“The only constant thing in this world is change”. Change is inevitable. But think about a change which is threat to every human existing on this earth. Last year as we swapped news channels, every news channel was filled with scenes of huge fire burning entire cities. Red skies, animals and humans alike running for life, the entire scenario seems to be from an apocalyptic scene of a Hollywood movie, but these were from real life. These were Australian wildfires. Earth witnessed something which has never happened in last 45 billion years. Flooding in desert like Atacama and drought in coastal areas like Chennai. These extreme events are attributed by scientists to a process called climate change. A process which has potential to wipe humanity from the face of earth. But isn’t the study of such a process contrary to the topic of our essay. How is something this terrifying the THE WORLDS BEST PROBLEM. As Albert Einstein said “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”. The essay aims to evaluate potential of climate change as an opportunity.
The IPCC 5th Assessment Report has shown that if climate change continues at the present rate, it can lead to a 3.5m rise in sea levels. Coupled with increased frequency of natural disasters, climate change can lead to extinction of humanity as we know it. Hence, it is an issue which requires all the countries to unite to face it. This is the biggest opportunity that climate change endows us with. In a world increasingly divided into ideologies like left and right, on religious issues, ethnicbasis, climate change presents an opportunity to unite the world. This is not just an opportunity, it is a necessity. Given that issues like emission control cannot be handled only by one nation in isolation, joint steps like Paris Climate Deal are the requirement of the time. With burning of forest and melting of glacier, people have to realise that we are slowly reaching the judgement day. People have to realise that current problems like inequality, racial injustice etc are just our mindset and the real problem is somewhere else.
Several ecological and social crisis made us realised that “Sustainable development” is needed. In 1968,ecologist and philosopher Garret Hardin wrote an essay “Tragedy of commons”. He argued that if individuals act independently, rationally and focused on pursuing their individual interest, they would end up going against the common interest of their communities and exhaust the planet’s natural resources.The crisis of climate change has forced us reset this thinking. No more can we continue the model of development where people are using up the resources without any care for the planet. Sustainable and inclusive development is replacing the earlier model of resource intensive and profit driven development. Hence climate change as a crisis also presents up with the opportunity to move towards a mode of development which is accommodative of the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society.
The need for sustainable development was also pointed out by Gandhiji when he said “The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed”. But we as a nation along with world had been moving away from Gandhian policies. Climate change as a crisis helps us turn the clock back towards the policies and ideas suggested by our father of the nation.All international conferences like Stockholm Conference in 1972 or the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 were held much later than the concern raised by Gandhiji about environment and its protection. In India,movement like Chipko movement led by Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Sundarlal Bahuguna and Narmada Bachao Andolan by Baba Amte were also conducted to protect environment which were inspired by Gandhiji.
Further, climate change as crisis has helped highlight various other crisis which we were previously ignoring. Earth is undergoing 6th Mass Extinction of Biodiversity where the rate of loss of animal species today is faster than anytime since the extinction of dinosaurs. But the issue of animal extinction was being conveniently ignored by our business and political leaders. The discussion about climate change has also led to a discussion to find solutions to these other problems.Sustainable Development is the only way by which human societies will live and satisfy their needs without compromising with the needs of our next generation..
India is uniquely placed to benefit from the crisis of climate change too. The traditional Indian culture of sustainable village economy and harmonious living with the nature is in consensus with changes we need to tackle climate change. In India, it can be traced back from the pre-Vedic period. At that time human beings considered environment as very dominant and therefore they worshipped them, and also had special place of reverence in Hindu theology. It was the responsibility of every person in society to protect nature. Vedas include lessons of environment conservation, ecological balance and weather cycle. This indicates high level of awareness among people at that time. Cutting green trees was prohibited and provisions were there for safeguarding the habitation, proper afforestation and reducing pollution. Hence climate change presents India with the opportunity to take back the leadership of the world, help solve the crisis of climate change and return back to its days when it was the economic and spiritual capital of the world.
Climate change and degradation of environment is very harmful to humanity but this is an opportunity because it will lead to reduction of crimes too. Major cause of crime is people’s drive towards money and power. But due to climate change intention or motive of every person will have to change to save environment and fight for existence. Criminal events will diminish and every person will help others to save nature. But climate change only presents us an opportunity, it is for the human race to utilise these opportunities. There are certain hurdles and challenges which can prevent us from pursuing goals like unity, sustainability and so on. The biggest challenge in utilising these opportunities which we will get from climate change is money minded leaders and their countries. A capitalistic state which only cares about money will never accept the idea of eco-friendly living. Capitalism is an economic system in which the private profit maximization lies at the core of its virtues and maladies.
Capitalism depends on excess production in order to remain stable. Market mechanisms don’t provide ways for preserving the environment.This is already being witnessed in the increasing lobbying against climate change being taken up by top oil companies like Exxon Mobil. These companies are running massive misinformation campaign to falsify the threat of climate change. Another one of the challenges which will act as hurdle for utilising all theseopportunities is over population. As, Professor Paul Ehrlich said years ago in his theory that there will be a disaster for humanity due to over population. Millions of people will die due to starvation. Every other person will fight a battle to feed himself and his family. People will not be able to unite to use climate change as an opportunity.
