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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What's going on?

National Geographic has shown millions of hectares of barren land in Brazil where there was near-impenetrable rain forest even two decades ago. The Himalayan glaciers are shrinking at a breathtaking pace. The passages between continents in the Arctic Ocean have remained open in winter of late, which used to be unheard of. Climate rules have gone haywire all over the world, with Russia reeling under a sweltering summer, arid areas in Ladakh and Pakistan being flooded while people in Cherrapunjee, Assam – the wettest place in the world when I was a boy – are queuing up for water. It is well known that our capital city itself has grown used to living with power and water scarcity round the year. In my own little town, the muggy summer seems to be going on for ever, there has been too little rain all over south Bengal, and there are real fears being articulated in the papers that there might be severe water shortages round the corner.

And yet what is amazing is that people are so utterly apathetic, or maybe I should say unconcerned, about what is going on. They talk about growth rates, and the share market, and the examinations ahead, and the coming pujo-extravaganza, as though everything is just business as usual. It scares me. Are people going to wake up only when scenarios like Mad Max and Water World and The Day After Tomorrow materialize? What shall we do with our fine clothes and fancy cars and slick mobiles when the taps run dry? I remember how sudden flooding cut off the power in Hyderabad briefly a few years ago, and then people suddenly realized you cannot have an IT industry without electricity – but they forgot the lesson with such incredible speed! In the same way, it seems to me, the world outside New Orleans has forgotten what Hurricane Katrina did (strange that we remember 9/11 so much more vividly, although the damage was on a vastly smaller scale!) Is that what we have decided upon as the best strategy to deal with disasters, then: quickly forget every trauma so that we can go on pretending that we are making wonderful progress? Do we really believe that we can beat Nemesis perpetually that way?

I wonder whether anybody here reads the frequent new entries on the blog titled Worldchanging: bright green that I have on my blogroll...


Shilpi said...

I've been wondering through the day how to respond to this latest post of yours. You've told me yourself so many times that people forget and that people are unconcerned (if they're not completely apathetic or oblivious), and that the masses can be kept entertained and distracted by bright baubles.

As a whole, maybe we never will quite realise what we are doing or even facing.

And you said so yourself in your post on World Environment Day that until the social environment was less sick - there was very little possibility of other things taking root. Why should people then suddenly care what may happen a decade or even half-a-decade from now?

And I don't know really where the difference lies. I see few young people around concerned about things beyond their laptops, cell-phones, and some new technological gadget, a fancy car, a bike or a boat or their MBA (or engineering) degree or an A in a course....

You know more than the most educated and learned person around....what does one say? Has it ever been any different though? Some people do what they have to and some people will keep trying to make others listen, and some people will pay no attention, and maybe a few will.

It wouldn't be so bad, I think every now and again, if the world with all its living creatures were completely and suddenly wiped out by a meteor or a one second war....but this slow death with God-knows-what on the horizon...it's enough, I sometimes think, that some rare humans stay sane and keep asking others to look and understand and see through the deception. Some people are still slogging on - so who knows - there may still be some reason to hope still...

Many young people have already forgotten about 9/11 though. As for Katrina - that was a natural disaster. Only some hare-brained scientists and some madmen keep saying that it had anything to do with our actions and our habits and our practices....

Take care...keep writing and I hope you feel somewhat more cheerful soon.

P.S: Yes, I have been following the posts (good, better, and "hmmm") on Worldchanging..., every now and again, after I saw it on your blogroll.

Rajdeep said...

Well, before I ever saw Bangalore, I had imagined as was written that it is the Silicon valley of India. Powercuts, unmetalled roads that are muddy as soon as it rains, and terrific traffic jams are some of the realities that no one talks about. Needless to say, the wonderful pollution...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I know, Rajdeep, I know only too well. I have said in an earlier post that every single big city in India has become hell - and only mindless people go on pretending otherwise. We don't need healthy lungs and hearts and safety on the roads, just give us malls and pubs and IT... Indians never got a chance to find out what the good life means, you see. Too many people, too many filthy habits, too much greed, total unconcern for the day after.

