Will the year 2011 mark a return to more sustainable ways of living world-wide?
Or will it get worse, our relentless assault on Mother Earth continuing?
In 2010, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels touched almost 390 ppm. Way beyond the safe upper limit of 350 ppm (as estimated by scientists). The effects are now beginning to be felt world-wide.
The following map compiled by the United Nations Environment Program graphically illustrates the droughts and the floods that wracked the planet in 2009.
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What would the map for 2010 look like?
Floods in Leh, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Kenya, Nigeria, Mexico, Haiti, France, Eastern Europe, Vietnam and China.
Not to forget Pakistan, where one-fifth of the country was submerged under waters, a few months ago. Even as a harsh winter set in, millions there remained without adequate food, shelter or clothing.
Or Australia, where as 2010 came to an end, major floods impacted 200,000 people.
It is not as if we didn’t know. We were warned; for many years, scientists told us to expect this.
In the very first State of India’s Environment Report compiled by the Center for Science and Environment in 1982, the possibility of global climatic change due to increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere was discussed.
That year, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were 341 ppm, marginally below the safe upper limit of 350 ppm.
We could have paid heed then, and seriously tried to reduce our emissions.
Is it too late now? Can we still try?
Combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation are the two biggest reasons for this problem. Every time, we ride in or drive a fossil fuel powered vehicle, we directly contribute to make the problem worse.
What is a fossil fuel powered vehicle? Well, more pertinent perhaps is to ask, what is not? Cars, buses, mopeds, scooters, three-wheeler autos, airplanes, all burn fossil fuels. Bicycles don’t. What can we do so we start using less of the former and more of the latter?
All forms of fossil fuel powered transport are slowly but surely cooking the planet, but some forms are worse than others. Their effect is akin to frying, rather than slow cooking. The emissions from airplanes fall in this category.
As the first decade of this century comes to a close, the need to adopt a sustainable way of life has never been greater. Will we be able to rise to the occasion and do what Mother Nature needs us to do? Only time will tell …
January 1, 2011