HOW LOUD CAN I BE?

The environment is the surrounding within which we humankind live. Humans and the environment are interdependent. The environment around all the humans were created for their benefit and they were given the responsibility of taking care of the environment as well -“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it“, this is what the Bible says. 

But the biggest question arises here – “How do humans take care of the environment?” Or if we specify it more of a personal level, then the question may be, “How do I take care of the environment?” Or “What is my bit for the environment?”

While trying to understand what is my environment first, I came across the term environmental psychology which is explained – Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings. The field defines the term environment broadly, encompassing natural environments, social settings, built environments, learning environments, and informational environments.

Now, the term environmental psychology gave me a clear picture of my surrounding, that is my environment and how I can improve it for myself as well as for the future generation that will follow after me.  

Let me give some imageries before I talk about – ‘my bit for the environment’.

Mostly people from joint families talk louder than the people brought up in nuclear families. Why and how does that happen? When there are more people in a family, one tends to speak louder to another to communicate well overlapping other conversations between other family members in that same family.

Think about the people in the slums and the ones living on the streets… they play loud music and scream around speaking coarsely. But those of us living in a proper house tend to play music with a moderate volume and have manners to speak gently. The reason is the same – to let our messages conveyed overcoming the noises all around us.

At home when our soft voices are not heard by the person we are talking to, we shout or scream after two or three failed attempts to communicate gently. I get a reaction from the other members at home when I shout, “Why are you shouting?” My responses to them goes like this, “Because you are not able to hear my soft, gentle voice”. I shout a lot as I was brought up in a joint family.

But when I was contemplating about my paternal family, I see they all speak gently than my maternal family. They even shun shouting. I tried to find out the reason behind it. One reason could possibly be, in my paternal joint family we all gather during vacations once in a year but in our maternal joint family, all the members live together throughout the year.

Why am I talking about speaking loudly, shouts, high pitched sound, etc.? Because sound has terrible effects on human health ultimately causing damage to the environment as a whole, according to the definition of environmental psychology. The social settings are disturbed because of the effects of high-pitched sound or noise.

Noise pollution is an invisible danger. It cannot be seen, but it is present nonetheless, both on land and under the sea.

Noise pollution impacts millions of people on a daily basis. The most common health problem it causes is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Exposure to loud noise can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, and stress. These health problems can affect all age groups, especially children. Many children who live near noisy airports or streets have been found to suffer from stress and other problems, such as impairments in memory, attention level, and reading skills.

Noise pollution also impacts the health and well-being of wildlife. Studies have shown that loud noises cause caterpillars’ hearts to beat faster and bluebirds to have fewer chicks. Animals use sound for a variety of reasons, including to navigate, find food, attract mates, and avoid predators. Noise pollution makes it difficult for them to accomplish these tasks, which affects their ability to survive.

The above description is about the effects of high-pitched unwanted sound or noise on our environment at large but it has adverse effects on a very personal level as well. When in the family we shout, people in front of us get irritated and shout back at us. And the tension keeps building up with further shouting and loud responses.

The Bible instructs us like this –

A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath,
But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.

And we all know, harsh and careless words are always spoken with loud voices (though there is gentle venom as well).

So, my bit for the environment is to promote gentle voices in the family as well as in the community I live in while I force my own voice to go down as much as possible. Sadly, I always speak in a loud voice. And it is a constant struggle for me to speak gently and wisely. I am striving hard. I am sure for the sake of my social settings, my surrounding, my environment I would change my habit.

Are you ready to follow it too – “How gentle and soft can I be?”

Stay Blessed!!!

 

 

SEGREGATION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME

Every year we celebrate World Environment Day. A lot of programs are done and pledges made. But I guess this year, more than ever we are realizing the damaging effect, we humans are having on the environment. It really is the time now to take some concrete actions or our future generation might face some even worse calamities than what we are facing now.

One step that I think is the most important is to make a conscious thought on how we dispose of the waste we generate. This has become more of a focus for me since my husband ventured into plastic recycling and solid waste management business.

