|At the Andhra Pradesh Forest Academy|
It was a great honor for me to be asked to be Chief Guest at the Earth Day celebration organized by the AP Forest Academy and AP Environment Connect on April 22. The ceremony featured awards to and presentations by citizens dedicated to protecting the environment in a variety of ways, including planting trees, combating plastic, harvesting rainwater and raising awareness. Each of them demonstrated how individuals can make a difference—but their most important contribution is their inspirational example. The importance of good examples was stressed by the apt designation they were awarded: that of Environmentalists Worth Emulating. If we all were to emulate them, the state of Andhra Pradesh would be a cleaner, healthier and more beautiful place to live.
In advance of Earth Day, the Consulate supported the NGO Better Hyderabad by participating in a trash run on Necklace Road on April 17. I was on my way to Mumbai at the time, so I could not participate, but I hope this is something we’ll do again. Picking up garbage is worthwhile in itself, but the biggest benefit of such activities is raising awareness of the importance of respecting the local environment. My colleagues told me they also gained a deeper appreciation and respect for the hard work that street sweepers carry out tirelessly every day—let’s all give them some consideration. In my lifetime in the U.S., littering has changed from a common activity that no one thought a lot about to a socially unacceptable and relatively rare offense. I hope the same thing happens in India.
The U.S. may have come a long way as far as littering is concerned, but I learned a surprising and disappointing fact about my countrymen while researching Earth Day last week. According to the Gallup Poll, in 2008 67% of Americans said they worried a great deal or a fair amount about climate change. In 2011, that number had declined to 51%. I hope this is more a reflection of Americans being distracted by economic woes. The scientific evidence that climate change is happening as a result of human activity is clear. While we may be enjoying an unusually comfortable April this year in Hyderabad, I know that the trend lies in the other direction.
|A volunteer at the 'Trash the Trash' run|
This year’s Earth Day slogan, “A Billion Acts of Green,” reminds us all of the importance of individual action to achieving global environmental goals. When it comes to climate change, though, individual action is essential but not sufficient to meet the challenge. We need action at the national and international level as well. I’m pleased that, despite opinion polls in the U.S., President Obama was clear about this in his Earth Day Proclamation (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/04/22/presidential-proclamation-earth-day) when he said: “Our entire planet must address this problem because no nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change.”