These floods are orderly

The devastating floods in Pakistan right now obey certain laws of science, which are anything but chaotic

Imran Jan August 28, 2022
The writer is a political analyst. Email: Twitter @Imran_Jan

Yes, you read that right. It’s no trick title. The devastating floods in Pakistan right now obey certain laws of science, which are anything but chaotic or out of order. This is no belief system or intuition. It is the realm of science and math. And there’s no room for hoping, wishing, politicking, and so forth.

Flash floods, super floods and whatever other scientific terms may become the everyday reality of our lives, the sad fact is that while these disasters may be unique in their own way, their victims are but the usual suspects: poor people.

The title may sound senseless but it’s the truth actually. These floods didn’t happen out of nowhere or without a reason. They’re part of a pattern created by human activity and warned about by scientists. This is what the Anthropocene looks like.

In case we’ve forgotten, let’s do a quick recap, shall we? Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuel causes planetary warming, which will manifest itself in drought, floods, super floods, wildfires, low agricultural yield, mass migration, and so forth. Now ask yourself; have all of the above actually happened this very year already? The year before? Save the guesswork; it will happen again and again.

We, the humans, think that the world as we have known is how it is. Some of the wisest among us go back to about the great grandfather time to make sense of the evolution of human understanding and to make sense of things. That, however, is shorter than a mere blip in the history of time and earth. The entire presence of human beings is less than a fraction of a second on the cosmic calendar. But since the smallest transition of human cognizance happen on a time scale that spans centuries if not millennia, we think life is as we’ve known it. The worst mistake smart people make is to think they’re smart.

Similarly, these floods in Pakistan right now may seem as a sudden chaotic reality and it is really chaotic but it’s not out of order. It’s very much a pattern, very much in line with what had been predicted for decades now. But this too is connected to a human activity in place for about 200 years — the industrial revolution. Therefore, we have a hard time connecting these dots.

These floods should be named anything but natural disaster. It’s very man made. Nothing made in nature here. We did this. We are the drivers of this. We started burning fossil fuel since the industrial revolution about 200 years ago. We started burning even more fossil fuel ever since it became known to us that the very activity is going to cause our own extinction not too far away in some distant future.

As for the critique over the infrastructure to deal with floods; well, to me it sounds bizarre. Don’t they always say prevention is better than cure. It’s not terrorism but rather climate change that needs preemptive war. Well, technically the preemptive phase is almost over but you get the idea.

But the critique sounds like this: imagine someone getting cancer by smoking cigarettes extensively and we go on and blame the lungs and the immune system of the person for the cancer. Imagine someone getting a cardiac arrest because of eating unhealthy diet and living a stationary lifestyle, and we go on and blame the weakness of their heart and other vital organs for the unfortunate incident.

It’s sad to see the situation the people are in due to the floods. But I just want to warn that this may just be a prelude to what’s coming, which could be a routine of such floods except stronger every single time.

As much as we need heroes during this tough time to help the people, we need some rational thinkers who’d realise that we need to change how power is generated and how cars are powered.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2022.

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