Earth Hour: A time to reflect

ByHindustan Times
Mar 25, 2023 12:48 PM IST

The article has been authored by Shraman Jha, CEO, Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF).

We live in a time when an ongoing war involving some major powers does not make the news anymore. Is that a sign of despondency and acceptance, even for climate action? Is Earth Hour at all relevant in these times? I would argue that more than ever, it is time for ordinary people like you and me to take to the occasion and spend some focused time quietly contemplating the future of our worlds.

India gate seen before the Earth Hour in New Delhi, India. (Ravi Choudhary / HT Photo)
India gate seen before the Earth Hour in New Delhi, India. (Ravi Choudhary / HT Photo)

Most of the global reports and studies do not make pretty reading. The three-part, sixth report on Climate Change of the UN's climate science body - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - was discussed much last year. For the first time, the IPCC report has looked at the health impacts of climate change. It is stunning how broad the sweep is, ranging from vector-borne diseases like malaria to mental health. Very specifically, the report identifies India as one of the vulnerable hotspots. That the planet is warming up is no news anymore- the range of its impact is calamitous. This March, the group met again to agree on a Synthesis Report addressing various policy-relevant scientific questions related to climate change.

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It is now clear that it is not just a matter for future generations; it will hit us in our lifetimes unless we act and act now. We need to take charge of our future on the planet. And this has to factor in the broader ecosystem and understand the widespread, intricate, and often tricky interdependencies.

United Nations (UN) documents state that climate change is primarily a water crisis. Do we disagree, as we witness its impacts through floods, rising sea levels, shrinking ice caps, and droughts? But then, water is also a potent tool to combat climate change. Sustainable water management is therefore central to reducing carbon emissions and protecting ecosystems. Everyone has a role to play – individual and household-level actions are vital. Fittingly, the just concluded 2023 UN Water Conference had climate change as its most important agenda.

Since its inception, the enthusiasm and active participation in Earth Hour has been soul-warming. The event is voluntary and participative - it belongs to no one in particular, yet it belongs to everyone. That is perhaps common with the planet we all inhabit, we are all in it together. "I can win even if you lose" is not a theoretical possibility.

The symbolic switch-off characterises Earth Hour. In the calm of the lower light levels, it is an apt moment to reflect on the power of collective action- what the actions you and I take will mean for our planet. While we, as common people, do not have the power to start or stop global conflagrations, we do have the power to make small yet critical changes to how we live and treat our immediate environment. These seemingly microscopic and insignificant actions have a knack for multiplying manifold, causing a veritable tsunami of change.

As we mark India's Amrit Mahotsav as an independent country, a quick look back would throw up individual-level contributions that built up into high impact and lead to a rarely seen unity and optimism. Vinoba Bhave's bhoodan movement, Lal Bahadur Shastri's call to skip a meal to conserve food or, in recent times, the call by Narendra Modi for the middle class to give up the subsidy on their LPG cylinders:Eeach one built by tiny droplets of contributions.

Every little action we consciously take to benefit our one shared home planet earth-- matters. This evening, when you switch off the unnecessary lights and appliances to observe Earth Hour, the impact of the gesture is not limited to the lesser power consumed and hence coal burnt. It is a start of a flow of consciousness that we can – and will- make an effort to shape our collective future, especially on water.

The article has been authored by Shraman Jha, CEO, Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF).

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