Environmental Concerns: Do We Really Care?

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The author is an environmentalist. Her areas of concern are environmental toxicology and health and safety.

Sane voices have been warning us against the detrimental effects of anthropogenic activities on our environment, and saner still are playing an instrumental role in reversing the effects of damage that has already been done.

A small state located on India’s border with Tibet, Sikkim, has gone 100 percent organic and won a UN backed award recently. Skikkim discontinued the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and has been declared fully organic since 2016. Substituting eco hazardous chemicals with eco friendly ones in times when cutting down on these necessary-evils seems like an illusion, is in fact – in the words of Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – ‘no longer a pipe dream but reality’.

Studies have linked the impact of farming practices with Climate change. Contemporary farming practices not only contaminate our food with pesticides but also endanger marine life due to nitrogen run off in the oceans. Increase in the use of fertilizers is also giving rise to super-weeds and super-bugs which are resistant to chemicals. Breeds of livestock are disappearing and the soil is degrading because of mono-cropping and use of NPK fertilizers. The horrors of contemporary farming are not restricted to an area where these practices are being carried out as pesticides turn into vapors which are then carried through air to other places, subsequently damaging the wildlife.

Organic agriculture and its management practices on the other hand combat climate change by increasing carbon return to the soil. By sequestering carbon in the soil, organic agriculture reduces global warming and the green house effect by minimizing its readily-unseen but devastating results on our environment and planet.

The threats posed by Climate change are no longer hidden to not be seen. Recently, Secretary General of UN António Guterres has also mentioned that Climate change is moving much faster than we are. While addressing the press over Climate Change he expressed his disappointment towards the way this gravest threat to humanity is being handled.

‘I am beginning to wonder how many more alarm bells must go off before the world rises to the challenge’.

António Guterres

From torrential rains in Madrid to the ‘City of water’-Venice- coming under the wrath of water with highest recorded flood in a decade. From angry oceans near North America to eerie snow fall in Sahara desert – 2018 has witnessed it all, thanks to climate change and global warming. The situation is no different for Pakistan as well because the country too has faced erratic weather patterns in the form of heat waves, catastrophic floods, extreme drought, monsoonal storms, unusual fog and melting glaciers.

Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ which has documented the detrimental effects of synthetic fertilizers on our environment met with a fierce criticism in the beginning but her work later garnered support and led to an environmental movement which resulted in the creation of US Environmental Protection Agency. Even after decades of its publication, we see a division of opinion among influential leaders towards the conservation of our Environment. Concerned-Obama and indifferent-Trump are but the two sides of a same coin ruling the world.

But thankfully, the current leadership of Pakistan has remained vocal about Environmental causes since the formation of its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). ‘Green gold’, otherwise known as a billion tree project by PTI initiated during its tenure in KP is widely acclaimed for its far sighted environment-friendly approach which is a right step taken in the right direction, at the right time.

Individual steps taken by provinces, States or Countries are appreciated but one must not overlook the importance of steps needed to be taken at the global front. According to the Butterfly Effect, a seemingly unnoticeable event somewhere, like a flap of butterfly’s wing, is the cause of a hurricane elsewhere in the world. Environmental issues follow the same principle as well. Small actions chip in and become a cause of huge disaster. An apparent harmless act on our part might have severe consequences for an area situated miles and miles away from ours. Spraying the crops with pesticides cause devastation not only to us but to an area to which these pesticides will be carried through air in the form of vapors. Also, burning fossil fuels and gas has dangerous and catastrophic repercussions not only for the surroundings in which they are burnt but for areas located far away from the parent-location.

The problem with Climate change and other Environment related problems is that our non-environment-friendly activities do not show results there and then. Instead, years and years later we are shown the dreadful outcomes of an activity that we have remained so careless about. Just like every action has a reaction and we become what we eat. Just like the mountains resonate our voices back to us the Earth echoes too, giving us back what we have already given it.