We have just this earth as our home. And if there is a problem at home, we can’t run away somewhere else. If we could, I can imagine so many trying to flee earth to escape Covid-19. But it can’t be so.

The rapid spread of Covid-19 around the world has increased public awareness of how a problem in one part of the world can

affect all other parts as well. Similarly, we all share Mother Nature and it is our collective actions that can either harm or preserve nature for the future generations. There is little debate that climate change and environmental degradation are the direct results of our actions on nature and the natural resources we have. When we don’t treat nature well, it strikes back, like it has done now and through natural disasters.

A healthy environment is the key to a healthy society. Every year, on July 28. we have ‘World Nature Conservation Day’ to “raise awareness about the significance of natural resources and encourage the people about the practices of protecting nature resources.”

All through the year so far, there are so many days, some international and some local, that are observed to raise awareness of the problems faced by nature, the environment and everything on earth. Earth has many limited resources, while some regrow. We, humans, and other animals have been using these resources since millenniums, so a lot of the resources are gone or been destroyed to make way for the ever-increasing human population.

Among the major problems that we are facing are the shortage of clean water in many places and air pollution in almost all places on earth. Most of the major cities have dangerously high levels of air pollution that leads to many respiratory and airborne diseases. And the cause of the air pollution is not any natural phenomenon or disaster, but our own actions, like burning of fossil fuels due to the large number of cars on road and the staggering amount of aircrafts zigzagging in the skies, besides other things.

Interestingly, due to the lockdown and social distancing measures in the last few months, human activity almost came to a standstill in most places and nature got a chance to recuperate. The effects of these things were seen in cleaner air over cities that had their skylines obscured by smog and smoke, and many waterways and bodies welcomed back marine life in their clearer waters.

These immediate, but short-term, environmental improvements give us hope that if we can fix our actions, things can improve in the environment. But the solution does not lie in stopping all activities. It is impossible and makes no sense. What needs to be done instead is to find ways to have as little harmful effects on nature as possible, while pursuing our economic growth and progress.

It is also a sad truth that while nature has prospered in the recent and the ongoing lockdown, people have suffered economically, with unemployment becoming very high in most places. Thus we need to find sustainable ways of doing things that are as little a threat as possible to the natural resources available to us.

We need to remember that conservation is more important than consumption. What we have today needs to be available tomorrow for the next generation and those that follow and we need to leave the world in a better shape for them.

Since right now we are going through a change in which we are learning new ways of doing things — taking online classes instead of going to school, wearing a mask when going out, not touching our face nor shaking hands with someone else, and other such things — let us also develop new habits and do things to conserve nature. This is the right time to adapt to a new normal, both for our own well-being and for that of nature.

Here are some ways to conserve nature and natural resources, but there are so many other ways too which you can easily adopt and urge others to do so too.

Plant trees

Planting trees and indulging in gardening as a hobby is something that we can easily do while social distancing. A lot of people who didn’t have time for gardening or tending to plants have turned to plants for company and relaxation. Tending to a new life and watching it grow is such a fulfilling and rejuvenating experience.

Reduce power consumption

With most people at home, lights, fans, air-conditioning and different gadgets are being used more. This is not only leading to higher electricity bills for most households, but is also putting more load on electricity producers and suppliers. And in most cases, at least in our country, electricity is produced by the burning of fossil fuels.

So let us try to cut down on our usage so as not to pay hefty bills but also not put extra load on the suppliers and so cut down on the resources being used. There are so many ways to do this — such as spending more time in rooms with other people rather than each person occupying different rooms and thus needing to switch on more lights and fans. You need to decide what you can do according to your own situation and once it becomes a habit, it will not be difficult.

Recycle and reuse

The lockdown due to Covid-19 also resulted in us doing less shopping and many a times we have needed something but have had to use or reuse other things for our needs. Isn’t it a good time to make recycling and reusing things a habit instead of always going out and buying new things?

And these last months have also made us realise that there are so many things that we can easily do without, but which we were buying just because we were going out to shops and we had the money to do so.

And carrying forward from this, we can make the effort to get recyclable and biodegradable products so that there are fewer things going into the garbage dump and creating land pollution. Avoid using plastic materials for they are the main culprits in land and water pollution.

Cut down on paper usage

Paper comes from trees. And while some paper products are recycled, this amount is very little when compared to the total consumption. During this time, all students have had their schools shut and are studying online, leading to great reduction in the use of paper for academic purposes. Maybe we can find ways to maintain a reduced dependence on paper even after schools reopen?

Human beings are very good at innovation and invention. When we can come up with so many inventions and developments that have led to the destruction of so many natural resources, we can easily do it again to reduce the harmful effects these very inventions are having on nature and its resources. And while a lot of these are actions and things that scientists, governments and authorities have to do and are doing, each of us individually too can play our part.

We can start using things that are less harmful to the environment, such as renewable energy, biodegradable products, etc., and start caring for nature that we find around us, whether in the form of a neighbourhood tree or cutting down on car drives.

Even single positive step has an impact, let us vow to take at least a few of these steps.

Published in Dawn, Young World, July 25th, 2020

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