June 5 is celebrated as the World Environment Day. It is on this day in 1972, that the first United Nations conference on the Human Environment began. This article is dedicated to the World Environment Day.
The volcano in Iceland which erupted recently, polluting the stratosphere to such an extent that all flights in that region had to be cancelled for several days.
Roger was a chemical engineer working in a large chemical factory situated on the bank of a river. He was a handsome lad in the mid twenties, deeply in love with Dorothy, a beautiful, effervescent computer specialist in an insurance company. Roger was proud of his position as project manager in the section where catalysts were prepared for a wide variety of uses. He was keen to impress upon Dorothy his responsibilities in the factory and show her round the plant.
Roger drove his large 2000 model Buick car, with Dorothy seated on his right. She noticed that the fuel meter on the dashboard was indicating a fast rate of consumption of fuel. She asked Roger, “Don’t you think your car is guzzling too much gas, which means that it is releasing a lot of carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe?”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart! The atmosphere is big enough to absorb this minute trace of carbon monoxide. No need to get alarmed”, replied Roger.
“I am thinking of the millions of Rogers who are releasing tons of carbon monoxide every second, honey!” said Dorothy, showing concern.. “This gas accumulates in the atmosphere and prevents the earth from radiating the heat it acquires from the sun during the day, resulting in the ‘greenhouse effect’. The average temperature of the surface increases, leading to global warming”.
“C’mmon, I’m feeling hungry. Let’s stop bothering about carbon monoxide and have something to eat”, said Roger, taking out a plastic bag containing sandwiches from the glove compartment. He gave one to Dorothy and began munching the other. As they crossed a bridge, he threw the empty bag into the river below.
“Oh, NO! Honey, you shouldn’t have thrown it into the river. Some fish will swallow it and choke to death”, said Dorothy, agitatedly.
“YOU women! You are simply incorrigible. You keep showing concern over little things which are totally irrelevant. Thousands of fishes die every second, being caught by fishermen, or eaten by a bigger fish and you are worried about one fish which eats this plastic bag”, retorted Roger angrily.
“Honey! You are misunderstanding me. I am thinking of the millions of Rogers who are throwing millions of plastic bags in the rivers. Millions of fishes swallow it and die. They keep rotting in the rivers and pollute the waters which are drunk by millions of people. Their health is affected and many children suffer from various deformities lifelong”, pleaded Dorothy, as calmly as possible.
Roger was beginning to loose his patience and said, tongue in check, “Sweetheart, let us not think about the millions of people all over the globe. Let us worry about ourselves only, at the moment”.
“You’re right, honey! That’s exactly what I am doing at the moment. Our fate is linked with the fates of the millions of others. If we can ensure that they live happily, so can we”, said Dorothy with a sweet smile.
Roger kept silent during the rest of the way to his factory. As they entered the gates, Dorothy noticed thick black smoke-like effluents billowing up from the tall chimneys, into the atmosphere. After parking his car, Roger gently guided her inside the plant where he worked. He explained to her the different stages of production. She was very perturbed on seeing how the waste materials were disposed off at each stage.
She could not help asking, “Honey, is it a common practice to dispose off the waste products into the river?”
“Yes, of course! The river provides a natural drainage system to carry these waste products into the sea”, he said.
“Oh, my God!” remarked Dorothy, alarmingly. “This single factory is causing pollution equivalent to millions of cars and plastic bags, every minute. The atmosphere has become dark with the thick black smoke and even the almighty sun is unable to pierce it with its light and lighten the dark. A non-smoker like me is forced to ‘smoke’ more than twenty cigarettes every day, endangering my health”.
Roger patted her caringly and said, “Sweetheart, don’t be such an alarmist! The atmosphere has tremendous scavenging properties. No matter how much pollutants are injected into it, the atmospheric processes keep it clean enough for us to breathe fresh air. Besides, why should you bother about global warming? It is good for us. We don’t have to wear bulky overcoats during winter”.
“You’re mistaken, honey. Global warming will reduce the volume of the glaciers that supply fresh water to the rivers. With lesser water in the rivers, life sustenance will become increasingly problematic. The Arctic and Antarctic ice caps will melt, raising the levels of the sea surface and submerging the coastal cities. A stage may come, when there will be a big question mark on our own survival.”, she replied.
Roger was amazed at Dorothy’s far-sightedness. He could not find any logic to disprove whatever she said. After spending the day in the factory, he silently drove her back to her residence. He wanted to offer her an apology for his contemptuous behavior.
Before he could say anything, Dorothy said in a plaintive voice, “Honey, I think our views are totally different from each other. You focus only on a small part of the world where you live. I believe in the saying, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, and focus on the whole world. This gives me a more precise idea of where my ‘part’ lies and can view it in the context of the whole. We can never get along together. I am canceling my date with you and hope you will take it in the right perspective”.
A forlorn Roger walked back slowly and soon the silhouette of his car disappeared into the night.