Arijit said...

DPL provides unlimited water supply and electricity to some of its quarters. Twenty four hours a day you will get electricity supply and water supply. Do you know the reason? The answer is owing to some political leader who stays nearby. The others suffer. This is purely injustice in my opinion. You will also get astonished to know the way in which this few group of people are wasting resources. They keep their taps always open; never switch off the electric bulbs or fan or any electrical appliances. Now the obvious question is don’t they have to pay the bill? The answer is no as because they are leaders and possess power. They generate power themselves so why save? Instead let’s waste. Such incidents I hope can be seen in more or less every part of our country.
Now the main problem is that now a day there are a lot of GYAN GURUS (Gorus (cows) I should say), be it a father, teacher, or any layman who only provide lectures on SAVE ENVIRONMENT , PLANT TREES , Keep Campus clean etc. but neither do they act themselves. Do we really throw away unused papers, plastic bags or any such other waste materials in shredders and dustbins? Do we really save electricity and water? And there are thousand such other questions that can be framed. Only a handful of people really are serious about environment the rest are all callas and GYAN GURUS.
Some say our locality is neat and clean, but I have hardly found out so, high drains have been built in some areas but they are often blocked by waste materials accumulated over years. People don’t ever hire sweepers to clean up drains; they are instead dependent on DMC. Why use our money on such useless things? Instead let’s spend it in BIG BAZAAR, SUHATTA OR CITI PLAZA, on the other hand do I have to state what DMC does?
So I would only like to say it’s time for action, or else it will be too late.

krishanu said...

In matters related to our environment, we take too many things for granted.People love to live by examples,but there is a dearth of role models who will show us where we are wrong. Collective responsibility is the key, but given the terrible apathy towards anything other than our own selfish needs,one has to be highly optimistic.Environmentalists have already warned us about the tipping point... the point of no return for ecological balance. But are we really looking forward to such a close shave?

How can we do our own bit for Mother Nature , or make our own neighbourhood a healthier place to live in ? We already know the answers. By switching off electrical appliances when not needed. By forming carpools. By refusing to use plastic packets , and using good old "bajarer tholi".By turning off any roadside water-tap . By not throwing garbage on the street. But often we don't. Why? Because we pretend that consequences are not going to affect us. Or we can buy them off. Gradually we are moving towards a uninhabitable planet, but alas, we can't visualize it.We are simply not afraid enough of the impending disaster.

The carrot or stick approach often works wonders. Let me give two examples. IIT-B hostels used to waste enormous amounts of electricity , until someone came up with the idea of awarding prizes to the hostel with the least consumption.Hostel-pride saved lots of kW-hours. In another case , such a lot of food was being wasted in the mess that wardens decided to impose fines beyond a certain limit of wastage. The bins were half empty from after a week.

Krishanu Sadhu

Winning is living... said...

Dear SIR,
We are far too careless in dealing with things related to our environment. As you have said before as well, people love to live in a false belief that everything is normal and keep talking about other trivial things. They are either too ignorant or simply refuse to accept that things are actually this bad. And the concern about water shortage that you mentioned in your post , can already be seen in some areas of South Bengal. In some of these areas , for the last two to three years, the rainfall has been scanty - far below the normal level that the areas witnesseed even a few years ago. The problem has been compounded now by limited water supply (once everyday and on some days that too is not supplied ! )and long hours of power cut . But still the people of these areas are as ignorant as they were a few years ago! What horrifies me is that if these people are still ignorant even after seeing a trifle of the effects..then when will they wake up ?

