A plant in my windowsill having taken me through the winters started wilting around a month back. And like the hopeless optimistic I am, I continued watering it, perhaps even more religiously know. Guilt can do strange things to you. It started wilting from the top and today with more than half of it shriveled, I knew it was a fool’s errand to continue building hope for its magical revival. So I decided to take the plant out of the pot, to plant a new one in it in the future. And as the plant came out of the pot, along with it, came the entire soil in the pot too! That’s how strongly the roots of even a dying plant had held together the soil. Why do I tell you this? To help you visualize what role a tree and an entire forest can play in holding the mountains together. When you uproot the tree, you destabilize an entire ecosystem. You initiate a series of chain reactions that will dismantle the environment around you.
My hometown Uttarakhand, which is located in India, is so much that just a geographic location for me. It’s my home, a place that nurtured me, the place I wrote my first poem in; the air, the rain, the rivers and mountains of this place speak to me, and I speak their language too.
This is why the increasing rate of natural disasters and the exponential damage caused by them worries me. My state is no stranger to natural disasters. But we have also seen our rivers dry up, our serene land become landfills, our forests become fodder for senseless urbanisation.
But I come from the state that launched the Chipko movement. I have in me the blood of the ancestors who hugged trees, and looked the lumberjacks in their faces, with a clear message - You will have to kill us, before you so much as touch our trees. The people of Uttarakhand have long been guardians of the ecology of the Himalayas. We have nurtured it, preserved it, and it in turn has sustained us. But we are headed down a steep slope now. I’m afraid we are creating more damage than we will be able to repair. I fear there won’t be much left to repair by the time, the youth takes positions of decision making and power. On days, I see my mountains, lush green, bountiful, hugging me and on evenings like this, I see the silhouette of the mountain struggling to breathe, choking on pollution it had no part in creating.
We cannot afford this blatant ignorance anymore. We cannot afford insensitive urbanization on fragile ecosystems. We cannot afford our oceans becoming dumps for our waste, our land turning into landfills, and our air filling up with exhausts and fumes.
Climate change is not something that’s looming at the horizon anymore, it’s staring at you in the face, it’s so close, that you’re breathing it in, global warming is a part of your reality now. And I fail to understand how we are okay with this. Why is only a small segment of our entire population speaking about it, taking action on it? Does the falling Air Quality Index of your city not concern you? I refuse to normalize breathing in more smoke than oxygen, I know I deserve better. I know that the generations that will follow us deserve better. And the good news is, we live in a democracy. So demand action, demand it loud enough, take actions at the grassroots level. We are on a deadline now and trust me, we cannot afford to miss it.