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.

LET’S POOL AROUND!

  • Got a new bike and mom asked to get milk from the shop down the lane which is like 10 minutes away, but the desire to “show off” his new possession will make him turn on the ignition every now and then, till the silencer goes abrasive and loud.

  • A household got lots of wealth and to display the same it invests in grand vehicles every time so that every member of the family can ride in the vehicle of their choice, all at the same time even if they are travelling in the same direction.

We all have the experience of encountering such nuts in life. And in their excitement to get noted by others to show off they are actually leaving a trail of serious implications in many ways. The impact of such exhibition on human society is a real complicated problem. But since this week we are addressing the Environmental Issues (International Environment Day, 5 June and here on Candles Online we are having Environment Week), we shall stick to the impact on environment.

If we notice carefully the number of vehicles running on roads that combust fuel for their power is on regular rise. I am not against the manufacturing or sale and purchase of such machines because that aids our economy but the question is how many of the customers are using them in a sensible manner. It’s not wrong to use them for commuting especially in countries like India with long lengths and breadths even within a small town but wherever and whenever possible “pooling” method should be used. For instance, in a locality stay four friends all working in more or less the same area (within reachable radius) and all have vehicles. If they use pooling method smartly, only one vehicle would ply on the road instead of four, which would instantly cut the gas emissions and not to mention how much everyone could and would save on fuel as well. But for such methods to work we need timeliness and discipline. Imagine three out of four people are waiting for the fourth person to arrive lest they could start for the work and the person in question is taking his/ her own sweet time to get ready, how ignorant and disrespectful! Understanding how interactions in society are getting curtailed with every passing decade the car pooling method may not be a hit in neighbours but how about inculcating it among family members? If a household got more than one vehicle that could accommodate more than two people at a time better use it instead of using all at a time. In this context the Pool Cabs run by taxi services like Uber is really an appreciable step forward – economical for the customers and eco-friendly to an extent (not going to explain Pooling again and again 😁).

I live in Belgium. Here and in Netherlands people use bicycles and scooters a lot to commute, especially in Netherlands. So much so that special bicycle lanes are all over. The most environment friendly and pocket friendly mode of transport too, isn’t it? Keeping the sizes of these countries it works no doubt but I would love to see this change in India as well. I mean if people are encouraged to use such modes instead of fuel run machines in smaller radii say 2-5 kms, how much impact it would make, just imagine! Not to mention the kind of impact such an exercise has on one’s health.

I personally prefer and do walk for distances ranging between 1.5 km to 2 km (only Google map says so, to and fro including the number of rounds in the shopping aisle easily counts to 5+ 😁😉). So instead of running on tread mill inside the four walls of a gym we can take a walk while finishing our groceries down the street (😉) whenever possible (housewives are exceptions in this, they already are a part of this workout 😁).

It’s all about small changes we make and conscious efforts we take towards a change we want to see.

 

SNIP SAFELY

When I was in the last year of school, my school introduced a new subject called Environmental Science for all students Grade II and above. We 10th graders heaved a sigh of relief that we had narrowly escaped the burden of an additional subject! Thinking of it today, I feel sensitizing children about the environment is surely a wise step to help them behave responsibly and prudently as adults.

This week as I share ‘My Bit for the Environment’, I must admit that it is a tiny bit in the face of the enormous task in front of the whole world population – but would contribute to make a difference, nevertheless. I also wish to state that the practice I’m going to share is not my own ingenious bit. I had read up about it and have been on it ever since.

Plastics are a known menace to the environment by now. We see and hear campaigns and advertisements to avoid the usage of single-use plastics. Most of the shops in India (with just a random few exceptions) are no longer packing goods in polythene/ plastic carry bags as before and have switched over to biodegradable alternatives. This is a huge step, if the cumulative results are assessed.

But, there is one very easy step which each one of us can take inside our homes and elsewhere too when handling plastic packets – milk packets, noodles packets, biscuit packets, chips/ wafers packets, and such others. When opening these packets, we normally tear off or cut off a portion of the packets. What then happens is that these tiny portions become difficult to be segregated by the garbage collectors and ultimately get added up in the cattle/ animal fodder. Research on dead cows, goats, deer, and other free-moving animals has shown kilos of hazardous plastic bits stuck inside their intestines. Even if these small pieces are segregated to an extent, they cannot be recycled.

What can we do about it at our level?

