Going from country to country for various reasons including astrological precautions, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is in Brazil for the much-awaited Rio environmental summit where the issues discussed and consensus reached could make or break the future of the earth.
In Sri Lanka, global warming and environmental pollution caused mainly by the excessive emission of carbon dioxide from vehicles and factories are causing serious problems with 60% of the people in Colombo and other cities known to be suffering from various respiratory ailments.
Twenty years after the first Earth Summit in Rio a renewed bid to rally the world behind a common environmental blueprint has opened against a backdrop of discord and economic gloom. Unfortunately United States President Barrack Obama, facing a tough re-election bid in November, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be present at a time when the US and the EU are embroiled in an economic crisis and apparently believe the focus now should be on economic rather than environmental issues.
While Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel are apparently influenced by business giants who do not want restrictions on their production processes even if they cause pollution, Sri Lanka as a small island needs to focus more on environmental issues because if sea levels rise at the current rate we might lose a large portion of our coastline.
All Sri Lankans, beginning with political and other leaders, need to be aware that if we do not take preventive action now the consequences could be devastating. As a first step we all need to begin measuring our carbon footprints – that means how much are we contributing towards the pollution of the environment. Every time we use public transport instead of private transport, we help reduce environmental pollution. This applies to short trips and long trips. If people in the same neighbourhood work out some arrangement and go in one vehicle instead of three, we will be reducing environmental pollution. So when we use the good old bicycle or take a walk it is not only good for physical fitness but also for the environment.
World experts are predicting a major shortage of fuel and fresh water in the next decade. Therefore all of us, again beginning with political and other leaders, need to take practical and effective steps to save fuel and fresh water. As for fuel, we could cut down on non-essential trips and use public transport whenever possible. We need to also reduce electricity since most of the power comes from thermal generators. As for water, we could conserve it by reducing the time of our shower baths and get some advice on how to harvest rain water.
While world leaders debate big issues in Rio, all the people could take small steps to divert Mother Earth from plunging on the path to self–destruction.