It was a cold morning in the month of November that I had woken up to. Looking outside, through the window, I thought winter had finally graced Delhi. With a steaming cup of coffee in hand and a winter twinkle in my eyes, I strolled to the balcony to enjoy my first day of ‘Dilli ki sardi’. But I was extremely disappointed.
The fog was there, but the weather did not have the icy touch. After standing for a few minutes, my eyes got a burning sensation. I was amazed at this strange weather.
I never knew that I would get answers to questions in my mind on the very first page of the newspaper, and I was left terribly disappointed and concerned after reading them. The fog and the weather had nothing to do with winters. It was smog, coming all the way down from the neighbouring state of Rajasthan, with Delhi’s own contribution making it unbearable. Just a few days ago a huge fire had ensued at the Indian Oil’s fuel storage facility near the Jaipur.
The pink city would have turned black if it was not for the westerly winds. All the fumes from this soaring fire were carried out of the city, which otherwise would suffocated people in the state. But the repercussions of these fumes were felt in the nearby states, resulting in bleak and smoggy weather conditions. This one incident contaminated the already polluted air immensely.
Such incidents and hundreds of thousands of human follies over centuries have ravaged Earth for long. But nature is a fearsome warrior; it takes its revenge in its most dangerous form. We have been witnessing erratic climate behaviours all over the world. The sudden fires in the forests of Australia, the melting of the Gangotri glacier, the thinning of the ice in the Arctic etc are results of years of exploitation of mother Earth.
Recent Hollywood movies, ‘Day After Tomorrow’ and ‘2012’ are ample eye-openers. It can be said that the Mayan prophecy about world ending in 2012 is wrong, but the expiry date of Earth would be near if we continue to ravage it. The first movie showed the effects of the depleting ozone layers and how the world moves into the ice-age. But if we are looking at these movies as great entertainers, we are missing the point entirely. It could well be our tomorrow.
It is true that governments of all major nations have woken up to this threat and are trying to avert apocalypse. But the damage we have already caused cannot be undone by a handful of heads of states. Every one has got to take a stand and clear the filth from the air, water and land. Only a cohesive effort can save the planet.
Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed recently amazed and amused the world when he held his cabinet meeting underwater. But this was definitely not a laughing matter. It was his way of drawing attention of the world to the fact that rising sea levels, as a result of melting polar caps, could drown the island-nation of Maldives in the near future. It is the lowest lying country of the world and Nasheed’s fears are not unfounded.
The temperature in the Arctic Circle has drastically risen, which is the cause of melting of the ice-cap there. It is getting thinner and thinner by the day and will eventually collapse, flooding the water systems with water. The largest single block of ice, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, started cracking in the year 2000 after standing firm for 3000 years. Now it is breaking into pieces and one day will just disappear. Scientists fear that if this is the rate of melting of the polar ice-cap, then by the end of this century, the Arctic could well be ice-free. This would translate into merciless floods.
India is also getting affected by drastic climate changes. Erratic climates and bizarre weather phenomenon are becoming the norm of the day. Temperatures in cities are gradually rising. Summers are getting prolonged whereas winters have become shorter. Even winters are no longer as chilly as they used to be a few years ago. Delhi is one big example of such climate shift. Increasing number of automobiles and rapid industrialisation are only adding to this change.
Recently, there was a sudden flood in the desert state of Rajasthan. Hill stations are every year getting less cold and more crowded. Rivers are either getting dirty or are drying up due to industrial effluents and also because of being used indiscriminately as garbage bins by people. If we do not stop, we will very soon have no Ganga to revere.
Governments around the world have started making concrete efforts in an attempt to save the planet. A huge conference of the UN is set to take place in Copenhagen from December 7 to 18 in order to take up certain workable targets. This summit hopes to find a solution to the vexed issue of reducing gas emissions.
The strongest support of this path has come from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen. Recent announcement by both China and the US - the first and second biggest polluters - about voluntary emission cuts is very encouraging. The most notable step in this direction has been the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.
But we have to remember one thing: we cannot just rely on our governments to turn around a situation for which each one of us is guilty. Such summits and conferences can make laws, but not save the planet. If we have to save it, we ought to wake up now, and contribute in our own ‘green’ ways. We need to stop unnecessarily exploiting the Earth or giving it step-motherly treatment.
If we don’t start making taking action immediately, nature has its own way of vengeance; tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, climate shifts, are claiming thousands of lives every year. The effort of each individual counts. And the time start is Now.