Year after year after year, Earth Day arrives and people just talk about it, maybe make a few posters, write a few posts, share some information and then think they have done their duty for the year. For most of us, there is no change in our lives despite our activism on this day.

Let me confess my own inaction here. Last year I did vow to plant a few trees in my neighbourhood, especially after the heat spell we experienced during Ramazan. This year, summer is almost here and except for a few additional potted plants, I have yet to make the effort to plant trees that would provide the much needed shade in my locality.

And this is not all — I usually forget to carry the large cloth bags I bought to take grocery shopping with me, so as not to take the plastic bags that shopkeepers give. Yes, it is still my intention to limit my own use of plastic bags, but I am not as firmly following up on my intention as I should. And I think I am not alone.

Most of us do realise the wrongs we are doing to our environment, but still don’t step up as we should. We can see the damage being done to our environment, we experience the climate change with each passing year and we are also becoming more aware of the carbon footprints we are leaving. So when we do have good intentions and informed intelligence, what is stopping us from being environmentally proactive?

I think it has to do with avoiding leaving our comfort zone and making the extra effort to not add to the problems of Mother Earth. Just thoughts don’t make changes happen, actions do. We need to put ourselves through some pain and discomfort to give up some of the luxuries we have become used to and taken for granted.

For instance, it will take some effort for us to collect water in a bucket and use it to take a bath instead of standing for 10 to 15 minutes under the shower. According to a report, if one showers for 8.2 minutes, about 17.2 gallons or 65.1 litres of water will be used. On the other hand, if we skip the shampoo, we can easily take a bath with one bucket of water, and that shouldn’t be more than 18 to 20 litres of water. Okay so many of us do not have water supply problem, but the less water we use will only mean more water for someone else. And there is water shortage in many places, with people having to buy expensive water from tanker suppliers.

One can talk about so many other things that we can conserve, recycle or reuse, such as paper, disposable tableware, plastic, petrol, packaging, clothes and what not. But it will take some extra effort on our part to do so. We will need to be conscious to what we buy – whether they reusable and recycle-able or not, dispose them properly, donate what we have surplus of and change our habits to include more environment-friendly things and adopt more eco-friendly ways of doing things. Each of us needs to manage our own environmental impact.

Those of us who are privileged enough to have a car or two at home can’t be made to walk or take a public transport, which would actually reduce our consumption of gasoline/petrol and result in less air pollution. I don’t blame anyone who avoids using public buses because I don’t use them too. They are too overcrowded, rickety and uncomfortable for most people to use.

But we also don’t walk to nearby places even if we can, we have become too used to the comforts that fuel-consuming and smoke-emitting vehicles offer, albeit at a great cost to the environment. Many cities around the world are facing acute smog conditions that lead to, among other things, several respiratory problems.

Many of the pollution and problems that we see today are not really our own doings, they are the result of the activities and carelessness of the people decades ago, if not centuries. What we do today will have its impact tomorrow. So we need to be mindful of our acts now to have a better tomorrow for both ourselves and for the future generations.

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 20th, 2019