‘We are a nation that talks of salads and eats samosas’, Sanjeev Kapoor, the well-know chef, had stated in an interview. He may well have been referring to our attitude towards our planet, albeit in metaphorical terms.

Two events bring this out starkly.

Images from Cold Play concert at Mumbai, November 2016, depicted trash lying scattered after the event. More than seventy thousand people had attended the mega-event; many of whom had contributed to the litter. During the event they had pledged to the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs; their pledges and actions turned out to be anti-thetical to each other.

This is how the media covered it:

‘Nobody could be bothered with civic sense or niceties such as recycling for a sustainable living’ ~ huffingtonpost.in

‘It was an event designed to raise awareness but like most good things in our society we decided to turn a blind eye towards it’ ~ scoopwhoop.com

This begs a few questions. Did it make any sense to preach on these issues during an event of this nature? The audience was eagerly waiting for its idols to sing and apparently the messaging had as much impact as playing our national anthem, before films in cinema halls, has on our love for our country. Does messaging of this kind have a role other than to make the organizers happy; that they highlighted crucial issues and got support of large numbers? Irrespective of the messaging could the audience not have dealt with trash in a more mature fashion?

Not only was the event organized in one of our largest cities but also the ticket prices would have ensured that this was attended only by the privileged class. To underscore the point, this was a crowd which was ‘educated’ and ‘well-to-do’. These events are a reflection of not only the organizers but also of our society as a whole.

It is not just entertainment events that warrant a critical relook. Each year during March we celebrate the Earth Hour. In other words, shutting off lights for one hour for our earth.

‘Switch off all your non-essential lights from 8:30pm - 9:30pm’ says the website. Is this not to be done for all hours and on each day of the year! What is the message we are then giving? One hour absolves us of what we do for the rest of the year?

What impact shutting off select lights for one hour on one day in a year will have in a country where even urban areas regularly suffer from electricity shortage is a separate question.

One also wonders how it helps address climate change, as the intention appears, if we are not changing or even discussing our lifestyles. We want a live in a better world but are unwilling to voluntarily bring in any change in our lives. We do not want an iota of discomfort in our lives. A year, for the record, consists of 8,760 hours.

This is akin to making only a trailer and not bothering to make the movie. Little point then in increasing the campaign’s foot-print by having t-shirts printed. Ironically another campaign by the same organization talks of how it can take up to 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt! It also stressed on the need to make informed choices!

If we take up actions like putting upper limits to the number of times we fill the fuel tanks of our vehicles or the number of hours our air-conditioners run during a month we may still make a small beginning.

Where do we stand today?

These images of bottles, glasses and plates lying scattered - many a time with food - and our satisfaction at shutting off select lights for one hour in a year convey how we ‘deal’ with the environment and how we could not care less for the earth. Unfortunately in this we seem to stand united cutting across all barriers, ancient and modern, which seek to divide us.

We appear to be happy to skim the surface and stay away from the nuances lest we open up the proverbial cans of worms. Change and willingness to explore are not very welcome either. In other words we are doing too less when we are aware that a lot more is needed. What we are doing is akin to offering a sachet of tomato ketchup for dinner to a person who has just shared that s/he not eaten anything since morning and is hungry!

These events have shown the mirror; the choice of acting lies with us.