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It’s Embarrassing To Save The World!

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Are you wondering how to save the world and clear up all the mess that we’ve created for ourselves? Or are you just embarrassed to get your hands dirty? Check out this wannabe Eco-Girl’s story on saving the world.

An urban Indian woman’s perspective on the world of eco-awareness and saving the world. By Rhea Dongrell

save the world - how to save the world

How to save the world

I’m an all-Indian girl who’s ‘all that’.

I pay my taxes, even though I hate doing that. I drive a car that hasn’t been tested for emissions since a couple of years.

My tail pipe still looks a lot cleaner than those annoying auto-rickshaws that should be carrying a bumper sticker saying “I’m on the highway to hell, and I‘d love to take you with me”.

I love my city, it’s called the “Garden City” of India. It’s also called the “Pub City” (are you kidding me?!) though stick-brandishing pot-bellied policemen chase us out of clubs even before it’s time for Cinderella to get back home.

I shop and watch movies every weekend, and I party whenever I can, which is pretty much every other day.

Lately I’ve been watching quite a few shows talking about the environment, and I think the world is in a pretty sorry state. But then, really, what can we do about it? And even if I tried to do something, would I really be making a difference?

An initiative – How to save the world

Talking amongst some girlfriends the other night, with whom I hadn’t caught up for a while, I was surprised to discover a few budding recycling enthusiasts. They’re doing it all, from paper and boxes to plastic bags and glasses and bottles. None of them would buy an SUV, they claimed, even if they could afford one.

And they were all genuinely worried about the environmental problems we are storing up for the future. Also there was unanimous agreement that no one felt the government or local councils do enough to help. The more environmentally conscious were even in favor of enforced recycling.

I wondered if I’d ever spend a Sunday sorting out my brown papers from the whites, and my plastics from the glass. Nope, that is just too painfully time-consuming, and even if I did sell them at a raddiwala (local recyclers), how much could I get? Hardly a few tens of rupees, and that, I figured, could barely afford me a latte at the corner coffee shop. But I decided to give it a go.

Eco-Girl saves the world

So last Saturday, I spent half the day separating the different recyclable stuff I had, and dropping them into marked gunny bags, no plastics for me. A few hours later, I was all packed and ready. I loaded my back seat and the trunk with four heaving bags of litter and set off. It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t know one place to dump my recyclable bags. I made a few calls and made it to a small shack on the roadside, filled with plastic bottles and newspapers.

I had to lug the bags out one by one, under the hot sun, while all the people walking around just stared at me. And to make things worse, one of my bags opened up and the contents spilled everywhere. It took me a few tearful minutes to collect all of them and pile them together. On the way back, I was richer by sixty rupees, had driven almost twenty kilometers to and fro, and had been embarrassed red, in front of all those people.

I’m all for saving the world, but then, I don’t want to be one of the few lone rangers fighting to save this world.

Yep, I’m into crusades and saving-the-world movies, but in reality, those things are quite farfetched. It’s not like I haven’t tried cleaning my city, just the other day I told my boyfriend to stop littering the streets by chucking gum-wrappers on the street. But within myself, I realized that we aren’t in perfect-land, and it was a better idea to just throw the wrapper on the pavement rather than have an uncomfortable bump of wrapper paper bulging out of a pocket.

How to save the world and its miseries

I walked into a store selling handbags a few days ago. I walked straight towards the jute bag collection (I was in Eco-Girl mode) but what they had was quite sad and boring.

And right there, on the other side of the shop was a beautiful leather bag that resembled something close to snake-skin. I didn’t bother to check it out, not when I’m Eco-Girl, until another girl walked in and picked that bag right in front of my eyes. It was beautiful, and a blasted bargain! I was quite furious about having lost a good bag, even though I had no intentions of picking it up.

I headed back to M.G. Road, and a few steps later, I saw this loser of a guy chucking an empty can of diet coke on the pavement. Out of frustration with my failing Eco-Girl enthusiasm, I walked right up to him and told him off for dirtying the streets and destroying the place up. He just looked at me, mumbled a quick ‘sorry’ and walked away.

I looked all around me, and everyone had just stopped in their tracks. There was no applause or appreciation, just a few sniggers and chatter. I could even hear an annoying girl say something like “gosh, what an idiot!” I felt stupid again, but I was Ego-Girl. I picked up his disgusting saliva laden can of dripping coke.  I decided to walk on with the empty can and chuck it in a bin, to show these people what being eco-friendly was all about. But by some unfortunate luck of mine, I didn’t come across a garbage bin for almost the entire stretch of a good few hundred meters.

