Two Things to Think About This World Environment Day

On World Environment Day, two things to think about. 

2 min read
Photo: iStock

So, it’s World Environment Day. Big deal. It’s just another day in our increasingly polluted calendars, where one day can be celebrated as ‘Burger Day’ and another, ‘Left-handers’ Day’.

There’s a reason for this cynicism.

It’s time we stopped thinking of environmental issues in this pathetically trivial way. Just planting a sapling today doesn’t mean we can go on squeezing this planet we call home for more material and minerals every other day.

Environmental issues don’t start and end with ‘green’ issues such as trees, forests and greenery. There’s much, much more. As someone once pointed out, the environment isn’t something that’s ‘out there’, in the rainforest or in the Western Ghats. It’s around you. It’s brown, and it’s grey.

Two Aspects to the Environment

To me, two aspects of the environment, both inter-connected, are worth mentioning.

One, the environment is related to consumption, and we’re faced with the option to do something about this every minute of every day.

Everything we consume has a cost attached to it. The air, water, electricity, air-conditioning, toilet paper, bottles, sanitiser, newspapers, everything.

Two, we’re still in the habit of measuring everything of value in our lives in monetary terms alone.

Consider this statement,

“…If the only thing you use is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail. Translating that…if the only tool you use for measuring is a price tag or monetization, then those values that are not easily monetized begin to look like they have no value. And so there’s an easy contempt, which they summon on a moment’s notice for tree-huggers or people concerned about global warming.”

That was Al Gore, the man from whom the US Presidency was snatched in 2000, speaking to David Redneck of The New Yorker.

Everything we use today has a monetary cost, and these things also represent the use (and abuse) of a resource.

For example, a car that we might drive costs money for the vehicle, fuel and its maintenance, but it also costs society in value terms that aren’t being counted – the environmental cost of mining the materials, the fossil fuels consumed for its manufacture, the cost of burning a litre of petrol to take just one person from Point A to Point B, the burden on the administration to widen more roads to accommodate more such cars – the list is endless.

On World Environment Day, I’m not saying we must give up the car. What I’m saying instead is, let’s start thinking about what we consume, how much we consume and how much what we consume really, really costs.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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