By Sohail Khan
In recent times, we have witnessed both moments of hope and despair in our efforts to protect the environment. On occasions such as Eid ul Azha and World Environment Day, we have seen contrasting attitudes of people towards their surroundings. While the surge in visitors to public parks during Eid was a positive sign for the local economy, the subsequent littering was rather irresponsible.
Similarly, the grand gestures and symbolic actions taken on recently observed World Environment Day raise the question of whether they truly lead to lasting change. It is crucial for us to reflect on these experiences and observations, and emphasize the need to move beyond symbolism and embrace the spirit of environmental responsibility every single day.
THE PARADOX OF CELEBRATIONS
Eid ul Azha, a festive occasion celebrated with joy and enthusiasm, brought families and friends together in parks and gardens. A celebration of communal harmony and togetherness, transformed parks and gardens into vibrant hubs of festivity.
The surge in visitors highlighted the significant role of these public spaces in our local economy.
However, the aftermath presented a disheartening sight: bottles, chip packs, and polythene scattered across the parks. This glaring lack of civic sense reminded us that the respect and care for our environment should be integral to our celebrations. It is essential to create awareness among people about the impact of their actions and encourage responsible behavior during such gatherings.
THE SYMBOLISM OF WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
The World Environment Day, an occasion observed globally, aims to promote environmental awareness and encourage positive action. Schools, colleges, government officials, and various organizations come together to organize seminars and cleanliness drives. This year too saw many colleges and schools going all out in celebrating this day.
While these events may generate enthusiasm and temporarily highlight the importance of environmental protection, we must question their long-term impact. Are they merely symbolic gestures, or can they bring about lasting change?
TRANSCENDING SYMBOLISM, A CALL TO ACTION
As concerned individuals and communities, we need to transcend symbolism and embrace the spirit of environmental responsibility every single day. It is not supposed to be a one-off incident but needs to be ingrained in our habits. Environmental consciousness must be a part of our ethical outlook towards the world and we must religiously uphold it.
One can take minor steps in the direction and create changes at community levels. For instance, the experiences of witnessing both the festive littering and the grandeur of World Environment Day motivated our team ‘Social Concern Group’ , a team of green volunteers to take action. In Manasbal, we organized a cleanliness drive within the park to sensitize people about the need for behavior change. By directly engaging with the visitors, we conveyed the message of responsible waste disposal and the importance of preserving our natural spaces.
It is essential to involve communities and individuals in the ongoing effort to protect the environment. Education plays a crucial role in shaping attitudes and behaviors. Collaborating with schools and colleges, we can integrate environmental awareness into curricula and organize interactive sessions that encourage students to take action. Empowering local communities through workshops and skill development programs can also promote sustainable practices and help generate a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the environment.Symbolic gestures alone cannot solve the environmental challenges we face. Governments and institutions need to reinforce the significance of everyday environmental stewardship. This can be achieved through policy reforms, investment in waste management infrastructure, and strict enforcement of environmental regulations. By aligning economic incentives with sustainable practices, we can create a society where environmental responsibility becomes the norm rather than the exception.
ISLAM AND THE ENVIRONMENT
As we seek to move beyond symbolism and embrace a culture of environmental consciousness, it is essential to look to the teachings of Islam and the Quran. Islam emphasizes the preservation and conservation of the environment as a sacred duty bestowed upon humanity. The Quran teaches us that Allah has created the Earth as a place of balance and harmony, and it is our responsibility to be its guardians and protectors. Numerous verses in the Quran call for the preservation of nature, emphasizing the importance of water bodies, trees, and the overall balance of the ecosystem.By understanding the significance of incorporating Islamic teachings in our efforts to protect the environment & integrating the teachings of Islam into our cleanliness drives and awareness campaigns, we can highlight the religious duty of preserving our surroundings. This approach can help us connect with a wider audience and reinforce the message of responsible waste disposal and the protection of water bodies.
There’s urgency to move beyond symbolism and embrace everyday actions that protect our environment. It is only through our collective effort that we can create a sustainable future where our parks, water bodies, roads, and streets remain clean and vibrant. Let us make every day World Environment Day and ensure that our actions, as individuals and as a community, speak louder than words.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is the president of Social Concern Group and is associated with J&K RTI movement
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