Global Environmental Changes: Can We Afford To Be Indifferent?

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By: Zeenat Farooq

“If all the ants in this world were to disappear, the world would collapse into chaos and if all the humans in this world were to disappear, the world would return to its initial state of equilibrium.”

These lines written by a famous environmental scientist clearly confirm the “bad role” played by humans in destroying the equilibrium of our natural ecosystems.

This world had started somewhere in the remote past as a natural living niche for all the organisms thriving in it, starting right from the tiniest bacteria to humans, of course at the apex. Human beings have a natural tendency to evolve and develop and in the process, they make the best use of their available resources to accomplish this task but over the years, human race has increased its demands for natural resources to such an extent that it simply sucks the available resources and leaves all other species dry.

This is evident from the simple examples of increased human out reach into forest areas which has led to extinction and endangering of several species because of human interference in their habitat. Also, deforestation, killing and poaching of animals, pollution of water bodies, air pollution etc are some of the major examples as known to all as the bad impact of humans on ecological system.

Our Indifference

These are clear indications that we are somehow being indifferent towards our environment, but where does this indifference come from? Two of the most important reasons of our indifference towards environment arise from the following statements:

Firstly, we, as a human community, are not at times well aware of the extent of destruction that our simple activities may entail. For example, wasting one litre of water by a single person on his domestic needs like washing, drinking can account for an annual waste of several thousand million gallons of fresh water and the areas where we are very well aware of the consequences, we simply turn our back to the problem and live in a constant denial mode towards it, as if we may remain unaffected by the consequences of this issue forever.

Take for instance, the flood of September 2014 in our valley. Even when the flood waters reached south Kashmir, people from Srinagar and other adjoining areas somehow considered that the same will not reach Srinagar and were consequently under-prepared when it finally reached our homes. One of the biggest reasons for this flood fury was our use of river Jhelum as nothing more than a big drain which leads to siltation at the floor of the river and consequently decreases its carrying capacity.

Encroachment on the banks of Jehlum and other water bodies like Dal-Lake also adds further to this problem. This indifference is not only observed at a personal level but also at the state level as can be exemplified by an act of our state government which has either constructed or shifted almost every important official building to SDA land, Bemina which was otherwise meant to act as a flood channel and would have neutralized some of the effects of the worst flood in the history of Kashmir, had the buildings not been there. These are only a couple of examples to illustrate our indifference and there could be hundreds and thousands more if we closely introspect.

Secondly, the other important reason which leads to such indifference is that we somehow are in a state of mind where we tend to believe that natural resources are infinite and that these would last forever. This belief might have come from the easy access to these resources by our community but one should understand that these are available in limited supply and cannot be used indiscriminately for longer.

Manifestations of Our Indifference

This indifference of human race towards nature manifests itself in different forms

  1. A person living in America consumes nearly 70% more resources per day for his daily activities than a person living in our part of the world. Therefore, these countries constitute a drain on our already meagre supply of resources. Bio-piracy and Bioterrorism are other bad faces of indiscriminate and un-ethical use of bio-resources.
  2. By continuing such environment non-friendly lifestyle, we ensure that our generations to come will not enjoy the benefits of natural resources. What we are giving them is merely “non-sustainable, hollow, pseudo development”.
  3. More than 60% of the world’s population now lives within 10 km from the coastline which increases the burden on water resources on one hand in the form of availability of water and on the other hand in the form of pollution of water bodies.
  4. We indiscriminately destroy the vegetation of ecosystems like deserts since we consider that there is hardly and vegetation in it. This belief is in fact absolutely untrue as desert ecosystems have their own vegetation and even our mildest exploitation can entail permanent damage to them as the vegetation cover is very thin and hence fragile.
  5. One of the commonest beliefs among common people is that if water cycle exists, there is still as much water in the world as we had when the earth originated, hence we should not fear the threat of water scarcity. Water certainly recycles but then amount of fresh, drinkable water is declining with every passing day which is an indication of collapse and if we continue to life our life with the same kind of approach, the day is not far when another world war would be fought for water.
  6. All the organisms which are present on earth have their own importance. Some of them might contribute to the prosperity of human race while others have a role in sustaining the environment. From decades and centuries of intensive research, we have realized the roles of a very few species like rhizobium Bacteria which help in nitrogen fixation for plants, lactobacilli which help in curdling of milk but each one of them has its own significance. In fact, it is not impossible to believe that some of the organisms which have gone extinct because of human activities might have been beneficial in curing deadly diseases like cancer and unfortunately, we can never have them back.

Tail Piece

The need of the hour certainly is to stop, take a look back and see where we are heading in the name of development. We have gone out of our way to destroy everything to serve our Interests.

We wish to take a headlong leap into future by increasing our so called developmental activities even in areas of fragile ecological composition like in the case of our valley, the beautiful tourist places like Gulmarg, which have been converted into concrete jungles where our non-existent authorities have played a huge role but we must realize that everything development stage comes in due course of time and if we continue our exploitation in a similar manner, the day will not be far where human race would collapse altogether due to non-availability of resources and we may experience this condition as soon as one century from now according to a famous theory if we move on in a manner we are moving today.

(Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Biotechnology, University of Kashmir.)

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