You know that plastic has seven different types and each type can be recycled or reused. Used plastic is actually a lot of value. People are ready to buy used plastic. It can be recycled and converted into pellets that are used in various things from manufacture of fabric to lying to roads. Plastic is also used as fuel in factories with controlled combustion processes.

Then why is plastic considered to be a villain? Why are the mounds of plastic being accumulated in the landfills? Why are people just not picking it up and using it?

It is because of how we dispose of our waste. We are generating that waste. So it is our responsibility to ensure that source segregation is done at our end. It is inhuman to expect someone to scrounge our waste and separate the plastic from the dirty smelly kitchen waste. See the recycle value of the plastic also diminishes when it becomes dirty and filthy. Separating it, then cleaning it, and then recycling is not a viable proposition.

So please segregate the waste at the source itself. If possible use your kitchen waste to generate manure and most importantly, keep the dry waste separate and try to ensure it reaches a recycler. Mostly all municipalities are also asking the residents to segregate.

I am strictly following this segregation. Next step I plan to venture into producing manure from kitchen waste also. That is a little more complicated, but segregation is very easy; it’s just a matter of forming a habit.

Believe me, if we all segregate the dry and wet waste and ensure it is disposed of properly half the battle against plastic pollution is won.

 

ARE WE GOOD STEWARDS OR MERCILESS VANDALIZERS IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS?

As an urbanite by birth, since my childhood, I was more fascinated with superstructures, technologies, and luxury cars. The beauty of these fragile man-made kind of stuffs has always attracted me. But I had never given it a thought as to “how a world filled with the urban sprawl, superstructures, nuclear bombs, supersonic jets, technologies, and the billion piles of human wastage would cost us!” In the recent past, the cost of our luxurious lifestyle has become more evident to me as I witness and compare the beauty of hills, forests, and the hustle, pollution of the cities. A Scottish Economist, Philosopher and the pioneer of Political Economy has rightly proposed,

“Human wants and the ways to satisfy human wants are unlimited”.

According to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), in the past century, the average earth’s temperature has increased to 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degree Celsius); 30 million acres (12.4 million hectares) of forest are deforested from Jan 2020 to as of now, only 2.5% of the earth water body is freshwater or drinkable, 1 in every 3 people globally do not have access to the clean drinking water, on September 8, 2019 the annual ozone hole reached its peak extent of 6.3 million square miles (16.4 million sq.km), every day 16 feet high Alaskan glaciers are melting down, last but not the least every year 4.2 million deaths are estimated because of Ambient air pollution, and 91% of the world population is living in extremely polluted airthese are just glimpses, such stats on environmental damage have now become a bottomless pit. Volumes of articles cannot contain it.  

Taking a sneak peek of my life, the counseling of my friend Agam, who is a law professor and environmentalist by passion has become my guiding light since June 2019. While we were on our way to Bhubaneswar from Kolkata, I took a candy and threw the wrapper beside my seat and my friend immediately scolded and asked me to pick the wrapper and keep it in my pocket till I find a garbage tin. Though I fail at times yet every time it is his wise words that still echoe in my heart and help me to be sincere to my environment. Analogically in the Bible God tells us, I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.”

Earth is not born to us we are born to the earth!

We have seen the earth since our birth but that doesn’t mean prior to our birth earth was not existing, the same story implies from generation to generation. God first created heavens and earth, giving a form to the earth. He (God) created the sun, moon, stars, planets and nature and the living creatures. Then He (God) created human from dust gave him and her life and wisdom. Then the first blessing God gave to human appointing him as the STEWARD of HIS creation.

