OPINION

Saving Earth

World Environment Day offers an opportunity to raise public awareness and enhance political action on a critical issue. We need to realize that protecting the environment is a constant obligation for everyone, including international organizations, governments and ordinary citizens. There are many dimensions to the problem, but the common denominator is the accelerating destruction of nature – a catastrophe that has already started to take its toll. The situation is expected to get even more dramatic in the coming decades. The international community as a whole and individuals on a personal level have become psychologically addicted to the present and insist on turning a deaf ear to the warnings of specialists. The rise in average temperature on the surface of the planet is not some abstract scientific forecast that we can afford to ignore. It is a fact that reflects the most nightmarish scenarios about climate change on earth. Experts note that globally, the 10 warmest years in the past 130 have occurred after 1980. The situation allows no room for evasion. Yet governments have been dangerously inactive. What we see is a crime by omission. The taking of effective measures no doubt entails cost, but there is no alternative solution. What is at stake is our quality of life, if not life per se. The refusal of the United States, the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change is not just an act of national egoism. It is above all an act of delusion. Failure to take action until recently meant that we were bequeathing a dreadful nightmare to the next generation. Now we feel we are paying the price ourselves. Pressing governments to take swift and brave steps is a key obligation for every citizen – particularly those of the more advanced states, which happen to be the world’s biggest consumers and polluters. A switch to renewable energy sources is a diktat of common sense. This can also be seen in skyrocketing oil prices, which does not appear to be a passing trend. The environmental movements have pushed the issue onto the agenda, but the nature and the intensity of the problem demand social mobilization on a global scale. We must take action before it is too late. The battle to preserve the environment is not confined to the grand scale that we have just described, but it has to be fought on a personal level as well – especially in countries like Greece, where the problem of waste disposal has reached crisis proportions, with both the State and its citizens holding equal responsibility. To win this battle we must cultivate the ecological conscience of youth and sensitize adults. Schools and the media have a crucial role to play. Environmental degradation will only cease when we overcome apathy and narrow-minded individualism.