3.21 am.

It was one of those nights when I had woken up before my alarm. Irritated by the fact that I could have slept for 9 more precious minutes, I wanted to investigate the cause.

There was some kind of a weird repetitive ‘shwish-and-hum’ noise coming from the road. I dragged myself to the verandah to investigate. I was welcomed into the night outside with a fresh moist breeze and the same weird noise; louder this time.

I wasn’t surprised to see the source of all that noise. A group of people, a heavy compactor, and a large tar-stained container, were working hard to mend all the potholes. The men were armed with stonechip-filled shovels and grime on their arms. The large container billowed thick black smoke as it burned the tar and charcoal inside. Following the broad trail of the smoke, my eyes met the pearl white moon transfixed in the middle of the night sky.

Another cold gust of wind caressed through my unkempt hair and made me shiver. At once, something wonderful happened. I felt at one with the world. Everything seemed non-existent; The veranda, the street lamps connected with a jumble of wires, the packed rows of houses springing up from every bit of empty land, and the road being repaired. And I thought to myself, ‘Is this where it all ends? Is this what our ancestors had imagined the future would be? Is this progress of technology? Is this advancement of mankind? Is this the 21st century? Is this my earth? Is this me?

There was no answer.

I went back into my room. It was 4:00 am already and I had wasted more than half an hour standing at my verandah.

39 minutes. And I had wasted something else too. I had just wasted 39 minutes of electricity having forgotten to switch off the lights and the fan.

I smiled to myself (which I shouldn’t have), as I thought about how much energy waste goes unnoticed. Our lives have grown into this sort of ‘pre-processed’ routine in which we take such a lot of things for granted. Somewhere in India, an amount of non-renewable fossil fuel was burnt up, harmful pollutants were released into the air, to provide me with those 39 minutes of electricity.

What? To provide electricity to ‘who’? ‘Who exactly used that bit of energy?’

Nothing. Absolutely Nothing.

Wait a second, what happened just now? An amount of non-renewable fossil fuel was burnt, deadly gases released into the atmosphere, money wasted, earth polluted, for NOTHING!
That’s just great! And its just not me. More than 6,775,235,741 people are doing the same. Imagine the amount of energy that is being wasted every moment. Imagine the amount of pollution we are causing, each and every breathing moment. Leaking water pipes, dripping taps, vehicle exhausts, empty rooms with fans and lights on… the list never ends. But who is responsible? We are.

Who? Me?

It took me some time to absorb all that into me. I had just realized that I was directly responsible for causing all those environmental impacts which I have read about in my Environmental Education book.

I made a silent pledge to myself that today, I would take care each and every moment to see that I do not waste any form of energy or resource. I felt better.

6:00 am

I washed my face, looked at my face on the mirror, and wondered if I needed to get a hair-cut. As I turned away from the wash-basin, once again, I had the feeling that I was forgetting something. Yes, the tap was dripping water. So I used both my hands, and a lot of enthusiasm, to try to make it stop completely. It didn’t. Obstinate tap it was! After a few seconds, I realized that the job could only be done by a plumber. I made sure that he was informed to come as soon as possible.

An hour later

As I walk through the local bazaar, I notice a public municipality roadside tap. The bucket kept below it was overflowing. Okay. So either the man thinks that his bucket is an infinite abyss of water storage or he doesn’t know that only 1% of all the water on earth is potable. I sulk at the owner of the bucket who arrives as soon as I turn the tap off.

The sun is gleaming in the azure sky as its rays reach every nook and corner of my locality. Unfortunately, the street lamps do not agree. They are still on – the entire street – about 26 street lamps are on. Kudos to the authorities responsible!

That day, at home, I often find myself running behind people to switch off the lights and fans after they leave the room. The common excuse, ‘I was gonna come back soon!’

In the evening, I find my Grandmother attending a phone call, with the TV switched on, and no one watching it. I switch it off.

The entire list is exhausting, and disappointing. The criminals include me, my entire family, my relatives, my neighbors, my friends, and almost everyone else.

Well, so just what exactly can we do about it?

The most obvious method would be to take care every moment of our daily lives, that we don’t waste resources or pollute the environment. It may not seem to be very effective, and saving electricity doesn't necessarily mean that next morning you will wake up to find your house looking like the garden of Eden. But every little action counts, and in the end, they all sum up to make the big change. Just remember to take care. It might be a bit difficult at the beginning but slowly we will develop energy saving habits. Ask yourself, "Where am i wasting energy? Where can i save more? How can i help the environment?" The answer is out there and you know it.

I would encourage local youth clubs to conduct environmental awareness campaigns within their localities. It is a fact that despite whatever is being done, people are still unaware about how they can bring about a change and help our environment with the little things that they do. A short street play, or a local fair demonstration, or even distribution of fliers in every household - Every little effort can bring about some change. Even little campaigns to plant trees along the roadside or proper waste disposal will be extremely beneficial to the environment as well as the locality.

The government should post banner adverts on streets about environmental awareness instead of wasting millions on polling campaigns. They should make sure that proper laws are established and more importantly, implemented and enforced at the grassroots.

Commercial bodies should design and produce environment friendly products. Even products which are harmful but do not yet have a replacement can show messages or facts about how it is harmful to the environment. This won’t make the people stop using the product, but will encourage them to use it to the bare minimum until a more environment-friendly replacement is found.

Today, almost every environmentally harmful product has a suitable environment friendly replacement. All it needs is to be promoted and incorporated into our lives. Tell your friends about your energy-saving or waste-minimizing efforts and urge them to do the same. Spread the word. A small search on google will give you thousands and thousands of ways and means of environmental protection.

All we have to do is to work together to save this plant and make it more beautiful then ever. Give our beautiful planet some respite from the torture being inflicted on it every moment by Man's selfish and reckless needs of luxury. Play your part. The rest will surely fall into place.

And this time, the answer is right in front of us. Think about it. Chalk out all the places where we are harming our environment, and all the ways in which we can undo it and help this earth. All it needs is a little effort. I am sure it will make you feel good from the inside.

This March 26th is a wonderful excuse, to start a new environment-friendly life. At 8:30 pm IST, switch off all the lights in your household to celebrate earth hour with the rest of the world.

This is our world. It is our only home. And protecting it is our responsibility, individual as well as collective.

Let us take the first step to a better future.

I pledge to go beyond the hour!