and technology, driven by short-term monetary benefits and hunger for power. The lack of a long-term view and respect for nature undermines the sustainability of our development models.
You have to be a creationist to believe that we are not part of Nature! Fortunately most of us are not. We are also fortunate that Indians have traditionally revered Nature and its myriad manifestations which is one of the fundamental reasons for India still to have thriving populations of innumerable species of wildlife despite its 1.3 billion human population and their demands on space and resources.
It is very easy to connect with Nature. I do it by spending time in the garden, tending to plants, watching birds, butterflies and insects; segregating our waste and composting; experiencing sunrise and sunset and I could go on. It is really limited only by one’s attitude and powers of observation.
Given the urgent need for us to mitigate and reverse the pernicious effects of climate change, I urge all of us to make our best efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels and to start tapping into renewable sources of energy especially solar. This is both the right thing to do and it also has economic and social benefits.
As I sit at my office desk and write, I am looking at many enormous bee hives on a massive silk cotton tree. Nature is at work oblivious to the chaotic traffic and human activities only about 15 metres below!
Best wishes to everyone on World Environment Day. I sincerely hope that all of us will treat every day of our lives as World Environment Day and let me assure you, we will all be the better for it both individually as well as collectively.
Ravi Chellam is the Executive Director of Greenpeace India
The Sun is a renewable source of energy and is one of the cleanest sources.