Even over the phone line, the passion in Juhi’s voice is palpable as she insists that Earth Day is a reminder and realisation that we simply cannot carry on with our lives, the way we are doing right now. “The way we are treating this planet mindlessly, we are just hurtling towards disaster,” she warns, adding that just one day is not enough to think about the planet we call home. “Even 365 days of the year are not enough; every minute that we breathe this air, drink the water it provides us with, and eat the food that grows in its soil, we should remember that we depend on this planet. Earth can do without us but we cannot do without it. We need every day to be Earth Day,” she asserts.
Pointing out the need to inculcate values of environmental preservation early on in life, the actress goes on to add that it should be the first subject to be taught in schools; everything else can be secondary. “Our modern-day education is a crime against humanity; it is responsible for the mess that the planet is in today. The most important and valuable lessons are not taught to children. Even if there is a subject called Environmental Studies, it is just a lesson that needs to be memorised, and a project that needs a tick mark for grades. Children have never felt how they are connected to Earth, their dependency on the planet, and the circle of life. They know it in theory but they have never felt it. If they did they would learn to treat the planet better,” she reasons.
So what does she see as a solution to this? “Our education system needs to be scrapped and revamped from the ground up. The Indian way of educating children needs to be brought back. The gurukul system of learning where children would learn about yoga, pranayam, sanskrit, ayurveda, Indian arts, and culture–which are far richer methods of learning than textbooks, exam, junk information that we feed the children with, in the modern education system–needs to be brought back,” urges the actress, suggesting the need to look back in order to create a secure future for children. “If we look back to our roots, we were a zero-waste, eco-friendly society. We have to reflect on the wisdom of our forefathers, and see how they did things and why did they do it so, if we want to ensure a better future for our kids. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. We shouldn’t make changes because articles are being written about how preserving the environment is important or because someone else is doing it; we should think of what we are leaving for our children. They can build their own lives but if we pollute the air, water, and land, what are they going to breathe, drink, and eat? We need to wake up,” she cautions sternly.
The actress, who tends to her organic farms herself, has noticed several significant changes in the environment over the last year. “If there were any positives in the lockdown, it was the environmental changes it brought about. Within just a few days of human activity stopping, nature came alive in its full glory. We saw videos of whales and dolphins just off the coast of Mumbai, peacocks visited the city, and monkeys took over (laughs). I personally noticed how clean the air was; I had not breathed such clean air in Mumbai all my life! I live in Malabar Hill and I could see every window of the buildings in Nariman Point clearly from here. The skies were bluer, my garden greener, there were so many birds and butterflies and squirrels; it was joyous!” she exults, adding, “I wish we would have voluntary periodic lockdowns in our life–a week in a month, or a month in every six months. The world will be a better place for it”.
While her idea might take some time to be implemented, she insists that there are several little things we all can do to bring about a change. “I started very early, so now it’s a habit to turn off lights, fans, air conditioners whenever I leave a room. We have recently started using 100 per cent recycled paper tissues and toilet rolls which makes me very happy because imagine cutting down beautiful trees to make toilet paper! We have also started using eco-friendly detergent, soaps, shampoos, makeup. For skincare, I use ingredients straight out of my kitchen like almond oil, coconut oil, lemon, honey, lemon, sugar, tomatoes, yogurt; this way I have cut down on buying 90 per cent of skincare products. And I avoid plastic completely. Though sadly, last year, with home-deliveries, a lot of plastic started entering our house which made me really sad,” rues the actress, adding that she now pledges trees as gifts on birthdays or celebratory occasions, instead of sending flowers. “It gives me an impetus to plant more trees; I have planted a few thousand trees this way in the last two years,” she concludes.