February 1, 2011
“The concept of the human race being one, the importance of living in harmony with each other and with nature, the quest for knowledge and truth, find prominence in our age old culture,” reminded the honourable president of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, speaking on the eve of our 62nd Republic Day celebrations on January 25, 2011.
Across the seas, on another continent, preparations were on to observe a national holiday, albeit under very different circumstances.
For the past 200 years, January 26 has been celebrated as Australia Day to commemorate the arrival of the first British settlers to the continent.
The continent’s largest annual public event, Australia Day sees widespread outdoor concerts, community barbecues, sports competitions and fireworks. This year, however, celebrations were muted.
In her address to the nation, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, reflected on the floods that have devastated nearly one-tenth of the continent, for nearly two months now.
“Together we have shared the shock and then the horror at the scale of the destruction,” she said. “Together we are grieving for the lives lost.”
According to some estimates, before the floods, Australia had the dubious distinction of the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the entire world. Now as 200,000 people impacted by the floods, struggle to meet even basic needs, the per capita emissions will surely reduce.
Back in August 2010, when we celebrated our Independence Day, our neighbouring country Pakistan, which celebrates its day of independence one day before we do, cancelled all public programs.
What else could it do when one-fifths of the country was submerged under water and millions of people were affected?
“It’s getting harder and harder to blame Mother Nature for the disasters that befall humanity,” wrote Sandra Postel, in the National Geographic.
As one of the world’s most respected authorities on freshwater issues, Sandra has been featured in numerous documentaries, including BBC’s Planet Earth and Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour.
Commenting specifically on the floods in Pakistan, she explained, “As the atmosphere warms from the addition of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, it can hold more moisture.”
“As a result, more water evaporates from the oceans, leading to thicker clouds that then dump more rainfall over the land. That heavier-than-normal rain can then produce massive flooding as it runs back toward the sea, where the cycle begins all over again.”
Clarifying further, she warned, “Though no single weather episode can be pinned to climate change, the massive rains that flooded a fifth of Pakistan is the kind of event scientists expect to see more of–and that nations should prepare for.”
What is the lesson for us in India? We have long known that man should live in harmony with man and nature. We have long known that all of humanity shares but one common future. Or in these modern times, are we starting to forget?