‘Fire in Dir, KPK’, the blaring newspaper headline caught my attention.
Apparently, the cause was tourists visiting the North. They lit a campfire to cook food and left without extinguishing it.
The issue addresses climate change and social awareness. Global warming directly results from human actions and intervention. And to ignore the gravity of human transgressions, compounded by irresponsible behaviour, in the natural scheme of co-existence and mutual beneficence, is to invite nature’s wrath.
The government’s simplistic approach is planting new forests. Adopting solutions without coherent analysis of issues and human behaviour may not be enough.
The need of the hour is meaningful awareness and ecological consciousness, and not only one-sided campaigns but public involvement and ownership with a transformed mindset: a resilient population, refusing to accept assaults on its mere survival.
With a population of 220 million, the country’s irrepressible growth rate, illiteracy and mass-poverty aggravates Pakistan’s climate troubles. With 87 million of our population below the poverty line, and a lack of educational infrastructure, the population growth is exhausting our natural resources. The masses are exonerated from blame because the system has not taught them and the preceding generations that nature is not infinite.
A collective effort is required. Beginning at the grassroots level, each individual has to play a part in the bigger picture. It is essential to educate the illiterate and the poor, on conserving resources and the environment.
The relationship between culture and environment is deep-rooted because culture engenders material desires. Our culture is rooted in imperialism and capitalism, which brings forward the notion of ‘cultural failure’, the inability to understand the unique forms of resistance that climate change presents to what is now serious fiction.
Pakistan faces a two-tier problem. Looking into the past because of imperialism, the imperial forces exploited our natural resources. In the present scenario, Pakistan is at the brink of disaster because it did not invest in economy or environment friendly actions. The dangers of depleting natural resources, expanding population, corruption and no planning require a comprehensive design. There is no single solution. It has to be all-encompassing.
Whilst the Imperialists cashed the Industrial Revolution, Pakistan did not snatch the opportunity, hence stuck in a pool of anguish.
“Climate change,” writes Amitav Ghosh in his book, The Great Derangement, “is a wicked problem” because it asks us to abandon our most cherished perception of “political virtue” — “be the change you want to see.”
Using pesticides, non-recyclable plastic, burning trash and car fumes, all result in breeding diseases such as asthma, diarrhea, cancer and other infections. Using pesticides is ruining our crops just as the feed being given to livestock is inculcating diseases in them.
Keeping the scenario in mind, what is the lesson learnt?
When tampered with, nature takes its revenge. Humans cannot afford to plunder Mother Nature because it is omnipotent and to underestimate the power of nature is to call for devastation, destruction, pillage, and annihilation!
Are we not intimidating nature? The onset of forest fires, flooding, melting glaciers, ocean acidification, on account of deforestation and urbanization are all manifestations of nature’s response to our exploitations.
The ecosystem works in a domino effect. The extinction of wildlife, the accelerated construction of buildings and houses, destruction of water bodies such as Ravi, the unplanned projects of tourism which are not environment friendly, are bound to generate dark consequences of climate change.
Presented with several environmental challenges, I wonder at the expected reaction.
Where do we see Pakistan in 10-20 years?
The first step in moving towards a better future is acceptance and understanding of the perils and challenges that our environment faces, and to transcend this era of ‘derangement’ and ‘isolation’ that humanity is trapped in.
In the words of Micheal Jackson:
‘Heal the world
To make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race.’
The young and old must work in tandem to yield a healthier, greener planet and heal its humanity inflected wounds, for a new lease to live.
To conclude, it is important to reflect on our own recklessness for the wrecked planet will stay on and outlive its traitors and destroyers!
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2021.
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