Ever since I was in the second grade I have been asked to write essays on global warming, I am sure almost all of my generation has been and they still do appear on my college tests. I have realised that I don’t actually add too much to the solution now when I write them but there is a lot to add to the problems. We are pretty much aware of what is global warming and what causes it, don’t worry this is not going to be one of those essays I have written, this is something different about what we did and what we aren’t doing.
Recently, El Salvador (smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America) declared trees to be considered as legal persons and bestow them with rights. Trees? Rights? What does that even mean?
The “other people”
This concept of giving rights to natural resources is called environmental personhood. Environmental personhood is a legal concept which designates certain environmental entities the status of a legal person. This assigns to these entities, the rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities and legal liability of a legal personality. Environmental personhood emerged from the evolution of legal focus in pursuit of the protection of nature. This means that harming them will have inflictions equal to those of harming a human being.
An extraordinary legal revolution took place when, in a historic ruling, Colombia’s Supreme Court declared the Amazon as a legal person with rights, to be protected, conserved and restored and ordered the state to reduce deforestation.
The Amazon rainforest is often called the earth’s lungs, as 20% of the world’s oxygen is drawn from it. In the last 50 years, nearly ⅕ th of it has been cut down. There are natural systems which suck in the carbon that we produce on a daily basis. They are called “trees” which were present in the Amazon forest and their depletion has led to the capacity of the forest to suck in the carbon to deteriorate. At present, we are legalising mining and chopping of trees for construction but at the same time making the trees legal persons.
The two legal persons in India
The Ganga and Yamuna Rivers are now considered legal persons in an effort to combat pollution. The rivers are sacred to Hindu culture and people consider it an auspicious and a sacred ritual to have a bath in these rivers. The rivers have been heavily polluted by 1.5 billion litres of untreated sewage and 500 million litres of industrial waste entering the rivers daily. Yes daily! That’s enough to say that people are actually washing off their sins in the sewage they have created.
The High Court of Uttarakhand ordered in March 2017 that the Ganga and its main tributary, the Yamuna, be assigned the status of legal entities. The rivers have since gained all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities as living person. This decision meant that polluting or damaging the rivers is equivalent to harming a person.
The Yamuna, which has been tried to be protected by setting up 22 sewage plants in Delhi still remains in the same condition even though it is a legal entity, as none of them is functioning according to their design in terms of quantity and quality, and we don’t know the reason. The Ganga river, considered sacred by more than 1 billion Indians, has become the first non-human entity in India and there has been no significant improvement in the status, health or even the image of the river after this decision.
Addressing the real problem.
Let’s get things straight, our problem is not that we don’t acknowledge our resources or do not understand their contribution, or we don’t have solutions. Scientists have recently realised that we have 24 years before we reach a point where the damage we have been causing since 200 years becomes irreversible. Deforestation is one of the major causes of this environmental degradation.
Once deprived of their forest cover, the lands rapidly degrade in quality, losing their fertility and arability. Just to built homes or digging mines, we are losing carbon suckers, oxygen generators, our food…
…and our money
The constant massacre of trees in India has led to severe degradation of soil and water. Also, wind erosion, all of which amounts estimated to cost over 16,400 crores every year. Deforestation has a major impact on the productivity of our croplands.
At Present India, is the poorest where per capita land is concerned across the world. We have 35 billion trees for a population of 1.27 billion which is extremely less. The per capita forest Land in India is 0.10 hectare compared to the world average of 1 hectare, Canada 14.2 hectare, Australia 7.6 hectare and USA 7.30 hectare. Indian forests comprise only 0.50 per cent of the world forest area. India is losing about 1.5 million hectares of forest cover each year.
This is quite shameful for a country where trees are worshipped. The Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment is located here. Every year, on the occasion of ‘Vat Pournima‘, married ladies go round and round the banyan tree praying for the long life of their husbands, ironically no one prays for the long life of these trees which actually give them oxygen for a long life.
Doing what we are not doing
As I said earlier lets talk about the things that we do and those that we don’t.
Help survival to survive:
I am not gonna tell you the most basic thing that plant trees. A general stroll around the news on some important dates like 15th of August or 26th of January or environment day would tell you that we plant millions of trees every year but still, that isn’t helping, that is because they are forgotten about after the saplings are sown. They are usually in areas where land is available but no one visits them regularly, let alone appointing a caretaker. Trees don’t survive in the middle of a polluted city with only rains. They have to be taken care of. So if we could divert the expenditure of buying new saplings to building a structure for maintenance of the trees we plant will be of greater help.
A lot of the reason for the felling of trees are hidden in the want for more, want for more paper, more land. We need more awareness about the solution as much as we have about the problem. While shopping, move towards buying recyclable products mainly. Most importantly find out the recycling procedure in your locality. You could find a lot of waste management services who do this job free of cost and even have a door to door pickup. Support companies that produce products by causing minimal harm to the environment. To improve your possibility of acquiring the ability to make these decisions about these companies you need to put in a little bit of effort.
Not my job!
We often leave all of these things for the government, but if we want to live we don’t have to wait for someone else to do something. the major problem that has his us is the not my job attitude! cleaning gathering recycling is not our job the government is supposed to do it. well let me tell you the government can’t do all of this by itself if we keep producing amounts of waste that we produce and keep consuming non environment friendly product. pushing it off on the government is only going to lessen your days on the planet. The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will fix it. 1.27 billion people taking baby steps is a lot of distance covered.
Once you gather even the slightest information you will realise how much the trees are dependent on you and you will want to protect them. Not because they are legal persons but because they are people just like you and me.
Reuse, Reduce and Recycle is the mantra we should be chanting if we want to really worship Ganga, Yamuna and banyan trees.