Apocalypse Now : The Shopping Bag with a Chokeslam

Climate Change — two words that we have all come across time and again. But how many of us stop to work past the surface level acceptance that the climate, as put simply, is changing?
The present reality of our planet, slowly dying at the hands of its very own inhabitants, is nothing far from catastrophic.

Over 50% of the insane 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year is of the single-use kind. For a material that takes over a thousand years to decompose, we’re looking at about nine hundred years before the first invented plastics disappear. If we continue to generate them at the alarming rate that we are now, it’ll be thousands more before we can stop our planet from choking. The one thing that all of us can agree on is the severe detrimental effects of the mass usage of plastic on our climate.

And yet, in a world where almost everyone is aware of the ill effects of plastic, the mere raising of awareness is not going to bring about change. Over 90% of the monstrous amounts of synthetic plastic manufactured year after year isn’t getting recycled. Turns out, the likes and prayers on the picture of the sea turtle choking on a polythene bag are not enough. How are we, so far away from the homes of the polar bears and the corals, to make our move? The answer to this is as simple as taking a minute to realise the giant cyclic nature of life around us. We are the change, in all its reality and horror and we are slowly eating up the biodiversity on this planet.

The delicate balance of nature has evidently been threatened, and this change will have its repercussions on all forms of life sooner or later. The human moral compass needs some fixing, with the current state of affairs, and the millions of lives at stake. Of what good are the plastic straws and bottles, when they come at the cost of leaving the planet inhabitable for future generations to come?

Local restaurants around the country, including our very own Manipal, are taking small steps by banning plastic straws and bags. Along with the large scale production of biodegradable alternatives for plastic, it suffices to say that the fight against climate change is finally taking shape. In light of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Government of India aims at educating the masses on the use and management of plastic products and their proper disposal.

However, this realisation and active participation towards the betterment of the environment is needed foremost at an individual level. Little changes to our lifestyles, such as carrying our own reusable bags and containers, and switching to search engines like Ecosia that plant a tree for each search, can come a long way at a global level.

Reducing our carbon footprint and keeping a close watch on our ecological footprints go hand in hand with the grassroots level empowerment of small businesses offering alternatives to plastic like jute, paper or ‘green’ bags.

That being said, reducing the usage and eliminating the production of plastic bags shouldn’t be seen as your only solution towards mitigating climate change. It is, in fact, a small alteration that needs to go hand in hand with keeping a watch on how the bag reached here in the first place, what you put in it, and how you reuse it.

It is high time we take inspiration from insightful humans like Sebastião and Lélia Salgado, the couple who took the responsibility of renewing an entire rainforest in Brazil. Their work destroys the misconception that is present in most of us; that a single individual cannot accomplish enough.

Youth organisations like Team Marine and companies like Banyan Nation from around the globe are taking a pledge to fight against plastic waste by organising open rallies and participatory projects to join in. We as consumers, have a major role in understanding and working against the fundamentally unethical system. In the end, we’ll need whatever little effort it takes to try and reverse at least a fraction of the wrongs done to our home.

We are rapidly approaching a day when merely reducing the amount of plastic we use just won’t be enough; we are rapidly approaching a day when the only solution won’t be just to cut down on plastic being used but to stop its usage altogether.

Whether we will reach such a day, however, rests in our hands. Every little thing we do, from using a reusable water bottle to littering the streets without a second thought, will prove to be pivotal in shaping the future of our planet. Today we stand at a crossroads; one of the paths could save the planet and the other inevitably resulting in its doom. If we wait till tomorrow, we may not even have that choice.

It’s about time to unite and fight against this synthetic nightmare by countering its move. For that, each and every one of us holds the power; to use our platforms into giving back to the Earth. It is indeed high time we use it wisely and effectively, in every tiny effort.

Written by Naintara Singh and Josephine Justin for MTTN

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