Why you can’t ignore climate change
Most of us have grown up with the monsoon announcing itself with June. The monsoon now arrives after mid-July. The monsoon rain used to spread itself across June, July and August evenly. Now Monsoon lasts till October. Most of the downpour is concentrated into a few days, the rest of the days being warm and sunny.
The water no longer has months to percolate and recharge the ground. Most of it is washed away to the sea. Over streams and rivers are losing their springs as the ground water is no longer recharged to release the excess into the streams and rivers. Many rivers are becoming annual instead of perennial. As water availability changes, so does the crop and the tree cover.
We are reacting by exploiting water from hundreds a of kilometres and drying up the river basin of the source. We are reacting by channelising our water bodies and encroaching on their flood plains and wetlands. We are reacting by further destroying that very water source that is our lifeline as the climate changes even more rapidly than predicted by scientists.
In many states the winters have become non-existent, summers arrive in February instead of April. Soaring temperatures cross 40 degrees routinely and increasingly new records of hottest days are being set every year.
We react by putting fans and air conditioning in offices and homes. We are making matters worse because we no longer recognise the loss of trees and soil moisture that kept temperatures pleasant and helped buffer extreme weather conditions.
Scientists are telling us that the Himalayan glaciers are melting. This will mean our Himalayan rivers will not flow the same way as we have been used to for centuries. We can expect extreme conditions, from floods to droughts.
Scientists also tell us that the polar caps are melting fast. This, like all the previous changes are endangering plant and animal life as we know it. It is causing the sea levels to rise and submerge coastal areas.
While for over three decades we have been told that the carbon we emit due to the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming and results in climate change, we have not yet made it mandatory to declare the carbon emissions resulting from the manufacturing and use of the goods or delivery of services that drives our lifestyles. Without this information, how will we alter our behaviour?
Climate change is here. It is the result of the complex systems that we are a part of. The complex systems that cause us to be addicted to consuming goods and services. The complex systems that escalate exponentially our demand for goods and services.
If we ignore climate change, if we hide its symptoms, if we do not address those actions of ours that continue to cause global warming, we will have reached a point of no return.
It is not just time to be concerned, it is time to act.
What can you do about it?
Here are simple baby steps to make a difference. You can pick one and add to your list of things you do as you discover it’s not difficult and that you have the ability to persist on each of the actions you choose. Start carrying your own drinking water, give up bottled commercial water. You’ll be surprised at the impact your action has on reducing carbon and saving water in just one month!
Next consider entertaining yourself with conversations in parks, playgrounds not malls. Not only will your choice help protect parks, it’s trees but also ensure you consume less every day. Prepare to be surprised at how much better you feel every day!
It’s only a small step to reduce your shopping budget every day till you have weeks of zero spend. This not only reduces your contribution to carbon emissions, it unclutters your life slowly, but surely.
Consider walking to every destination you can, travel infrequently to destinations you can’t walk to. Not only does this reduce your carbon emissions, it makes you a whole lot healthier!
Here are more challenging ideas. Consider asking about the carbon emissions every time you buy something or consume services. This will help create awareness of the carbon emissions associated with every good and service that we consume. It will help push for a reduction in the carbon emissions once enough people start asking.
Adopt trees on your street, invite your neighbors to join in protecting them. While this requires some effort, discover that you not only contributed to increasing the carbon absorption but also built a community in the process.
Plant more trees in your neighborhood till there is no space for any more. This means you not only have to find space but also ways to care for the plants you have planted. Enjoy the pleasure of seeing your neighbourhood transform into a lovely healing space as it absorbs more carbon!
Find the nalla, river, pond or well in your neighborhood and work with the authorities to free it from exploitation, encroachment and pollution. While you’re stretching yourself to work with the authorities, this is the bridge to get enduring change happen. When you work with those who are to protect our nallas, rivers and ponds, you align the community to common purposes.
When you refuse to invest in real estate, particularly that which converts forests, farms, mountains or water bodies into concrete, you save the world from needless urban expansion and loss of the worlds carbon absorption capacity.
It may be more challenging to refuse to support projects that have a high carbon footprint like roads, real estate, transportation, but when you do, you build a walkable community that is connected, vibrant and sustainable. You also end up decreasing the carbon emissions of your city.
Consider joining Friday’s for Climate. This is a movement across the world to do a satyagraha at your school, workplace or anywhere you are to draw the attention of those around you to the urgency for action and that they can make a difference.
Together we can make a difference to climate change. The time for action is running out. Let’s start.
*Dr. Anupam Saraph is grew up in a Pune where the culture and education emphasised building people with character and the short now. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers. He can be reached @anupamsaraph.