Environment is not something that needs to be celebrated once in a year. Standing true to this maxim, the New Delhi Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA) celebrated the World Environmental Day (WED) on Monday, June 6 by organising a seminar on the theme “Forests: Nature at Your Service” similar to the UN’s declaration of the year 2011 as the International Year of Forests and India’s WED theme.
The seminar saw more than 60 participants from NGOs, media, All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) and YMCA members apart from individuals and climate enthusiasts from varied walks of lives. There were around half a dozen presentations on various aspects of environment, all converging on the common theme that we need to do everything possible to make Mother Earth a place where all forms of life and diversity created by nature have a place under the sun.
The highlight of the day remained the remarkable presentations on ‘Impact of Building and Construction Industry on Forest’ by Gaurav Shorey, an independent climate consultant formerly with the The Energy Research Insititute (TERI) and on ‘Women and Environment’ by Lalita Balakrishnan, member in-charge energy, AIWC. The gathering also appreciated the excellent moderation of the days proceedings by Mr. Anjan Mukherjee, Secretary (National Programmes), National Council of YMCAs of India and a poem in Hindi by Aloke Michyari, head, YMCA Department of Tribal and cultural Affairs.
Excerpts from Gaurav Shorey’s presentation:
The major theme of Garav Shorey, wearing traditional kurta pyjama, was that we can’t apply environmental solutions or adopt the lifestyle that fits the countries in the western hemisphere in India.
We are a country of 1.2 billion people, four times that of the USA, on a landmass that is roughly one third of the USA. In terms of sheer availability of land sources we are much much poor than an average American. The environmental crisis that the West is facing and the solution that fits them can’t be applied in our case.
Gaurav, the cycle enthusiast, who has been using bicycle for the last 14 years and has been to Sikkim to make presentations on environment for CPWD’s architects said, “They invented cars according to their land and roads, something which just won’t serve the need of an overpopulated country like ours. That’s why we are stuck.”, he said showing slides of heavy jams, overloaded trains and humongous crowds that are a common sight in Indian cities.
Similar is the condition of the homes and cities that we ape from the west. Which is why our cities are increasingly becoming victims of Urban Heat Island Effect.
Stressing the need to understand traditional clothes and architecture, the architect by training said, “The clothes people traditionally wear and the architecture of their homes have always been according to the environment of the place. That’s why we have different kinds of dress and homes at varied places. Men in Rajasthan wear pagadi (thick head scarf) and women wear long bangles. It’s not an ornamentation but a means to save the head and the hand respectively from the scorching heat of the desert. The same applies to the clothes and designs of home for people living in Northeast, South India, Bihar, Ladakh and across the world. Even the food, festivals, agricultural practices and culture was designed according the sustainable limits of nature and its resources.”
Wearing thick and light clothes in Rajasthan and Arab countries means that it saves their skin without using any artificial cooling. The various seasonal festivals and the traditional methods of their celebration by people of various cultures are all according to the natural environment and locally available resources. You will find hottest colours in coldest places simply because that is what they need to sustain. You will find slow dance in north India and fast dances in South India, because north India is comparatively hot and humid.
Gaurav concluded his presentation saying that we need to go back to basic socio-cultural-religious practices and learn and adapt them to find India-centric solution.
Ms. Lalita Balakrishnan talked about the work being done by AIWC to empower women. She talked about AIWC’s initiatives in promoting biomass projects, clean chulhas and solar cookers and the difficulties they are facing. She also stressed the need to give indigenous people their traditional rights on forests and other natural resources. She said that there was a need to promote general eco-consciousness about sustainable practice.
Mr. Anjan Mukherjee said in his opening remarks that we need to come out of the dilemma of cost and convenience. He also raised the point that it is not nature which is at our service, it is we who need to serve the nature. Mr. Aloke Machiyari later suggested in his short remarks that the relation between human being and nature is of mother and child. So, ultimately it’s both: Mother Nature serves you, and you give it back to her.
The enlivening seminar ended with the call for saving our forests and a pledge to plant more and more trees. What else could have been memorable than a seminar on environment concluding with a sapling for each of the participants.