Climate change is a global emergency that is causing mayhem across the board. But, we still have a chance to make a difference, provided that we start today...
People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth - how dare you!” reprimanded 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, calling out world leaders for their apathy towards climate change at the 2019 UN climate action summit in New York. “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you are doing enough when the politics and the solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.... You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.... The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”
Not long ago, the world watched in horror as images of the Amazon rainforest fires started circulating on social media and the conventional news during August. Dubbed as the ‘lungs of the world’, the Amazon rainforest spans over 1.7 billion acres with about three million different species of plant and animal - one in 10 of all the species in the world - living in its ecosystem. The rainforest also plays a major role in regulating the Earth’s climate and is thought to provide 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen. In light of this, scientists haven’t fully predicted the effects of the fires, but they do know that the fires will undoubtedly result in a profound transformation in the soil and the environment.
While forest fires can start on their own, these were started on-purpose to clear land for agriculture. Yet, when there was uproar from the indigenous people (and the world) to protect the rainforest, the Brazilian government and certain media outlets brushed it off as a ‘no big deal’.
The crisis was still afresh when footage from the Indonesian island of Sumatra started making rounds on the internet two weeks ago. The amateur video displayed the sky enveloped in a toxic red haze as hundreds of hectares of virgin rainforest were burned to the ground. The Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency reportedly claimed that almost one million people were suffering from acute respiratory infections caused by the haze and forest fires. So far, nothing plausible is said by the authorities in this regard.
However, the ignorance doesn’t stop here. Unfortunately, environmental issues are not given much room in our conversations politically. These issues are discussed in the same lane as some mythical creatures and people who take this crisis seriously are considered fools. Even though, we have seen and continue to witness the undeniable effects of climate change in our own country. There is a shift in the weather patterns across Pakistan, with summers getting hotter than usual and the temperatures dropping further each winter. Thousands of lives have been claimed by the Karachi heat waves and the air quality in Pakistan has reached unhealthy to dangerous levels. Specifically in Punjab, Lahore has seen frequent smog that is gravely impacting people’s health. The frequent thunderstorms in the Arabian Sea also pose a threat every now and then in the southern region, along with the excessive deforestation that is causing landslides in the north.
Fortunately, the civil society, especially the youth, is starting to realise the gravity of the problem and are raising awareness regarding this. On Friday, 20th September, millions of people across the world participated in the biggest climate protest in history. The people demonstrated the need for urgent action to tackle global warming. In Pakistan, the demonstrations were organised by Climate Action Now and held in more than 26 cities including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Mardan, Mithi, Thatta, Kasur, Kotli, Chagai, Killa Abdullah, Peshawar, Chitral, Gilgit, etc. “In my time, people used to talk about global warming and climate change wasn’t a term invented. Today, climate change is right upon our heads. This is our Earth, yours and mine. The blood that flows in its veins is water and its lungs are the trees. Our Earth and the atmosphere are sick. Now that you have stood up against the governments and are telling them to ‘Stop’ and that ‘it’s enough’, I am glad. I’m there to help and support you. Now it’s your time, the next 40 years are yours,” exclaimed horticulturalist Tofiq Pasha Mooraj at the Karachi March.
According to reports, we have to bring global carbon emissions to net zero by next decade, which will buy us a 50 per cent chance to control the rise in temperature. However, last year’s emissions have brought that down to eight and a half years. No doubt these numbers are overwhelming but we still have a chance to make a difference, provided that we start today.
We can begin by educating ourselves on the problem and do whatever we can in our capacity to alleviate the issue. Switching to using eco-friendly products on a daily basis over plastic ones, encouraging brands and businesses that function in eco-conscious manner, ridding your environment of trash and recycling are just some ways you can make a difference. One excellent example is set by actor Tipu Sharif, who aims to plant 20,000 trees in Pakistan by the end of this year. In a conversation with the scribe, Tipu revealed that he started this as a goodwill project to make his surroundings a little greener. By now he has planted more than 2450 trees across Karachi and aims to plant around 100,000 trees next year. “We have a group on Facebook called ‘Green Pakistani’. There we discuss everything relating to plantation. We plant all kinds of indigenous trees - mostly shady like neem and peepal - along with flowering and fruit-bearing. We keep looking for empty spaces where we can plant these. Moreover, we also provide them to others, like we supplied around 300 to Baldia Town, 200-250 to a university in Defence and about 200 to an army stable. We want people to realise that planting is a very simple process and anyone interested can do it on their own or contact us for any help,” shares Tipu.
Planting trees in your neighbourhood truly is one of the best things you can do for the local environment and for the planet. Especially when it comes to urban cities, the trees absorb the toxic substances and clean the surrounding air. They can dramatically reduce flash flooding causes due to rain and muffle urban noise creating a peaceful environment in its true essence.
Apart from this, we need to actively inculcate eco-friendly values in our daily lives and constantly urge our respective governments to work towards saving the planet. Politicians and corporate organisations working with a capitalist agenda will be hard to budge, but not impossible. Our efforts can be fruitful even if one person steps up and takes a stand today.