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How much impact can one committed person make? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Varun Venkataraman, final-year student of B.Tech. (Mechanical Engineering) at Amrita’s Coimbatore campus initiated various programs for Earth Hour 2012, receiving tremendous response.

Read on, as he shares his experiences with us.

It all started with an idea to convey a strong message to address the critical issue of climate change. On March 31, 2007, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and the Sydney Herald conducted the first Earth Hour program in Sydney where around 2.2 million people voluntarily turned off their lights for an hour from 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm as a symbol of their stand against climate change.

What started out as a one-city event soon became a global movement. Last year, 135 countries and 5251 cities and towns participated. In India, the movement began in Mumbai in 2009 with Aamir Khan being the ambassador.

I have been following Earth Hour from 2010 on but have been a part of the event only as an individual with the message spreading from me to my family and a couple of friends. This year, in mid-March it occurred to me that Earth Hour was just two weeks away and I wondered why we could not observe it in a big way at Amrita.

The objective of Earth Hour is not to remain bereft of electrical power for an hour every year; rather it is an act that can initiate changes in the lifestyles of people. A strong belief of the movement is that every individual has the power to foster change. However insignificant it may seem, our collective action is bound to make a difference for the better.

Keeping this in mind and having a strong belief that such an event would enhance Amrita’s commitment to environmental conservation and social welfare, I proposed that Earth Hour 2012 be observed at our institution.

I am proud to inform that it was a great success. About 1000 students participated and many others did the best they could to power down non-essential lighting during the symbolic time period.

Here is what we did to make it happen.

We wanted to involve students, teaching and non-teaching staff from all disciplines of study in the institution. We also wanted to include workers as this was a community based event. Around 30 of us, student volunteers from various batches and departments came together to do this.

Wide publicity was given through posters, 80% of which were printed on single-side-used paper. Door-to-door campaigning in the hostels and staff quarters brought awareness of what Earth Hour was and what it stood for. We advocated the saving of both electricity and water whenever and wherever possible. The goal was to make everyone understand that their day-to-day savings would add up to make a meaningful difference.

People were requested to turn off all non-essential electrical appliances from 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm and especially lights on March 31 to support the cause with this symbolic gesture. Short videos were screened in the hostel mess halls so students understood the gravity of the issue.

On March 29, a paper bag making workshop was conducted wherein 35 participants including students, faculty and staff members and wardens learnt to make paper bags from three sheets of newspaper.

Finally the day arrived. March 31, 2012. When it turned evening, the campus was very dimly lit. We had a program in Amriteshwari Hall, which was filled to capacity. In keeping with the spirit of the day, the air conditioners in the hall were not in use and the lighting and sound system usage was kept to an optimum minimal.

The program began with a skit performed by students of the Department of Social Work highlighting that water is a precious resource and must be used with great care. The program continued when honored guests including members from WWF-India, Salim Ali Center for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Center for Environmental Education (CEE) and Society for Animals and Forest Environmental Trust (SAFE, Pollachi) addressed the audience.

Dr. Maya Mahajan, Senior Coordinator, Western Ghats Program, WWF-India, spoke about the significance of Earth Hour, underlining how global warming now is an undeniable reality. Mr. Joshua Jacob from the Center for Environmental Education sang two Tamil songs; the lyrics called out to protect nature, recycle waste and preserve precious natural resources.

Dr. Goldin Quadros, Senior Scientist, SACON joined Dr. Mahajan in conducting an interactive quiz session, giving away WWF posters and badges as gifts to students who answered correctly. The audience was very lively and participative.

“The future is in your hands; your individual actions will add up to save the environment and keep our future secure,” Dr. Goldin told the students, in conclusion.

It was with great pleasure that I presented the vote of thanks. Professor Aravindakshan of Center for Environmental Sciences gave away mementos to our guests as a token of appreciation.

I am proud to say that our campus was one among the first in this region to participate in this global movement. Amrita is a leader in this aspect, as it is in many others. I must confess that it is the greenery in this campus that inspired me and made me develop a love for Mother Nature. I have decided to pursue my career in this area and do all that is necessary to spread the message of environmental protection.

I want to do all I can to establish a strong and environmentally-conscious student base at our institution before I pass out and uphold Amma’s teachings of love for all beings long after I do. I thank Amma for providing us with such a wonderful green campus as a place for learning.

April 10, 2012
Coimbatore Campus

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