When G went to participate in a sit-in protest against the (probably illegal) cutting of a 150 yr old tree on University road in order to make space for road-widening, she found that there were as many as 4-5 people present there. That’s how many people knew about it. Or possibly that’s how many people cared about it. Yeah. All of 4-5 people with a couple of banners sitting under yet another ancient tree that was still patiently standing in that blazing sun selflessly providing them shelter from the sun so they could protest the cutting of its next door neighbor. So much protest.
Now I can well believe that not many people knew about the protest and also that not many of them cared even if they did know. For one, so many people (myself included) are usually so busy with their own humdrum lives, trying to make a decent living, raising their (our) children to get good marks in board exams so they can get into good colleges and eventually go abroad for their masters’ or jobs, beating the insane traffic to get home in time to watch IPL etc, that activism – esp environmental activism – could be the farthest concern from many of their (our) minds. And who can blame them (us)? There is always someone else to care, so why not just let them deal with it?
Also, many times environmental activism, or anything to do with issues concerning environment, is seen as anti-development. And who doesn’t want wide, empty roads to commute on in the latest luxury automobiles? Like individual climate-control and bluetooth music and all that. Who likes being stuck in traffic for endless signals, as happens everyday on University road? Who wouldn’t want to reach home in the 15 mins that a 15 km commute should ideally take, as we hear happens in more developed countries? Who wouldn’t want more time to spend with their hobbies and passions instead of spending it endlessly in chaotic traffic cursing (under your breath of course, for fear of road rage) the next signal jumper or trying to be one yourself (unless death-wish is your hobby)? So what if a few trees are chopped down for this. Is it the authorities’ fault that the trees happen to be 150 years old or that the paperwork may not be done? After all, the trees are blocking progress and development, aren’t they? Why couldn’t the trees have simply grown in areas that didn’t need wider roads? And we all have to die one day, don’t we, even trees? Why, there are some of us who have even heard of the giant redwoods being chopped down in California, that last bastion of environmental hippie’ness. So what’s the problem if that happens in Pune, the last bastion of wisdom and common-sense?
It may seem like I’m being sarcastic or mocking but I’m not. Really. Because this seems to be so much reality for so many people. And as I said, can anyone really blame them (us)? It is so difficult to care about what happens 20 or 30 years in the future (future that you cannot even see) because of rampant tree-felling when you are breathing in carbon monoxide and other harmful pollutants by the truckload today in some humongous traffic jam that you think can easily be fixed if only the road were twice (or thrice) as wide so everyone could go twice (thrice) as fast. And if some trees have to be cut for this, so be it. You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs. And big deal if the rains become more and more scarce as the years go by? You can always get tankers, or let your kids worry about that. And honestly, you could die tomorrow from a stroke or an accident or a terrorist attack or nuclear war so who cares what happens so far in the future when what you really should care about is what happens in the here and now. In the present. Osho and other great thinkers also have said the same thing, I remember reading somewhere.
Who has seen the future anyway? For all we know, we’ll just invent some chemical agent that can magically replace the oxygen in the atmosphere like trees do. Then we won’t even need trees. And we’ll build giant transparent roofs over our cities so light can come in but not heat. Then why we’ll need shade? Or maybe we’ll adapt to breathing nitrogen or carbon whateveroxide like those bacteria or something. And you know there are marine geckos in the Galapagos who have adapted within a single lifetime to shrink their bone mass and become smaller in response to diminishing food supplies, don’t you? And if these lizards with their pea-sized lizard brains can do this, why cannot we, the superior human race, do oh so much more than this?
And if at all this is going to be inevitable, why must I, today, now, leave my office and my client call and sit in the hot sun protesting something I’m not even aware about? What am I supposed to tell the client – that I’m out protesting already cut trees when I need to be fixing that code for the project that is already overdue? And is it selfish to only think about ourselves? Isn’t that what everyone else does? Why should we be any different? Because if we don’t care about ourselves who will? And if anyone is so concerned about these trees, why can’t they just go plant 10x more trees elsewhere? We can always post appreciative write-ups or angsty rants (as the case may be) about it on social media. Or tweet about it to the PMO in the hope that they will just ban climate change. Problem solved!
I mean, how much more should we be expected to do? I mean, it’s not like our children or grandchildren will inherit a planet so denuded of resources that bloody civil wars will have to be fought over basic requirements like water or food or something…. Right? …. Right?!