NURTURING YOUNG NATURE LOVERS
Yesterday was dedicated World Environment Day. Therefore, it is perhaps a good time for each and everyone of us to ponder upon our personal report-cards on how we have treated Mother Nature, at the very least in the past year. Let’s do this together.
All of us are constantly interacting with the environment. In the process we can either make it a better place to live in or otherwise. Nobody can claim immunity from this.
It is a known fact that most of our daily activities have deleterious effects on the environment. Some are inadvertent, though. For example, we have no other mode of travel except for our motorbikes and cars. Buses are also extensively used to ferry passengers. Goods have to be transported via lorries and trucks. Such hustle and bustle of vehicles contributes to traffic smog above Malaysian cities, towns and conurbations. Like it or not, all road-users are actually a party to this repulsive phenomenon.
Although we cannot avoid polluting the urban air, why not try to minimise it? The less travel that we do, the better. When our vehicles start to emit black smoke, it is time to have the engine diagnosed and repaired. If we can car-pool, and the crowd is right, then why not? If the LRT runs along the routes convenient to us, then we should hop on it.
If any of these is not possible, and you still have to drive your own car, then practise eco-driving. This is actually a two-in-one concept, that is driving with economy and ecology in mind. Thus, you should go easy on the accelerator. Also, do not leave the car engine idle for too long. Not only would you save fuel, but also reduce the emission of pollutants into the air.
Then, there is refuse. Everyday we consume food, lots of it. Some indulge in more courageous activities like smoking. The amount of left-overs, by-products and other forms of garbage that come out of these rituals are simply mind-boggling. Fortunately, most Malaysians know how and where to dump these. Sadly, a few do not.
How many times have you missed being hit by missiles in the form of plastic bags and fruit skins thrown out of moving vehicles? And surely you must have been fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the guile and suavity of a cool smoker dropping his cigarette butt onto the floor and extinguishing it with a Humphrey Bogart-like twist of the sole? The only problem with this seemingly exquisite scene is that almost always, our Bogart never picks up the stub to put it in the ashtray or dustbin.
It is evident that a portion of the waste material and product generated by both the public and the industry still finds its ways into our waterways. Despite an extensive media blitz and campaign on the noble theme of ‘Love thy Rivers’, there are those who continue to dump rubbish, toxic waste s and sewage into the rivers, without the slightest feeling of guilt.
Waste that is put into rivers is continuously carried away downstream. But there is a limit to the amount of waste a river can take before it begins to suffer. It is not surprising therefore to find that a number of our rivers are so heavily polluted that they have been considered as inhabitable. They do not support any forms of biological life anymore. They are virtually dead.
The indifference and apathy shown towards maintaining a healthy river system by the litter bug s and polluters may be attributed to the fact that they consider this as a mere conduit for transporting the rubbish to the borderless dumping site, otherwise known as the sea.
In actual fact, this type of ignorance is contributing to three-quarters of marine pollution. In addition to the waste, certain areas of coral reefs are being threatened by silt deposition. The silt normally originates way upriver where extensive soil erosion has taken place due to indiscriminate and uncontrolled deforestation activities.
The seas and oceans are actually important components of the global ecosystems. These huge water systems play a major role in setting our weather and climate. The seas and oceans also play a vital role in the water-cycle where they yield to the atmosphere the moisture that falls back on the land to replenish our fresh water supply.
Although intangible to us, the marine ecosystems are crucial in maintaining the desirable proportion of gases in the atmosphere, Marine plants and bacteria absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the process of photosynthesis. Thus, polluting the marine ecosystems is like choking Earth’ s life support system.
Apart from being a key part of the world environment, the seas and oceans are important for a variety of economic activities. Among these are fishing, the search for energy and mineral resources, trade, transport, tourism and recreation. That is why securing control of the seas and oceans has been the goal of every nation.
In view of the urgency of creating awareness the world over on the importance of protecting and maintaining a sustainable marine ecosystems, the United Nations has declared 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean. It is therefore appropriate that the theme For Life on Earth: Save our Seas has been chosen to mark this year’s World Environment Day.
Some of us who are inland dwellers might feel that we have no dealings whatsoever with the seas and oceans of the world. But pollutants belched by thousands of smokestacks and the millions of vehicles are carried by winds and dropped over the waters off the coasts.
Domestic and industrial waste and sewage flow into rivers and eventually into the sea. So do excess fertilisers and residues of pesticides used for agriculture. The major bulk of marine sediment is also attributed to man’s overzealous clearing of the forest along the river. Therefore, we cannot underplay our responsibility towards saving the sea. It is actually part and parcel of the care for the environment.
It is obvious that on the whole, the environmental-care report card of our generation reveal that thus far, we have not performed well. How could this be? The environment is definitely not ours. We have merely borrowed it from the future generation. Before we leave this world, we shall have to return it, intact, to our children and grandchildren. This is one loan the future generation cannot afford to write-off.
Many of us realise that greed and apathy of a certain section of our generation have contributed to the rather sad state of the affair of our environment. And it seems that not much can be done to right this type of obsession for quick material gain. The prospect of ridding our generation of these bad apples is rather grim.
If we are unable to honour full your loan agreement, then probably some kinds of remedial work have to be initiated. While the good Samaritans among us go on working extremely hard to conserve and preserve the environment, the rest should also help out in various ways and means.
A noble gesture that we can easily carry out is instilling the love for nature in the hearts and minds of our children. We must equip them with sufficient understanding of the man-nature interaction. This can be started at a very early age and has to be done on a continuous basis.
Plenty of books and magazines on nature are now available in the libraries, information centres and book stores. Newspapers regularly carry numerous articles on ecology and conservationism. Good documentaries on the environment are broadcast over public and paid television stations.
Best of all though, a first-hand encounter with nature would undoubtedly put the whole concept of environmental care in the right perspective in the minds of the youngsters. Parents should take time out to take their children for a visit to some of the forest reserves, sanctuaries and marine parks located all over Malaysia. We can start during this coming school holidays. By doing so, we may be able to minimise the possibility of having greedy and apathetic individuals among the next generation.
Finally, let’s not wait another year to review our report cards on the care for the environment. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advises Muslims to do this every evening, just before we tuck ourselves into bed. By doing so, we could begin to work on improving our grades the very next morning.