I felt disgusted for holding a can of some fool’s coke, and I was really embarrassed because the people who were at the scene were walking close by me. Finally, after a lot of anxious anticipation and sweating relief, I found a bin and promptly threw the can into it. My shopping excursion was over, my pride was hurt, and my ego was severely bruised. How much more could I put up with, to save our world? And damn, no one else seemed to think I was doing something worthwhile!

The wake up call to save the world

But everything changed this afternoon, as I walked into a food court in a mall to grab a quick lunch. There I was, just sitting there and looking around, when I saw this cute guy walking towards the exit with an ice cream cone in his hand. I’m not sure how it happened, but his ice cream slipped out of his hands and fell on the floor.

He instantly picked it up, and walked straight to the garbage bin. I really hadn’t seen too many people do that. I mean, the malls do have their own cleaning staff, don’t they?! But what surprised me even more was the sight of the same guy walking back to the same spot where his ice cream had fallen, with a bunch of tissue papers. An instant later, he actually went on his knees and wiped the little bit of mess on the ground and threw the tissue into the bin.

Everyone around were just looking at him dumbfounded, but he didn’t seem to think he was doing something strange.

Believe me, I would have known if he would have blushed with embarrassment. He just smiled at no one in particular and walked out. Now that man was something, wasn’t he? I would have been so embarrassed to do anything remotely close to what he did. That man had taught me a lesson, with his fallen ice cream cone.

A lesson on saving the world

“There’s no need to be embarrassed about anything when you’re doing the right thing”

And that’s what the problem is with most people I’ve met. And that’s the problem with me. I want to appear ‘cool’ all the time. People do want to make a difference, but just like me, they don’t want to embarrass themselves. It is embarrassing to do something uncool like throwing garbage into a bin (we still prefer to throw it just outside the perimeter of the garbage bin), or keep the environment clean and green. Even if we know we’re at a crucial stage of the eco-system, we don’t want to do something that would make us look more vulnerable.

I know for a fact that I wouldn’t mind cleaning a street if it would help Mother Nature, but if I had to do it, I’d rather do it when no one’s looking, or perhaps when there are no ‘cool’ people around, so I wouldn’t appear less cool.

But now when I think of it, I wonder what really is cool and what really is uncool. How can we say it’s cool to dirty our city streets and dispose all the papers and garbage in one bag, and chuck it at a street corner? The ice cream cone incident taught me to love myself. If I knew that I was doing the right thing, then I wouldn’t be embarrassed to do it.

After all, isn’t this planet our home? Or would we be embarrassed to wipe a spot of ice cream if it had fallen on the floor of our own homes?

I realized that I’ve always wanted to help the environment, and I’ve felt a pang of guilt each time I dirty my street or dispose the garbage at the wrong place. Somewhere deep within me, I admire all the people who believe in cleaning the world up, even if we have to dirty our own hands just a bit. I wish I could do it, but now I know I can. It is a new Green Revolution, isn’t it? I’ve heard that even celebrities I adore throw their own garbage, and do their bit to save the world. So why can’t I?

How to save the world – Be the difference

I may appear uncool to a few ignorant dumb people, but I know with all my heart that the ones who know about the crisis in the world would appreciate my gesture, and may even start following my lead.

Just like how I followed the lead of the man in the mall. I guess a revolution doesn’t start with a billion followers all at once, it starts with an idea and one person. I could be that person in my city, and I think I could change my country.

I don’t have to be Al Gore, I just need to be me, and I just need to believe in the idea that our world can be a better place. I may be fighting a losing battle, but I do have a mad hope that, even we Indians can learn a lesson and make a difference to our green planet.

If I can change my city, in my own little ways, and start a chain reaction of better eco-awareness, why can’t we all do the same? Why can’t you? Cool is only as cool as what you feel within.

And today I’ve realised that there’s no person on the face of this planet who is cooler than a person who is concerned about the dying eco-system and the failing environment. I will start a revolution in my city, but what about you? Would you pick up a piece of litter and throw it into the bin? Would you be willing to risk your ‘coolness’ to start a chain reaction and a new revolution towards a greener Earth?

Or would you just warm yourself up with a fur overcoat and sit by the window and watch the pretty picture of the world rotting away? It’s your call.

It may be embarrassing to save the world now. The Wright brothers must have looked like idiots running down a hill trying to fly a plane. People laughed at them. People may laugh at you. But if you really want to know how to save the world, take the first step.

You already know how to save the world, don’t you? Or are you still embarrassed?


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Have your say!
  • M
    September 2, 2013 | Permalink |

    Rhea, more people ought to learn to treat every place like their homes (assuming they don’t litter in their homes). :) If you’re interested in saving the environment, also consider being vegan (or vegetarian) part time or full time. You could join the Vegan Bangalore group on FB for information and getting together with others.

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