Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Voice for Green

Environment is one of the most talked about issues today. You read about it in newspapers, magazines and hear it debated on television. You see National Geographic–type pictures showing how abuse of environment has left various forms of lives, including humans, affected. You also have people leap at you on road and say, 'Can I talk to you for two minutes – I am from Greenpeace?' Concern for environment has become fashionable. The old divide between the poor and rich is obsolete. Now it’s all about people who care about environment and the ones who expand their wealth at the expense of it. Environment has become a drawing room discussion. Political parties have made it part of their manifestos. Not surprisingly, it also made its way into a humble cyber café I had visited for printouts (I don’t have a printer at home).

While I was at computer, adjusting the configurations of a page to be sent out for a print, a girl stepped in and started a conversation with the shopkeeper. Initially, I dismissed her as a sales girl. But then I realized the conversion wasn’t about sales: it was about environment.

“So they finally had the tree felled?” questioned the girl.

“Yes, yesterday they had a few guys come and do that. I wanted to complain because a branch of the tree used to guard my shop from the sun, but I didn’t. Who will complain about these Reddys of Koramangla; they are very big people here. And I suggest you don’t investigate this case; otherwise, you will get identified,” warned the shop owner somewhat dropping his voice.

“What identified?! I am a journalist and I am doing my job. All I’m doing is creating awareness about trees being felled at will in various parts of Koramangla,” the girl answered indignantly.

“Which paper do you write for?” a boy asked looking away from his computer screen interrupting the conversation. “Hindu,” replied the girl with a trace of pride.

I also wanted to participate in the conversation, but kept quite.

I found the conversation interesting because to me it presented the two sides of the environment concern, the personal and the impersonal. To the shopkeeper, the concern is that the branch being cut has exposed his shop to the sun; to the girl the problem is larger; shrinking greenery. I felt all of us contribute to environmental degradation in our own way, like here I was doing my bit by taking paper printouts. Each time we don’t object to the shopkeeper packing our purchase in a polythene bag, instead of a paper bag, we are guilty of it. My colleagues who have fashionably included 'Print this mail only if you need it; contribute to a safe environment' in their office mail footer smugly walk in with a polythene bag returning from their occasional shopping spree from our office campus (nowadays every IT complex has one).

For next couple of days, I searched for the article on tree felling in Koramangla but didn’t get. Probably I missed the article because I am not a regular subscriber to Hindu  (I just go a grab copy from the stand sometimes). But I appreciated the initiative they have taken up and also how the girl was going about her job.

On a hot day, when I walk on familiar street and suddenly don’t feel the cooling shade of the tree I had felt last time and look up to find an open sky instead of my view obstructed by the foliage which protected me last time from the sun, I realise someone has to stand up so that trees don’t fall. Thankfully, many are doing so and at least they have been able to make us spare a thought for the environment.

It was time for me to leave the cyber café.

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