For a couple of decades, birders in Delhi have been observing Big Bird Day. During the 2023 Big Bird Day, reportedly, birdwatchers covered 97 locations in and around Delhi and the National Capital Region(NCR). Due to the rise in temperature early this year, bird density was much lower than in 2022.
What does rising temperatures have to do with us? Well, it can change everything from farm produce to our well-being. According to the prediction by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), El Nino conditions are likely to hit India in the middle of this year. This is also likely to affect agricultural production in India as this predicts poor Southwest monsoons in the country.
A rise in temperature would also mean challenges for people, especially in the cities and towns. Intense heat waves push people to use air-conditioners more than in normal situations which also increases the demand for power. It would be easier to manage this situation with an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
The Importance of Conscious Use of Energy in Saving Earth
Saving energy is key in these trying times. Switching off lights, fans, and air-conditioners while leaving the room or office cabin is a must. An average home air-conditioner uses about 1000 watts or 1 kilowatt (KW) of energy per hour. Reducing the use of this appliance by two hours a day during the summer months will save 60 units (KWh) of power which also amounts to good financial savings.
Therefore, Earth Hour this year is all the more important to spread the message of how individuals can switch off from their distractions and routine for 60 mins and do something positive for the planet.
Commuting by public transport early during the day helps beat the mid-day heat and reduces the chances of exposure to intense heat. If one must use own car for commuting to work, staggering the journey hours closer to early and later parts of the day helps keep the ride cooler rather than travelling through the hot weather when the car air conditioners have to work overtime.
Urban spaces that have some greenery generally house common birds and small mammals like squirrels and mongooses. We tend to overlook the adaptive capabilities of these creatures. It is good practice to leave water in a bowl for birds and squirrels to drink outside the window pane or on the balcony.
Renewed Focus on Sustainability, Eco-Friendly Practices Are Environment Savers
Indian culture has a strong foundation for promoting sustainability through a variety of lifestyles, beliefs, and traditions. Repairing and using an appliance for longer periods is better than changing it every few years. Reuse and recycling of clothes, papers, and bags at the household level help in sustainability. Consumerism has its own challenges—youth today are keen to become more sustainable while they are shopping or commuting.
This is also in line with the Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE) movement that was proposed by the Government of India during the 26th Conference of Parties on Climate Change and was officially launched on 20 Oct 2022 —jointly by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India and the UN Secretary-General. This movement focuses on the behaviours and attitudes of individuals and communities and also aims to leverage climate-friendly social norms, beliefs, and daily household practices of different cultures across the world.
Some of the individual behaviours that could be changed are reducing the use of plastic bags and shifting to cloth bags. Refusing plastic bags while purchasing fruits and vegetables to using own bags in shopping malls can save the environment from the heavy plastic load.
It is through our individual actions, and collective decision-making that we will be able to make a difference. Individual action is the core of climate responsibility. Despite their immense potential, the actions that need to be taken at the level of individuals, communities, and institutions have not gotten much attention.
Changes in community and individual behavior alone can have a big impact on environmental and climate challenges. As per estimates by the NITI Aayog, individual action by 1 billion Indians using a cloth bag instead of a plastic bag while shopping can save up to 375 million tons of solid waste from entering the landfill between in the next 5 years (2022-2027).
One such campaign is Earth Hour, being observed worldwide since 2007. Earth Hour 2023 will be observed today at 8:30 PM. As with all campaigns, this motivates citizens to think about their lifestyle and how that could be made more sustainable to help the environment.
(Dr Dipankar Ghose is the Director Wildlife and Habitats Programme, WWF-India.)