It’s back to the drawing board for the environment
After being imprisoned by a virus that travels fast across the globe, causing so much loss and suffering, we are still in a daze trying to come to terms with reality. The reality that we are now facing is not pleasant. A brutal war in Ukraine is preventing us from moving forward, while a freight train bigger than any we have seen before is coming at us head-on. This train is the destruction that we have caused to our environment.
Mother Nature is the greatest superpower, and we have foolishly attacked her for decades. Although she is fighting back, few realize the impact of the freight train moving rapidly towards her. We all need to be aware of how much our daily actions and habits contribute to the destruction and must act quickly to change.
Monday’s Sixth Assessment Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released by the UN. It is a report that warns that we are far from meeting the Paris greenhouse gas emission targets. The Rubicon of 1.5 degrees Celsius is something we cannot afford to miss. The IPCCs report says that this goal will be beyond our reach by the close of the decade, and that the damage we are causing is only going to get worse. We are currently facing ever more severe droughts and wildfires, ecosystem collapses as well as water scarcity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that the trend it sees will only continue in the future.
Our history classes all know that dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. However, how many people realize that they have been on Earth for 165,000,000 years? We humans were created only 200,000 years ago. If we don’t make drastic changes in our lives and behavior, we could be extinct within 100 years.
But, we think that humans have all the intelligence and technology necessary to handle any challenge ahead. But what if we are completely wrong? These technology-based dreams have only served to increase the damage we have done and allowed us to ignore it for longer. Few people have seen the full extent of the damage that we are causing and the scope of what needs to be done over the past decade.
However, one such person published an opinion piece last week in The New York Times about the seemingly simple topic of drought in California. Dr. Andrew Schwartz is the lead scientist and station manager at University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab. He demonstrated that California’s ongoing droughts can easily be quantified, predicted, and even mitigated. But only if we stop wishing for the worst.
There are thousands of scientists worldwide working on issues related to climate change and the environment. They understand the issues at hand and recognize the steps needed to mitigate them. But unfortunately, policymakers don’t listen. The rest of us are being misinformed constantly by the industries, who try to hide the horrendous but lucrative consequences of their actions. Ansel Adams, the photographer, realized this over a century back when he stated: It is horrifying we have to fight for our environment.
There are thousands and thousands of scientists that recognize the steps we need to take, but unfortunately, policymakers don’t listen.
Hassan bin Youssef Yassin
Last week, during the holy month of Ramadan I was invited to a dinner where the topic of the environment was one of the highlights. We reviewed the dire state of our planet and one guest clearly illustrated the importance of thinking about the environment. He showed us how the fashion sector is one of the biggest polluters. It is responsible for 10 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, more than all international flight and maritime shipping combined, and it is also the second largest consumer of water worldwide.
Fashion is about beauty, creativity, and the human spirit. But, most people don’t realize that it is a major contributor of environmental destruction. Fast fashion is a growing trend. Not only are we purchasing twice as many garments than we did 20 years ago but 85 percent end up in landfill. Microfibers and microplastics that are used to wash our clothes end up in the oceans, and can even be found as Arctic sediment.
A pair of jeans needs 7,500 liters water because of the cotton they are made from. Blue jeans require hundreds of kilograms petrol, chemicals, and solvents to make. Uzbekistan’s intensive cotton plantations, which serve the fashion industry, is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution in the world.
This example shows us how even something so simple like buying a new pair if jeans can have enormous implications for the future sustainability of the planet and the survival of humanity. You can bet that almost all financially viable industries are actively trying to hide the harmful effects they have on the environment.
To make us feel good, eat more, and ignore the very real consequences of our actions, we are being drugged all over the place. It is important to listen to scientists and other researchers who present such facts, while offering clear solutions that our policymakers are too afraid to or too overpowered in influential industries.
We are referring to a decade of action; this is not about the next century. Soon, we will be focusing on tickers that show us how much water or oxygen is left to us rather than the performance and share price.
We must immediately return to the drawing board about the environment and start implementing the necessary measures without fear to stop this environmental disaster from destroying our very existence. What will it take to stop listening to the wrong people, to assess the situation and to actually take action?
Former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned us that a nation that degrades its soils will destroy itself. While the dinosaurs had more time than 150 million years to roam the planet, our time is running out much faster. As scientists and experts in the IPCCs most recent report have demonstrated, our blindness and unpreparedness have put us in a dangerous and worsening situation. Perhaps it is high time that we all started to listen.
The dinner concluded that it was our responsibility to teach our children the facts and how to reduce waste and live more sustainably. We must all focus on the many small actions we can take and put pressure on government and industry to achieve this. Maybe we don’t need to buy a new pair or two of jeans. Perhaps we can just turn off the lightbulb and take a shorter shower. Let us give hope to the young generation today and perhaps leave behind a cleaner planet.
- From 1959 to 1967, Hassan Bin Youssef Yassin partnered closely with the Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki & Ahmed Zaki Yamani. From 1972 to 1981, he headed the Saudi Information Ofce in Washington and was a member of the UN Arab League observer delegation from 1981 to 1983.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this section are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view.