How do you want to shape your planet?

Bhaskar Lall

One small step by humankind, one giant leap for the sustainability of our planet! While Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon more than five decades ago, we are yet to find new civilisations across the solar system or beyond. So the planet remains our only home for now and for the foreseeable future! Therefore, none of us can ever overstate the focus and action centred around conservation and sustainability activities.

Initiated as a symbolic gesture of sustainability by conserving electricity for an hour from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM, Earth Hour has evolved globally into much more. It has become an event that centres on many actions that go a long way in taking the concept much deeper. What started as a 'switch-off the lights' campaign in 2007 has evolved into a global movement linked to different dimensions of climate change. In the early days of observing Earth Hour in India, my primary school-going child was encouraged by us to go door to door in our neighbourhood, handing out candles to the residents with a message to switch off the lights during Earth Hour. His initiation to this thought was through his participation in a very simple way- but it did ingrain the concept in him and importance of sustainability rather deeply.

Through the Environment Clubs in educational institutions, students spread awareness about the critical need for sustainability and conservation, starting with their homes, amongst their family members. An association with the world of conservation through an internship or volunteering activities would inspire students. To gain first-hand knowledge of conservation activities while doing an internship mandatory in high school and professional colleges would draw multiple benefits. It may well lead to a meaningful career towards protecting planet earth too!

Academia and the youth are vital components of 'People Action' in the UN Secretary General's call for the decade of 2020s to be a 'Decade of Action' to achieve the planned Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

All eyes are on today's young adults, especially those who are in the 18 to 30 age range, to take this agenda forward. This 'Decade of Action' till 2030, to a large extent, also rests on the shoulders of this young brigade, who will be the green torchbearers through this crucial period.

On embarking on their professional careers, the young adults would then spread the message of the importance of sustainability within the organisation and contribute towards the organisation's ESG goals. All significant corporations today have a Sustainability division / Corporate Social Responsibility team. So, either by choosing to go into this specific professional field or even while in other professions, conservation can remain close to their heart and action.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) under the aegis of UNESCO stems from the need for education to address the growing sustainability challenges. Linking it to sustainable development goals for 2030 is an essential step for the 'Decade of Action' with attention focused on each learner's transformation process and how it will happen.

Educators' role in spreading awareness about conservation and sustainability is enormous. Building it into the school curriculum could be a structured method to impart knowledge and awareness on nature conservation. For example, the insight in the classroom highlighting how multiple screens (phone, tablet, laptop, TV) that kids use these days for long hours also increase emissions would go a long way in reducing screen time, resulting in multiple benefits.

Let Earth Hour be the start of a year of engaging more holistically with our planet- and actively being young ambassadors for protecting and nurturing it.