A disturbing fact that has emerged from the Living Planet Report (LPR) 2022 is that, in the last 50 years, humans have caused an average 65% reduction in the population of certain monitored species around the world. The report states that the causes are all human-centric: (i) Extensive Sea and Land Use Changes (ii) Over-Exploitation (iii) Pollution (iv) Climate Change, and (v) Invasive Alien Species.
This will only become worse going forward because the human population is increasing at a fast pace, our per capita needs or greed is increasing, and there is only One Living Planet. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Mother Earth has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for anyone’s greed”. All living organisms have needs but only humans run after our greed. Through this, we are compromising the well-being of other ecosystems, habitats and lifeforms that inhabit them.
All three spheres of life — air, water, and land —are under stress from global warming and climate change, over-exploitation, pollution, encroachment, reclamation and conversion to other uses, invasive alien species and so on. We have reached a stage where we cannot continue Business As Usual (BAU). There needs to be a change.
In the past, we had the Millennium Development Goals. Now we have the Sustainable Development Goals — 17 of them — to be achieved by 2023. But no country or government can achieve the SDGs without the active participation of its citizens. For that, we need to understand whether our lifestyle is sustainable or unsustainable. This is where the concept of “Ecological Footprint” comes in. This tells you clearly whether your lifestyle is sustainable based on (1) Carbon Footprint including home energy use and transportation (2) Food Footprint (3) Housing Footprint, and (4) Goods and Services Footprint. After you assess and understand the unsustainability levels of your lifestyle, you should move into responsible action. Why? Because, as Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute, said “This Planet Earth does not belong to us; it has not been passed on from our former generation, but we have borrowed it from our children”.
Here are a few simple and practical steps you can adopt to reduce your ecological footprint.
Water: Use water wisely and reduce waste. Close the tap while brushing your teeth. Take short showers. Adopt Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting at home.
Food: Produce your own food by developing a kitchen garden. Eat fresh and locally available food. Do not waste food.
Energy: Install solar rooftop panels to produce energy for home appliances. Switch to electric vehicles. Ensure maximum use of sunlight and wind and use LED lightings at home.
Household waste: Start segregating waste at home. Use organic waste for composting. Ensure that inorganic waste is responsibly dispose. Do not burn unsegregated waste.
Transport: Use public transport as far as possible. Walk or cycle for short distances. Adopt vehicle pooling.
Plastic: Reduce, reuse, recycle and upcycle plastics. Avoid single-use plastics. Adopt the Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) practice. Shop responsibly. Avoid online purchases for locally available materials to reduce plastic packaging. Buy only what you need and carry your own bag.
Apart from these, do not hoard unnecessary things. Give them away to those in need. Avoid the use-and-throw culture. Instead opt for the repair-mend-use practice. If not you, who? If not now, when? The time for action is now.
A monthly column from WWF-India
The writer is the State Director-Kerala, WorldWide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India)