Friday, November 20, 2009

ZEITGEIST: Healing Mother Earth - What Women Can Do

By Padma Hassaram

Going green is the new mantra as humanity grapples with the most serious challenge to its continued existence. What can we, as women, do to save our environment?

In primitive times, women were the first environmentalists. Observing nature's growth processes, they harnessed this knowledge for agricultural practice. Since survival was precarious, natural resources were carefully husbanded. Waste was not an option. Now more than ever, it's time to hark back to those women of old, feel their respect and love for the earth and translate that feeling into action.

Catch 'em young

Small children are the most receptive to ideas - teach them early to think green:

· Get your toddler to turn off the tap while brushing his teeth and open it only for rinsing his mouth.
· A mug and one bucketful of water is all she needs for a bath. When your child learns to soap and wash herself, not only will she have saved several litres of water, she'll also have boosted her self-esteem.
· School craft project? A kitchen-towel cardboard holder becomes a kaleidoscope; an aluminium can becomes a colourful crayon holder. A paper soapbox morphs into a camera, an orphaned sock into a hand puppet. Strips of decorated cardboard make pretty picture frames. Fire your child's creativity, while instilling in her the lifelong habit of reusing materials.

Green kitchen

Adopting green practices in the kitchen will help save both the environment and your health.

· Why not bake cakes and cookies at home or have a go at jam making? Also, get yourself a juicer and make fresh fruit juice. When you buy these products form stores, you also pick up a whole lot of throwaway packaging. Besides, the products are also loaded with chemicals and preservatives - say no to them.

· Buy organic food products. Is there a local farmer's market? Support them in their enterprise. Organic is more expensive, we know. But saving the earth will be cheaper in the long run!

· Large-scale agriculture to feed animals is a wasteful, energy-gobbling enterprise. Dump the corned beef and go vegan with a vengeance. Experiment with new cuisines; surprise your family and friends with your newfound expertise, and do spread the word.

· Your kitchen cabinet can double up as an occasional medicine chest and cosmetic counter. Ginger-infused tea eases a sore throat; water of boiled cumin seeds helps indigestion. Chickpea flour makes a chemical-free facial scrub, while a mash of oatmeal, papaya, yoghurt and honey is an instant skin softener. The result: great skin, no trash!

Energy and Water

· Do an 'energy audit' of your home and put in fuel-and-power saving measures. Besides going in for big energy-savers like CFL bulbs or solar panels, the simplest acts - switching off lights and not leaving gadgets on standby power - can save enormous amounts of energy. Also, maximise the use of dishwashers and clothes washers by ensuring a full load.
· Is your home leak-proofed? Use low-flow toilet cisterns - a brick in the cistern will save even more water. Use water conservatively even when staying at a hotel.

Garden green

· Using mulch around plants helps them to retain moisture effectively.
· Watering plants early in the morning or late evening minimises evaporation.
· Create a vermicomposting pit. Wet garbage gets disposed of, and your plants get Grade-A, organic fertiliser for free.

Kudos to these ladies who have done their bit

Over the years, women around the world have contributed enormously to the growth of environmental consciousness and the urgent need to address those issues that threaten to destroy life on earth.

Rachel Carson, scientist and writer, authored Silent Spring, the book which jolted the world awake to the terrible impact of pesticides on environment. Every year, Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd, thanks to her seminal work.

Wangari Maathai's battle against deforestation in Kenya and her efforts to organize poor village women in reforestation, fighting soil erosion and pollution of water so as to achieve a sustainable livelihood, won her a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

There are others, unknown and unlettered women, who have battled against the degradation of their environment by powerful governments and corporates. The women of Minamata, Japan, who battled against mercury poisoning in their fishing village. The poor village women of Uttaranchal, India, who hugged trees to prevent their forests from being clear-felled by contractors, asserting their primary right to use forest produce sustainably...the list goes on.

Most of us are not activists. But we can all contribute in our own ways. Whether it's organizing carpools, choosing to walk, bike or use public transport and remembering to carry a cloth shopping bag to the grocery, there's no area in our lives where we cannot think green. You may start small, but remember, every little effort gives the earth a chance to heal.

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