Thursday July 07, 2022

The coming catastrophe

June 20, 2019

The environmental activists of our times have been warning us about the lurking ecological catastrophe for long. According to them, this planet is effectually sleepwalking into the ecological crisis. Though the list of ecological threats to the planet is very long, there is a consensus on global warming and climate change as being the deadliest of all.

Instead of taking on the challenge head-on, the world has allowed their individual interests to dictate policy preferences – at the cost of the common good of humanity. The second roadblock relates to the inclusion of the political, economic and personal costs in cutting down the substantial amount of the greenhouse gas emissions. So, tackling climate change not only requires restructuring carbon-based economies altogether but it also needs addition of social factors that define a particular economy while emissions can only be cut by consuming less with the acceptability of a less luxurious lifestyle.

However, there is a group of the people who argue that the environmental crisis has been exaggerated by activists. This group of people have their own isolated protection from ever more frequent natural disasters. Now let’s picture it for the wider audience. Suppose wild fire has erupted, smoke and flames have clouded your home. All of a sudden a couple of guys break in with a fire-fighting truck to save you and your house from fire – only because you are rich. These firefighters will leave your home to burn in the same street if you are a non-customer.

People with money already know well enough that they can be saved with the money they got even everything else falls apart. This new corporate system has terrifying effects on the public. The system is very well aware of the fact that they can make money out of the misery called ‘disaster capitalism.’ For instance, 2017 was the most expensive year for the world in terms of natural disasters. Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, heatwaves, wildfires and earthquake set new records all around the world. It won’t be wrong to say that some people see it as an opportunity to bring a new world order where chaos provides them with opportunities to milk the situation.

Similarly, after Hurricane Katrina, people were fed on the illusion that the private sector is the key to stay on the safer side. In short, climate change is certainly going to bring about more intense natural disasters that will lead us to mass migration and possibly war. So when powerful people have the luxury of getting their way out, they can leverage the ensuing situation to profit from disaster.

The only solution is giving social factors primary importance in policymaking. Pakistani policymakers need to be sensitized to an increasingly bleak environmental landscape. So a rethink of the policies has to be informed by academic understanding of the field for the responses to be effective. Currently a fast urbanizing and the fifth most populous country, Pakistan is exposed to a plethora of challenges such as erratic weather patterns, threats of droughts and flooding caused by global warming, severe water shortage and increasing deforestation. These climate challenges have multiplied problems for a country that is already very low on the Human Development Index. A mix of environmental degradation and unregulated population growth is likely to cause an erosion of 9 percent in its GDP, a nightmarish scenario for a nuclear-armed country.

In my opinion, our national response at the policy and practice level, is disoriented, incoherent and lacks in clarity. I believe that effective policies are the direct outcome of awareness and informed understanding of the challenges. The key question is: how do we stop these people from pandering to their avarice? The situation has little space for neutrality. For those who happen to be at the mercy of the twin challenge of climate change and inaction of elite nations, it is important they organize themselves around a common cause and launch the struggle, which is going to be painful and long.

The writer is an environmentalist.


Twitter: @ifrahshaukat28