Crime by omission

World Environment Day, as is usually the case with similar anniversaries, is nothing but an opportunity to rouse people’s concerns and sensitivities. Protecting the environment is a daily obligation for those from all levels of society – from international organizations and governments to every single individual. The problem itself is a multidimensional one. The common denominator is the destruction of nature, which has already started to take revenge on us. In reality, we still have not grasped all the dimensions of the issue. The rise in world temperatures is not a scientific forecast; it’s a fact that preludes the most nightmarish scenarios for the climatic evolution of our planet. According to scientists, the 10 warmest years of the last 130 years are all in the post-1980 period. Scientists’ warnings leave no room for evasion. Still, governments remain inert. More precisely, they are guilty of crime by omission. Introducing effective measures, no doubt, entails a high cost. But there is no other solution, for what is really at stake here is the quality of life – if not life itself. The refusal of the United States, the world’s richest country, to sign the Kyoto protocol is not merely an act of unbearable national egoism. In the final analysis it is an act of utter delusion. Until recently, our tardiness in dealing with the matter meant that we were bequeathing a nightmare to the next generations. Now, we are beginning to pay the price ourselves. Pressing governments to step up their efforts and take more courageous action is a must for every individual, and in particular, it is a must for citizens of the developed states who have greater responsibility for the waste of natural resources and pollution. Ecological movements have played an important role, but the nature and size of the problem necessitate greater social solidarity. It would be disastrous to wait for an environmental catastrophe before we push for radical measures. The struggle for protection of the environment should not be limited to the general level described above. Everyday struggle at the individual level is of fundamental importance as well. This war can only be won by cultivating the ecological conscience of young people and the sensitivity of adults. School has an essential mission to perform, as does the media. Environmental degradation will only be brought to a halt if we overcome our carelessness and mindless individualism.