The planet Earth is in turmoil. Its health does not at all look sound. In the first year of the pandemic, the Earth got some breathing respite on account of widespread lockdowns across most parts of its length and breadth. But the option for vaccination and drop in cases, particularly in Europe and North America has made governments confident enough to resume near-normal life.
So, the gain from a sudden decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) by 5.8 per cent in 2020 is likely to be surrendered this year. Whether chlorofluorocarbons, methane, nitrogen oxide and other harmful gases which also collect at the ozone layer to breach it decreased is not known. In 2019, the world released 43 billion tonnes of CO2 and a drop by 5.8 per cent was not much but still enough to allow Nature some leeway to nurse itself. Had it continued until now, the Earth would have recovered substantially but for the industries and automobiles back in business.
It is no surprise, therefore, that parts of Canada and the United States of America have experienced unprecedented temperature rise so much so that about 1,000 people died of the sizzling heat. Then what has been termed ‘deadly floods’ swept through parts of Western Europe, in which Germany and Belgium suffered the worst consequences. The havoc wrought by rains and landslides in a few of the world’s wealthiest and technologically advanced nations is beyond explanation. Scientists now wonder how grave will be the scope and range of such natural calamities in the future.
Earlier Japan also suffered similar disasters in which human lives and property perished. Right now China is witnessing heavy rains and floods affecting millions of people.
A number of people have died and no less than a million may have to be evacuated in order to avoid a human tragedy. Meanwhile, the freakishness or unpredictability of weather has hit other areas of the planet as well. A freak frost has destroyed coffee plants in some areas of Brazil and the production is predicted to suffer a 10 per cent loss. Last year the Nordic region experienced a record rise in temperature and even Siberia, one of the coldest places on the Earth, also went through similar experiences.
Until recently, the poorer parts of the world have made news of storms, cyclones, floods, mudslides and similar other natural disasters. Of late, the wealthy and technologically advanced countries have started feeling the heat. Surely they have funds and scientific knowledge to back them in responding to such emergencies but the recent death of 196 people in the floods and mudslide in Germany and Belgium is a stark reminder that their responses are not enough to save lives and property.
Yet another natural disaster that gave such wealthy countries including the USA and Australia a nightmarish time last year was the forest fires or bushfires. Brazil may not be in their league but a similar disaster it suffered in the Amazon Forest has its far-reaching consequences for the climate of the entire planet. President Jair Bolsonaro, like former US President Donald Trump, is not famous for defending the cause of environment or climate. Rather, commercial interests are more important to him and detractors complain that Amazon forest fires are caused wilfully in order to serve such commercial interests.
Clearly, it is man and man alone —not any other species on this planet —that has caused the planet the gravest harm. Still, not enough is being done to contain global climate change. There have been some isolated attempts to limit the use of fossil fuels but the aggressive plastic and chemical industries have further aggravated the situation. Even the seas and space are now contaminated with plastic, chemical residues, solid waste, gaseous and metallic debris. This planet can no longer deal with such random abuses and is therefore falling sick. When the Earth or mother Nature becomes sick, it is only natural that man will face unprecedented pandemics like the current one.
By Neil Ray