Global scarcity of vital resources will lead to unrest, rebellion, competition and conflict. The scientists and energy experts have warned that unlimited exploitation of natural resources, combined with extreme climate change , will lead to global explosion of human chaos and conflicts. As Darwin explained in his evolutionary theory years ago “Survival of the fittest “,people will fight for livelihood and fit and powerful person will survive and others will die.
Another major issue in uniting the world to fight climate change is how do we address the ‘development vs. climate change debate. Underdeveloped and developing countries in Africa and Asia need to improve energy consumption to pull out their millions from poverty. But they cannot adopt clean technologies since they are expensive compared to conventional sources of energy like coal.
The developed countries have a role in providing the finance and assistance to poorest countries in this regard. But as seen from past climate change meetings, developed countries have been hesitant in taking up these duties. This has slowed down the steps against climate change. They will not be willing to support the idea of climate change as an opportunity.
Further, there are other challenges like terrorism, inequality, poverty, accountability of government, unemployment, which will act as obstacles in path of opportunities. They will not allow people to unite and work together.It is challenging for the world to have a common goal, when we have all these hindrances. Climate change and degradation of environmentis acting as alarm bell to make people realise that now we need to do something for our environment, but what about the bio-diversity which has already been lost. No campaign, movement or programme can bring them back.Also government makes policies on a regular basis to save our environment, however the outcome of such policies are not appealing as most of them find peace on paper and not in action.
“There is no energy crisis, food crisis or environmental crisis. There is only a crisis of ignorance” said by R. Buckminster Fuller. Climate change is an opportunity ,which can unite people to stand against it. But to unite people its crucial that people must first accept the idea that climate change is real. Climate change is something which is very easy for people to ignore. So, Climate change awareness can be encouraged in our particular communities by focusing on local or regional impacts. We should highlight those changes to people that they can already notice. For example, delay in arrival of monsoon being seen across the country. Because climate impacts vary, we should alert them for climate change impacts on their specific region and how that changes have affected them. By focusing on things that people already care about, we can better raise their awareness, get them engaged and inspire them for actions.
Role of media is very crucial in spreading awareness among people about global climate change and associated actions. We have instrument like radio, television and newspaper which will spread awareness among people for climate change and environmental protection at faster rate. Few prints and broadcast media sources have offered columns and feature programmes on environment. But overall coverage is quite primitive and limited. Newspaper should regularly have an article on environmental issues. Television plays an important role in promotion of environmental programmes. Most environmental documentaries shown on t.v. attract very few viewers because of the academic or obscure manner they are presented in. Celebrities have a role too, tv stars, sports stars , leaders they can use tv, radio, magazine etc as platform to actively put forward threat of climate change to increase awareness. When Leonardo DI Caprio used the stage of Oscar to spread awareness about climate change, the message resonated around the world. Nation’s leading TV channel group NDTV has launched a unique campaign in April 2008 called NDTV Toyota green campaign. In this stars and celebrities participated. It was an effort to raise people’s consciousness about environmental issues.
Environmental activism has increased awareness among people about environment and its protection. They have played a crucial role in influencing the legislature to enact laws that aim to protect the environment. They champion for removing the devasting effects of environmental degradation. Environmental activists like Greta Thunberg need to be given global stage like stage of United Nations to share their idea worldwide. Once we are able to convince people and once they will accept idea of climate change, we need to take united steps on global basis to counter climate changes. Firstly, all levels of government should cooperate in taking bold actions which will serve our planet. Non-renewable source of energy are resources that are not present abundantly, so we should reduce use of them and start using more and more renewable source of energy because it is best choice for environment. They generate energy that produces no greenhouse gas emissions and they will never run out.
But to ensure that developing countries are able to adopt these expensive technologies too, unity in terms of finance is needed. This will require liberal fund transfers from developed to developing countries through medium like Green climate fund, transfer of technology, private initiatives by billionaires like Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation. The target of changing our outlook towards development is a challenge too. A person brought up with idea of money being equivalent with success can never prefer sustainability over materialism. Therefore curriculum of schools should add environmental ethics as a subject which will teach children ethical values for environment. Children must be taught importance of environmentand threats related with destruction of environment. Children from a very young age should learn to value sustainable development over material success.
Green is the new black is a trend which has grown in last few years which portrays green choices as cool and trendy compared to resource intensive ones like owning multiple sports cars. The decision we make about food can have a profound effect on the environment. We can make our diet climate friendly by eating meat-free meals. We can green our community by reducing our transportation emissions. We should focus on life’s simple pleasures, spend more time in nature and provide more purpose, belonging and happiness than buying and consuming. Also, when we consume less, we produce fewer emissions and are gentler on the earth.
Hence to conclude the essay, we go back to words spoken by Rabindra Nath Tagore a century back “Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter, My refuge is humanity”. The challenge of climate change presents a global crisis which can be tackled only by overcoming our narrow interests based on caste, race, region or country and uniting to take concerted efforts as fellow human beings. Climate change is just a symptom, the voice of Earth telling us to stop exploiting the environment. Its upon us to hear these voices, change our mindset towards adoption of a more inclusive and sustainable development. Climate change is the torchbearer of an opportunity which if we are able to utilise can lead to development and ignorance towards which can lead to destruction.
By AISHWARYA SHARMA, RAIGARH