Well, by LOCKDOWN 2.0 I was quite happy of the news of nature and animals tweeting “Spotted Malabar civet… A critically endangered mammal not seen until 1990 resurfaces for the first time in India during the lockdown; 95% aircraft have stopped flying, Thousands of Olive Ridley turtles nesting on the beaches of Odisha; the 200 km away Dhauladhar mountain range of Himachal, visible after 30 years from Jalandhar (Punjab) after the pollution drops to its lowest level, or the recent the journey of 64,000 green turtles (the endangered reptiles) approaching the world’s largest green turtle nestling area at Raine Island on the Great Barrier Reef. I thought nature is REBOOTING but meanwhile the UNCTAD (United Nations Trade and Development) report alarmed me – volumes of unrecyclable waste have risen; severe cuts in agricultural and fishery  export levels have led to the generation of large quantities of organic waste; maintenance and monitoring of natural ecosystems have been temporarily halted; Local waste problems have emerged as many municipalities have suspended their recycling activities over fears of the virus propagation in recycling centres. Food retailers have resumed using plastic bags at checkout points citing health concerns over consumers’ reuse of paper bags. In addition, due to stay-at-home policies, many consumers have increased their consumption of take-away food delivered with single-use packaging.

Sadly, when we humans destroy something created by man, we rightly call it vandalism whereas when we destroy the NATURE which is created by God and is a gift unto us, we call it “PROGRESS!”

Isn’t it?

HOW ABOUT A CLOTH FACE MASK?

The one big change COVID-19 has brought to our lives is that of using masks. There are significant other changes, but the mask is one of the important measures for safety as well. Whether governments implement lock-down or not, all of us realize the importance of keeping a safe distance and wearing a mask in public.

In India, COVID-19 started in the month of March. Both online and offline stores ran out of sanitizers and N-95 masks. During the first week of March, many of my colleagues were browsing all major online stores for masks. Some of them bought in hundreds. It was a time when none of us knew clearly where we were heading with the crazy COVID-19 around.

Wearing a mask is unheard of in India. Some cities in India are highly polluted, yet we rarely see people wearing masks. Masks are only made for medical professionals. When the number of cases were rising, stores just ran out of all medical masks. Anti-pollution masks were unavailable as well. People just grabbed whatever they could. In all this, I was not at all interested in buying a mask.

Some questions that people started asking themselves later were bothering me back then.

Some day, we may not have any masks to wear? So, should we just roam around without protecting ourselves?

If everyone uses medical masks, what would our front line workers wear? 

The most important question. Are these masks biodegradable? How harmful would these be for mother earth?

Isn’t a cloth mask good enough? 

For a few days I just lived with these questions. I never bought masks. During the initial 15-20 days, I remember using a large hand kerchief folded and supported by my hairbands. It might sound silly to be engineering something out of what we have, but clearly I did not want to use something that could cause harm to mother earth.

With a cloth mask I saw many advantages. It would be more comfortable than the regular masks. I would be reusing some old unused cloth lying at home to make masks. They are washable and could be completely sanitized. Then, why not?

A few days later, lot of organisations including WHO started requesting people who are not infected to use face masks. I browsed a lot and read through many websites on how to make a mask which could protect me from infection. The below is what made sense

  1. Make a 3 layered mask
  2. Thick cotton cloth for the most closest layer to the face
  3. A filter like material for the middle layer (I used the semi-nylon bags with pores for this)
  4. A non-absorbent outer layer

I found some You tube videos on how to make masks, followed the instructions to sew and voila, the mask was ready. It took one mask to get to perfection, but there they were, custom made colorful masks. We can make them with more fun patterns for kids. We don’t have to feel like patients wearing gaudy and single color masks.

So… Is a cloth mask effective?

It is not an equivalent to N-95 mask but close when it comes to protection. They may not effectively stop the virus from getting absorbed, but would certainly block the exhalation of droplets with virus. That is good enough if all of us religiously wear layered masks. Personally I wore only the masks I made all these days when I went out. I don’t even have a surgical or medical mask at home and sometimes wonder if I should buy some. Thankfully, the need hasn’t come yet 🙂

As businesses are resuming and employees are returning to work, masks can play a pivotal role in blocking or at the least help reduce the spread of the virus, especially from asymptomatic carriers. The more people wear masks, the less viral particles would make it to the space around them, decreasing exposure and risk.