What can you, as an individual, do about global warming?

March 20, 2019

The previous article ‘what is global warming? Can we do something about it’, focused on the causes and the impacts of global warming and it briefly touched on the global efforts being made at the government levels.  The question is, can we as individuals, do something about it?  Yes, we can, and we should. We may not be able to stop global warming single handedly, but we must do our share.  Eminent Punjabi writer, Professor Mohan Singh put it beautifully, ‘Apne hisse de laye Assan vee kujh taanke, kee hoyaa sara chak naan sathon see hoyaa – I put in my share of the stitches, so what if I couldn’t sew the whole rip’.

Be informed and spread Awareness:

The first step towards climate preservation is being informed and making others aware of the fact that global warming is real and it’s a serious threat.  “You are Never too small,” said Greta Thunberg, a 15 years old Swedish teenager in her speech to the UN.  This child who suffers from Asperger Syndrome (a disorder that impacts speech), has single handedly inspired an international movement to fight climate change.  Skipping school every Friday, she started her small protests in front of the Swedish Parliament.  Her protests gathered momentum and on, March 15, 2019, children in more than 100 cities worldwide, came out in large numbers to show solidarity with her fight.  “Adults Keep saying, we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope,” she said in an interview with CNN, “I want you to feel the fear, I feel every day, and then I want you to act. … Nothing is happening. So, I must do what I can.”

I wish to be buried clad in a simple shroud.

Yes, you read it right – I, Rachhpal Singh Sahota wish to be buried in a simple inexpensive shroud, without a casket and without any tomb stone.  Every year, 64 million people die in the world and 61% of them are cremated.  Cremating a person requires 100 kilograms of dry wood.  This is akin to destroying 3.6 million acres of forest every year – 1.3 million acres in India, China and Nepal alone.  Huge quantities of greenhouse gases are spewed into the atmosphere.  On the surface, the gas or electric crematoriums seem a cleaner alternative, but they use the same amount of energy – enough to drive a mid-size car 8,000 kilometers or to heat up a house in a freezing Buffalo, NY, for a week.  Although burying is the way to go, the modern practices involve expensive caskets and consume tons of concrete and steel.  In many countries, the burial grounds are becoming a scarcity, turning people to cremation.  Fifty years ago, the cremation rate in Canada was 2.5% which has now reached fifty six percent and the trend continues around the globe. A new solution has arrived in the US and Canada, where the body is dissolved in a highly alkaline solution.  It is the same process that happens to bodies buried underground, but instead of taking years for the body to dissolve, this process takes only ninety minutes.  Unfortunately, this is an expensive solution and is currently available only in Canada and the US.  The best answer is to bury the dead in simple shrouds, in protected greens and reuse the land every few years.  For those living near an ocean, bodies can be taken to the sea, away from the seashore.

Don’t eat processed foods.

I recently read an excellent slogan – ‘Eat what grows on the plants and not in the plants.’  Processing and canning of food use energy, which in turn consumes lots of natural resources and produces unbelievable amounts of greenhouse gases.  Eating processed foods, besides contributing to climate change, are bad for your health.

Always think of saving fossil fuels

More energy we consume, more fossil fuels we burn and more atmosphere we pollute.  Saving energy should always be on your mind.  Wash your clothes manually and dry them on a clothesline, handwash your dishes, turn off your computer at night, turn off the lights when not in your room, use energy efficient bulbs and keep your doors and windows insulated when using energy to keep your house cool or warm.  Similarly, use of plastics not only adds to non-degradable trash on the planet, it puts stress on fossil fuels.  Use reusable containers instead of plastic bottles, cloth instead of paper napkins and cloth nappies instead of the disposable diapers. There is no need to wrap your gifts in paper.

Make your travel environment-friendly:

Do not use a bus or a train, if you can walk or pedal to your work; do not use your own car if you can carpool or ride a bus or a train; stay away from gas guzzlers if you can get a fuel-efficient vehicle.  Always think how, you can travel from point A to point B with minimum usage of gasoline or electricity.

Don’t burn, what you don’t have to:

We have a sticky issue with burning wheat and rice stubble.  Since new harvesters leave behind long straws, tilling for the next crop becomes difficult and the farmers feel they have the right to burn the stubble with impunity. All I can say is, sure you do have the right, but by exercising this right, you are not doing any favor to the future of your children.  New technologies have come up to handle crop stubble without burning it and many farmers in Punjab already use it. Work with them, work with each other and with the government to find sustainable solutions. To find a solution, you have to want to find it!

Think renewable energies:

Hydroelectric, Solar and wind powers are the cleanest forms of energies.  Although from an individual perspective, hydroelectric and wind energies don’t attract consideration, a few villages getting together can make a difference.  MHP or Micro Hydro-power plants are small 5 KW to 100 KW power plants that can supply electricity from a small village to a few villages.  In Jukhtai, a village of 2,300 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, convinced the government to install a small 65 KW MHP.  Suddenly the winters were comfortable in the village, with no damage to the climate.  Unfortunately, those MHP’s are possible only in areas that have access to steep flowing water.  Micro level wind turbines have hit the market, but they require certain wind velocity and at this time, they are not considered efficient.

For now, if you can afford, invest in solar panels for your house and if you are a farmer and have cattle, invest in a Gober-gas plant.

Grow plants:

Plants are an important part of our ecosystem.  They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into food.  Unfortunately, growing population pressure is resulting in heavy deforestation and robbing us of our major ally in keeping the atmosphere clean.  We all share the responsibility to grow plants.  Khushwant Singh the eminent writer, in his autobiography, ‘Truth, Love and a Little Malice’ recommends that “Students should not be given their degrees or diplomas unless they provide evidence of having planted and nurtured to health a specified number of trees.”

Less children, informed children:

The growing population causes excessive burden on natural resources and in turn results in increased pollution.  Controlling population is in our hands.  We need to produce less children and raise them well informed to understand and tackle the issues facing humanity and this planet.

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