When cutting open plastic packets, do not severe them into two. Just cut enough to open the packet, while the end remains attached. This way, when you dispose off the packets after emptying the eatables or any goods for that matter, you will be doing your bit in preventing the release of small plastic bits into the garbage load.

Image Source: Google

I have been practicing this act with intent since more than a year and would encourage all the readers to try making this simple hassle-free contribution to the purity of the environment a part of everyday routine.

The pristine environment was the best gift of God to mankind. With inevitable progress of civilizations, our environment feels choked now. Though environmental activists and policymakers have been working relentlessly to devise charters and protocols to save the environment, it is ultimately the responsibility of each one of us to do our bit for the environment. Laws, no matter how well framed they may be, fail if they are not obeyed to the letter and spirit.

Climate change is irreversible. (I’m not stating anything pessimistic, just putting a fact out without delving into statistics and research studies for the purpose of this article.) Having said so, I would go ahead to say that it is definitely within our control to slow the process of environmental decay in many ways.

Let’s do our bit for the environment!

 

BLEND IN IS WHAT THEY SAY …

I cannot stand snakes. I hate them so much that even a picture of them makes me sick in the stomach. Lizards are very close in resemblance to snakes, but I somehow developed an interest in them. I might have been very young when I started reading articles and watching national geography documentaries. They can stick to any surface and crawl. Lizards are very interesting to me 🙂 

Lizards are the most common species on earth, found at every possible place including our houses. Antartica is an exception. They live in rain-forests, deserts, ponds, rivers, and even on trees and shrubs. There are more than 6000 varieties of lizards. Of all these, I am very fascinated by Chameleons. Chameleons are the variety that changes color in a jiffy. pink, red, orange, green, blue, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise, and purple. If you won’t get scared of watching lizards, then please watch this.  

There are certain interesting facts about lizards. Broadly, lizards are characterized into three color groups. I believe they are yellow, blue and brown/black. Each of these colors means compassionate, playboy, loyal. Interestingly the females mate with the species that are low in number in their vegetation to prevent extinction. By doing this, they preserved all three species successfully for the last 200 years. 

Lizard is the species which has the highest tensile muscle among all living species. It’s their tongue. Like snakes, lizards also smell with their tongue and do not have ears. To catch the prey, lizard lets out a small portion of its tongue to smell the surroundings. Once it finds the prey, it releases its tongue at a speed of 225mph. I would recommend watching that in slow motion 🙂 Lizards come in various sizes. The ones that are larger in size are the ones considered to be harmful to humans otherwise lizards are harmless. 

I can go on and on writing about them, but, let me tell you a funny encounter with lizards. I am not sure if it’s funny because it is going to have a sad ending. End of last year I went on a holiday for two weeks. By the time I returned home, there were not one, not two but three lizards in my kitchen. I was not scared when I saw them, somehow it felt very weird to be cooking in the kitchen where lizards are moving freely. How many days can I go without cooking? I had to find a way to get rid of them. I have no idea how to get rid of them. What’s the one thing that usually saves us? Google. Yes, I started googling to find out how to get rid of lizards. There were several remedies like peacock feathers, camphor etc. After failed trials for two weeks, I had no option but the forcefully send them out. I cleaned up the entire kitchen counter, placed back all jars into the cabinets. I tried using the broomstick and duster, but it was another failure.. 

Unable to find out any remedy, I contemplated if I should kill them. This fight went on for two days. I had no clue how to kill them either. Trust me, I tried various cleaning solutions, sprays possible. At last, what worked was cockroach spray. It worked but I had to see the lizard suffer. The tail portion of the lizard separated from its body and just like octopus tentacles it was moving even after it was separated for more than a minute. Trust me, it wasn’t easy killing those. I couldn’t sleep for a few days but I had no other option. 

If any of you are petting a lizard, please excuse me for killing them. I feel sorry for them as well. As much as possible I am not going to do this again. From next time I would be careful to not let lizards than having to get rid of them later. Any ideas for this would be appreciated. I like lizards but I don’t think I would ever pet one. Though what I could learn from them is to adapt to situations around. It makes a lot of sense considering how bad the world around is now-a-days . Either we should stand out or blend in. By this, I do not mean that we have to do bad things to fit in. Lizards only do that to not get noticed and become prey to their predators. 

“The trick to not being discovered until it is too late is to become part of the expected surroundings. Stealth is more the art of blending in with the background than sneaking through dark shadows.” 
― Raymond E. Feist