Saturday, June 15, 2024

Environmental challenges

The unpredictable weather condition that we have been experiencing for more than a week now is a reminder that however remote we think we are away from the hubbub of developed world, the real culprit behind global warming, we cannot escape from nature’s fury resulting from man’s greed. And with new evidence accumulating daily, there is no room for skepticism about global warming and its impact. Lack of public awareness and political resolve of successive governments, failure of government and NGOs working for environment protection to work in a coordinated manner and political instability can be blamed for the failure to meet environmental goals. This again can be all put down to the insatiable human greed. Over the years our society’s basic drive has been toward more – toward a bigger economy as well as toward more stuff for each of us. But all the more has been created using cheap energy and hence built on carbon dioxide. Some pollutants, such as smog, decrease as people get richer and can afford technologically advanced stuffs. But carbon dioxide consistently tracks growth, however little. As researchers have found, CO2 is ‘the one major environmental contaminant for which no study has ever found any indication of improvement as living standards rise’. This would mean that if we are going to cope with global warming, we may as well have to cope with the end of infinite, unrestrained economic expansion. Today unfortunately economic development has taken precedence over environment protection. In fact a major cause of climate change is the obvious rampant destruction of forests. We all know that forests/trees form a precious cooling band around the earth’s surface by absorbing carbon dioxide. But human demand has driven intensive agriculture, logging, etc., that has proved an inexorable force for deforestation. And governments can put a dent in global warming by recognizing the worth of living trees and providing incentives to preserve them, by seriously putting an immediate halt to logging and burning of forests in the name of developmental processes. This is more relevant because if we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change. No new technology is needed towards fighting deforestation, except the political will and a system of enforcement and incentives that make the trees worth more to governments and individuals standing than felled. Putting a price on the carbon these vital forests contain is the only way to slow their destruction. In a world where we are witnessing a mounting clash between food security, energy security and environmental security – while there’s money to be made from food and energy and no income to be derived from the standing forest, it is obvious that the forest will take the hit. Indeed we are conscious of all these as well as the enormity of the environmental challenges facing all. But are we ready to show that when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, we mean business! Sure, successive governments might not have done anything to reduce pollution, but this cannot and should not be the excuse. We have so far not responded in the way that we should have. Humankind and the environment share a closely interlinked fate. We must harmonize economic growth and environmental protection, since these initiatives will help stabilize emission rates. We must also accept the fact that development and the environment have now come face to face, though it is something we all hoped would never happen. Unbridled development can wreak havoc on the environment, and we all know it. But are we concerned? Why this sorry state of affairs? Environmental pollution has become a major problem in our development, but so far has not been addressed well. Consequently it is very clear that the conflict between economic and environmental growth is coming to a head. And in such a situation achieving human development while overcoming environmental challenges is an immense trial for humanity. We can play an enormous role if we really care about the future of mankind. We should leave green mountains and clear water for our offspring.