At a crossroads: The World digitally observes Earth Day 2020

Guru Chahal

Today, 22 April , is celebrated the world over as Earth Day. It is an annual event held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, this year marks its 50th anniversary. How ironical indeed that this important landmark is being observed digitally because of the global lockdown due to Covid-19!

Yes, it’s Earth Day today but Planet Earth is in jeopardy. Our environment is not protected; it is polluted, and how! Our cities are choking with diesel fumes; our factories and offices are spewing carbon emissions; our rivers are filthy; our water bodies are drying; our seas are plastic-ridden; our forest-lands are depleting; old trees are being cut in cities to widen roads and build apartment blocks; our countryside too is being laid bare of trees to link cities and mofussil towns with multi-lane toll roads; our agricultural lands are increasingly being turned into suburban colonies to house the ever-increasing numbers; our hills have been ruthlessly mined and cut through in the name of development; our hill-towns are not worth visiting anymore because of their unplanned growth, traffic snarls and civic apathy; and even our mountain peaks, including the lofty Everest, have become rubbish dumps.

Yamuna River in New Delhi before COVID-19 lockdown

What is the fallout of our mindless actions? Because of the paucity of clean air in our cities and even in rural areas, respiratory diseases are afflicting large numbers; and because of deforestation, carbon emissions are not being neutralised, exponentially adding to the polluted environment. Our rivers, held sacred for millennia, are no more the lifelines they used to be because of excessive damming, and factory-waste flowing into them all along their route. Birds, butterflies and bees whose role is so very pivotal in our food-chain, are fast disappearing because their habitats are being destroyed. In the big oceans, hundreds of species are dying due to ingesting plastic waste and oil spillages. In the agricultural sector, increasing use of pesticides and weed-killing agents like Roundup have done incalculable damage already, depleting the land of its natural minerals. In our food-chain, the seasonality factor has been systematically destroyed. What was available only in summer or winter is now abundantly available all year round. All sorts of hybrid stuff, chemically-treated to give it increased shelf-life is there for you to pick up anytime you want. Who cares if it does not taste as it used to and has little nutrition value!

So here we are (kind of ) celebrating the Earth Day in the time of Coronavirus. Has Nature issued a warning to us all? Have we been served a notice to clean up our act or else? Draw your own conclusions.

And just FYI, the Tulip Gardens in Srinagar are in full bloom but there’s no one to see them!

Happy Earth Day!

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