There is only one Earth… and it needs you!

Earlier this month, the devastating video footage of the Hassanabad Bridge collapse along the Karakoram highway in the Hunza Valley surfaced on the internet. The video showed the historic bridge collapsing from the flood, which also damaged homes, buildings and two nearby power stations. The flooding was caused by unprecedented heat waves that melted the ice on Shisper Glacier, creating a flooded lake.

As sad as anyone must have felt watching the video, no one can imagine what the locals must be going through. These people went on with their lives and suddenly their homes were destroyed, through no real fault of their own.

We have been feeling the effects of climate change for many years and these have become even worse over the past five years. In Pakistan, we have faced catastrophic floods, droughts and cyclones that have killed and displaced thousands of people, destroyed livelihoods and damaged infrastructure. Heat waves melt glaciers and kill many innocent people, stray animals and birds in metropolises. Melting Himalayan glaciers are causing severe water stress and reduced hydropower. Food insecurity is due to declining agricultural and animal production, increased prevalence of pests and weeds, resulting in increased food availability. There is degradation of ecosystems; Loss of biodiversity; and the northward shift of some biomes. Additionally, in terms of green space, higher temperatures can affect the composition, distribution and productivity of mangroves, while lower rainfall can contribute to salt stress.

There is only one Earth… and it needs you!

It is also regrettable that the prospect of these and other natural disasters is likely to increase in frequency and severity over the coming decades. It is a stark reminder that Pakistan is one of the few countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Scientists have long predicted that higher temperatures caused by climate change will have the greatest impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. According to Time, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that in most poor countries, higher temperatures are more than 90% likely to have led to lower economic output, compared to a world without global warming. Meanwhile, the effect has been less dramatic in wealthier countries – some even potentially benefiting from higher temperatures. Another research from Stanford University indicates that the gap between the world’s poorest and richest countries is about 25% larger today than it would have been without global warming. The researchers say there is evidence that work productivity decreases at elevated temperatures, cognitive performance decreases at elevated temperatures, and interpersonal conflict also increases at elevated temperatures. The study also showed that growth accelerated in cold countries in warmer than average years, while in hot countries it slowed down.

It is completely unfair that, while the wealthiest countries are the biggest aggravators of climate change, it is the developing countries that will suffer the worst. In many parts of the world, the financially poorest communities already struggle with poor housing infrastructure and are vulnerable to weather damage. Overwhelmingly, extreme weather events exacerbate societal and systemic inequalities that are already deep.

Whenever something like this happens, we can think for a moment and come up with different ideas on what can be done to make things better. Do you think of stronger policies that encourage and implement green practices in terms of transport, industrial processes or daily life? Plant more trees? Reduce and eventually eliminate the use and production of plastic? Recycling? The list can go on and these are all great suggestions. And I think many of us are probably well aware of the amount of things we can do to reduce the effects of our carbon footprint. But do we really do them?

Governments and multinational corporations actually run on the exploitation of the planet’s resources while every young individual is afraid of their future. Stakeholders know that the world’s youth are being crushed by economic pressures, yet they continue to promote their capitalist agenda.

There is only one Earth… and it needs you!

What I have understood so far is that the problem is not just to formulate political or scientific solutions or the lack thereof. It’s the lack of motivation to do it. We’re all running out of time, because in the end, it’s just one planet. The rich can fantasize about creating a spaceship that can save them and sustain life if/when Earth meets its fate or if they could move to Mars which isn’t really a practical or good solution market. When all they have to do is stop and think about the consequences of their actions; in other words, to have “compassion”.

We lose our compassion… for each other, for living beings in general, even though it happens to be a crucial part of our being. It is an important construct that is rarely taken into account in the fight against climate change, but its impact on inducing change should not be underestimated. American activist Joan Halifax once said, “We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known through the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, our resilience and our survival. So, could considering the impact of climate change on those most affected lead to a change in the hearts and minds of individuals? Absolutely!

This concept is now referred to as “green compassion”. Green living is about personal sacrifice, changing our way of life and what we are willing to give for what we believe. A green lifestyle relates to how we feel about ourselves and our feelings of compassion for our planet and our fellow human beings. At a glance, philanthropy may not seem directly related to environmental conservation, but it’s all interconnected. The Earth’s resources are sufficient for everyone, but they are unevenly distributed. If we were constantly aware of the fact that we are an integral part of life itself and that we are responsible for it, things would be very different around us. For example, when we talk about saving energy, it shouldn’t be limited to our homes. This should apply to the homes we visit and even our offices. Resources such as water, gas, fuel and electricity (produced by non-renewable sources) are limited and should be used with caution. The use of plastic and the waste of paper are also among the things that we can now easily control. Once we start thinking about these little things in our lives, only then would we be able to make a bigger change. Earth is the only planet we have and we are responsible for taking care of it. Actions motivated by the powerful emotion could bring about significant changes for the Earth!

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