A time for reckoning

Monday Musing

[ Karyir Riba ]

The last few days of July and the beginning of August were so unbearably hot this year. The extreme heat and hating that we received from Mother Nature got me wondering if we humans are ready to bear the brunt of our own follies. Crossed our limits we already have.

As it is, the pandemic that has now existed for way more than a year has all of our minds boggled, and to add to the injury, the weather has been acting funny – funnier than the past year and the year before that.

While we receive the heaviest rainfalls in the months of July and August, this year it seems as though the monsoon clouds have lost their way to the land of the rising sun. Ask any farmer and they will tell you how the lack of rain has affected their farming and cultivation this year.

My friends and I were discussing the killer weather the other day, and one of them reminded us that she remembers vaguely that people used to wear warm clothing in August. She said she remembers because she has memories of herself wearing a sweater to her school’s Independence Day celebration on 15 August. This was something about more than two decades ago.

Although my memory doesn’t go back that far, I can very clearly remember that some 8-9 years back, winter started by the month of October, and November meant coats and jackets. However, if you observe the weather trend of the past few years, November is not that cold to pull out your jackets.

The winter season has become so short that the months that are truly cold lately have been squeezed to just the later parts of December and January.

If we take into account what was faced by Texas and Canada in the earlier part of 2021, we can anticipate that, if we do not change our habits now, the next pandemic-like situation that human beings are going to face is not going to be another virus.

In February 2021, Texas found itself in the midst of a rare and brutal blast of winter weather, with temperatures plunging below freezing levels. The extreme cold weather that lasted for a week there caused power outage and frigid conditions for residents, who are not accustomed to such cold conditions. Reportedly, nearly 200 people lost their lives to the natural disaster.

At the end of June 2021, Canada was hit by a record-breaking heat wave, with temperatures soaring up to 49.6 degrees Celsius, baking and scorching residents with the unprecedented heat for days. Again, this natural disaster left more than 500 people dead, as per reports.

But were these two disasters truly natural, or were they human-induced disasters?

Well, experts believe that these would be virtually impossible without human-caused global warming and climate change.

Now, let’s try to understand what is making the climate go crazy like this, not by using big technical terms but from a common man’s perspective. For that, we will first have to look at the definitions of global warming and climate change:

Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.

Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. The cause of the current climate change is largely human activity, like burning fossil fuels like natural gas, oil, and coal. Burning these materials releases what are called greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere.

So, as we can see, human activities are indeed what is causing the health of Mother Earth to deteriorate. If only humans could take the crazy weather episodes of Texas and Canada as a global warning and would stop influencing the climate as we do. Moreover, scientists worry that global heating, largely as a result of burning fossil fuels, is now driving up temperatures faster than models predict.

We cannot depend upon and wait for the big shots to make environment-saving decisions for us. After all, the people who are responsible for making laws and passing bills do so from their temperature controlled rooms, don’t they? And when you have a prime minister who chooses to call climate change a myth and gives statements like “there is no climate change; we feel hotter or colder because of changes in our tolerance level caused due to ageing,” we sure know that its past the time to take matters into our own hands.

Let’s have a look at what we can do as inhabitants of the Earth to protect it from further damage, and to keep it safe and sound for our children, for our future generation.

There are so many things that can be done to protect the environment. Many simple habits that we can either imbibe or give up can play huge roles in playing our part in saving our environment.

The first and foremost thing that we can do is to follow the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce means to cut back on the amount of trash we generate; reuse means to find new ways to use things that otherwise would have been thrown out; and recycle means to turn something old and useless into something new and useful.

Simple habits like conserving water and energy, using chemical-free or non-toxic chemicals in our homes and offices, and using organic fertilizers for our gardens and farms can minimize harming the environment in a huge way. Grow your own food and buy local produce, decrease your meat consumption, burn less fuel by walking, biking or carpooling, stop buying plastic products. Use reusable bags instead of plastic bags. If you cannot say no to plastic bags, start reusing them instead of throwing them out. Plastic is one of the biggest contributors to global warming and climate change.

Plant more trees and stop deforestation at every level. When you plant a tree, don’t just plant it for the sake of taking pictures, but ensure that you nurture it till it thrives. Trees contribute to the environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, storing carbon, removing carbon dioxide from the air, conserving water, preserving soil, supporting wildlife and lowering air temperature.

It is very important to educate and create awareness about environment care amongst your family and friends. Children should be taught young to respect nature and the environment.

These are a few simple habits that we can inculcate in our daily lives to make a huge impact on saving the environment from further damage.

As I mentioned earlier, waiting for the government to take stringent actions to curb global warming and climate change at this hour will be foolishness on our part. Glaciers are melting, rivers are drying up, wildfires are occurring, climate change is happening, all at alarming rates. Human activities are at the root of this entire phenomenon, and it is high time we pull up our socks and work towards undoing the ruckus we have created in the name of development.

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then we will realize that one cannot eat money.” – Native American saying.