Sri Lanka is often advertised as a nation of smiling people, too cool to be bothered by the stress and strife of modern life, blithely relaxing under coconut trees just waiting to chuck up what they're doing to go bum around at the beach. Our chillingly high suicide rate, increased rape and abuse statistics seem to go against that fiction, but except for all the people trying to kill themselves and/or assault others, we're a "happy-go-lucky" bunch apparently.
This does not necessarily translate well in real life situations; in fact, it more often than not comes across as extreme apathy.
Take for example my work place. As some of you know, I work in the sustainable energy field, and my main job is to make sure we save
Yet, I am constantly surprised at our neglect for the environment, and our flippant attitude towards most things environmentally related. Any form of communication regarding saving energy, recycling, global warming, water and land pollution is met with a sort of glazed over look, a few nods, an empathetic sigh and a swift change of subject. Either that or enthusiastic agreement, followed by nothing.
I admit I was often part of the latter, until very recently. I never fully realised the dire situation our planet and especially our country were facing regarding the energy and environmental crisis until I started working here in this capacity. Did you know we were once almost 85% dependent on hydroelectricity, and now that percentage is closer to 50%? The rest we are now generating in our faulty Chinese coal plants. As a result, the universally cursed CEB is selling us electricity at a massive loss every single year. The demand for electricity in our country has gone up steadily over the last 7 years, with no signs of slowing down. Let's talk about garbage then; did you know that despite laws in place that clinical and hazardous waste be segregated by hospitals and relevant industries before disposal, these bags all wind up in the same land dump anyway? We neatly segregated the poisonous materials at our work place, only to have the authorities lump it together in their tractors and thrown in the same sites, eventually seeping into our water table. Did you also know that a majority of Colombo was actually marsh land? Yes, this marsh land was simply filled up and built on, which is one of the main reasons why so many areas of Colombo flood at the mere hint of rain, because the soil is just not suited for normal drainage.
Enough lectures; a lot of these issues are beyond the control of you and I, yet there is a difference between knowing these facts and actually doing something about it. I was extremely proud of, and motivated by, T when she wrote her blog posts on the tree cutting fiasco near her workplace, because despite there being so many hoops to jump through for her to get even a clue as to what was happening, she still did whatever was in her power to do. That's the kind of attitude that we need to inculcate on a larger scale.
Luckily at home my parents are somewhat energy conscious; we have a solar water heater, we've been composting for more than 17 years, and our outside lights are switched off by 730pm. My mom has set herself a monthly target bill amount for the house electricity, and is trying her best to attain it. Long distance trips are scheduled to coincide with some of the office work, so that we don't need to waste fuel with two vehicles. The list goes on, and as you can see, the list is not filled with anything very complicated.
Yet, when it comes to other people's resources and costs, our already disturbing apathy goes into overdrive. I stayed in a common housing while at work for a while, and I was constantly surprised at how often people would just leave the TV on and leave the room Once I came back after a late dinner to find everyone in the house asleep, but the TV still on full volume. Then there's the iron that gets left on for hours. The fridge door that isn't closed properly. The taps which are left open.
After raising these points with my fellow tenants whenever I could, they slowly began to cut down on a few infringements, if only to avoid me throwing a tantrum. Still I find it hard to believe that anyone that isn't from an extremely spoiled and affluent background can't fathom the costs (both financial and environmental) that their carelessness incurs. But make no mistake: this isn't restricted to our employees. Even our environmental awareness programmes that we hold in the local schools get little or no support from the staff, simply because they feel that if you're not being 'tested' on it, it isn't worth learning. With that kind of attitude, I suppose it's no wonder my peers look at me in bewilderment as I knock off unnecessary lights while staring daggers at them.
Bottom line: while we push forward with all the development in our
country capital, it's important to remember how fleeting our reserves of natural resources are. Mindless landfilling and constructions are not going to make us more eco-friendly. It seems that the UDA, in all its wisdom, has confused environmental 'cleanliness' with mere the more cosmetic definition of it. If the people in power can't seem to understand the difference between planting trees and painting buildings green, then it paints a rather grim picture of all our futures. So take a stand; push for better practices in your workplace and homes, your schools and colleges. Don't be the guy that reasoned that the TV would eventually switch itself off if you just stopped looking at it.