1st Prize High School Category, "Making a Difference" Essay Contest, 2011
By Akrish Adhikari
February 7, 2012
Akrish Adhikari, 16, is a student at Rato Bangala School in Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur, Nepal. He is from Kathmandu, Nepal.
Essay Question: What does sustainability mean to you?
"Sustainability" is a word that has echoed in my home for as long as I can remember, not by repetition but by practice. Living in Nepal, and having an average income, my family has never allowed any waste of resources, be it food or even something as diminutive as an A4 size paper. Although, perhaps, one may point out that income had something to do with that, but even after my family's income did rise (not because of inflation), waste of resources was condemned. My family has, by making sustainability so deeply rooted in my endeavors, instilled in me a type of purity when it comes to careful use of resources. Now, that has burgeoned to much more: I don't like to see anyone waste anything, as I know that our world is limited in its means, and by carefully judging my use of resources as well as that of people around me, I believe that my small efforts will make a difference to ensure sustainability.
Although "sustainable use" is largely associated with protecting resources for our future generations, my family's purpose is simply to protect resources for us—but inadvertently, that does help to protect a prolific future for the next generation. I can't even think of shredding a piece of paper without thinking of recycling. I mean, why waste if it can be reused? This thinking, this somewhat inherent feeling, I have realized, can indeed make a difference: my need for resources, in this case paper, decreases. I think to myself at times, what if everyone in my society had this urge to save? What if my town had this urge? How less would be wasted! In turn, companies would definitely be cutting fewer trees because people won't buy as much paper, and that's one step towards sustainability! And only if, everyone in this planet were to feel that way, then, then would we not have to worry about sustainable use of trees—because that would be already be in practice.
Unfortunately, though, most humans are selfish, and unless they become impoverished or are truly driven by a will to change, they won't help this world become more sustainable. There's rarely one day that I don't see people littering around USABLE paper, and when I tell them "Hey! Don't throw that!," they mock me and dispose it. My friends though, understand, and although they are not driven by will, they are driven by me, and dismiss thoughts like "burning away a book after getting into college" immediately, as they know that wasting is "bad." People generally don't care about what their efforts can change unless it provides merit for themselves—perhaps an award for efforts for conservation? And neither do they care about carefully using the resources they possess, as hey, they know that they can just buy more of whatever it is that they waste… It's kind of sad, really, to see so much recyclable waste! Waste that could have changed the future had it been handled properly! But no, if people have ample income, why would they care about stuff they buy? If damaged, they can just go buy more. I simply hate that flaw in those people's thinking and seriously think supply should be controlled and significantly decreased by environmental/sustainability organizations; only then would the people understand what it is like not to have resources! Yeah, that's exactly what is going to happen in the future if we don't start NOW!
Although lack of will to provide for a sustainable future deters most people's efforts in making a difference, as it is only our inherent, concealed barbaric nature to think about the present rather than the future, it should not impede compassion—compassion for those who could even do with our waste, that is. In the villages of Nepal, and basically the whole of South Asia, there are people who go to bed hungry every night. But some of us, even realizing that, waste food, for example. Don't we have the empathy to think about them, them people? Why doesn't that drive us towards sustainability? Wasting less food means buying less food. That means there is an excess of unsold food on the market. So, naturally, those foodstuffs' prices go lower, and farmers stop producing too much. So in turn, the cheaper food becomes boon for those destitute people living in the villages, and less of our forests are turned into agricultural land. Empathy itself drives us to sustainability, but unless the knowledge of the existence of the hungry and the poor is repeatedly brought into light to people, I don't know how their sympathy can be brought out to make a change. I have to remind everyone around me wasting food time and again of the people going hungry in their own country's villages before they think about what they're doing. I certainly do believe that sustainability can be maintained through calling to the compassionate side of humans.
As it is apparent, for me, perhaps, conservation of trees is more important that conservation of other resources, like petroleum products, for example. Although crude oil is running out, and so is coal, their depletion wouldn't hurt us as much as would the deforestation of the world: as companies have already started to devise economical electrical and hydrogen cars (at least as prototypes), I'm not that concerned about the future of the world's industries that rely on crude oil; however, if all our trees were to go, then that would invite some big trouble—who will supply the planet with enough oxygen? Nuclear fusion is slowly being harnessed to provide the world with enough energy through very, very little water, and very soon our dependence on coal and petroleum products will be gone. But the trees cannot be replaced— they need to exist as amply as possible in numbers, as their uses have no substitutes: ranging from providing materials for producing paper to supplying us with oxygen, is it really even in question to destroy our forests to meet our demands as quick as possible? No, it isn't. If the human race is to survive, we need to make quite a few strides to protect our trees: even little efforts like printing on both sides of paper and recycling newspaper help, and if that can prolong the existence of our descendants, isn't it worth it? It becomes a stride when all of us, globally make these efforts. But what shouldn't be forgotten is that our smallest of efforts does, actually, make a difference.
I make a difference everyday by conserving paper and food. What about you?