With regards,

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I had nightmares after watching The Day After Tomorrow. Not because I was scared by the movie per se but because it struck a very real fear inside me for what is happening around us. There are disturbing changes everywhere, the icecaps and ice sheets, melting glaciers, rainforests razed, near extinction of some wildcats, recent bizzare patterns of migratory birds. Conservation and prevention of pollution go hand in hand. It is infuriating to realize that people can sit through a Shekar Dattari documentary for an hour and ooh and ah through it only to come out buy a packet of Lays and then throw the empty packet away just like that. The past few days I went on some sort of crusade against some people I know at work and snatched the stuff away from them saying that in the absence of disposal bins they should just take it home and throw it away; and if they wouldn't do it I would. A couple of them laughed at me and asked me to "chill out", whatever that means. I actually lugged home some of the stuff and only then they realized that I was serious. Nature's fury is already bearing down on us and yet there are such contorted versions of what conservation is and America won't ratify the Kyoto protocol. In some way it reminds me of references to the kalyug in the epics.



Hello Sir,

I'ts a pity that people don't realize how important it is to conserve and protect our environment. Some people are really so 'busy' with their idle lives that they have no time to think about conservation. But here in Rajasthan it is a different story. This time Rajasthan has received the highest amount of rainfall in 13 years, and when asked why this is so the locals told me it is because over the last several years a lot of plantation projects have been undertaken both by government and private bodies. Here plastic bags are completely banned, water is not wasted, and alternative fuels as well as modes of transport are encouraged. Places like Jaisalmer and Bikaner, which were being swallowed by the Thar desert, are now covered with greenery, while patches of desert are only maintained to attract tourists! It is interesting that the local people have been so successful in improving the environment, although the literacy level here is not very high.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Don't be careless with language, Arijit, no matter how angry you are, and how justified your anger may be. There are spelling mistakes in your comment, and you know how bad that makes me feel!

You can't really blame only the DPL folks. It has been the policy of many public sector factories and utilities to give their employees perks like free or heavily subsidized power: it is indeed a most unfortunate consequence that it encourages people to waste resources shockingly. The same applies to other vital and increasingly scarce resources like water. I happen to live in a place where people still pay for water according to the size of the pipe which brings water to their houses - no matter how much they actually consume! - and so, obviously, most people waste water like crazy. The local residents' committee fought and won a case in court against a municipality decision to meter and charge for actual consumption, as they do with electricity, and it was hailed locally as a 'victory of democracy against bureaucratic tyranny'!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Some people might like to see what has lately happened to the Maithan reservoir in West Bengal:


Ediblegoo said...

Dear Sir,
I have to say that (one of the) underlying issues raised in this essay - that of environmental degradation much much sooner rather than later, and its possible impact on whole societies and even interpersonal relationships - is really something that should gnaw at everyone's minds, especially people like me and young children now, who will have to bear the brunt of it.
I suppose as has been rightly pointed out by you, most people do not pay much heed to what goes on outside their immediate neighbourhood, but even if there were some some kind of local cleansing and 'affirmative action' (for want of a better phrase)that is undertaken, that is often for a very short period of time and as a result things quickly go back to square one.
On a personal note, I am dreading the day I start considering buying a flat/apartment/kothi (ha ha)/quarters for myself. Even if I can afford it (which in itself would be nothing short of a great miracle)it is unlikely that I'll ever get all of the following - decent greenery, foliage all around, access to clean air and sunlight etc. etc.), simply because of the amount of filth that is unfortunately ever-present.
I have often felt that one of the simple reasons why our cities are so cluttered and unclean is merely because there aren't enough garbage bins around? I went to Jamshedpur years ago, and I was struck by its cleanliness (especially the part falling under TELCO and TISCOs supervision)but there was always and empty bin to throw away any disposable item.
@Arijit: I know it's a trifle late, but please let me know of such people 'in power' to whom you have referred. Where I used to stay (MAMC - the 'other' Durgapur, if you will - comparable to the dregs of the city), some people got so frustrated with the repeated power-cuts (coupled with incessant hooking of electricity) at particularly inconvenient and memorable moments (India winning a match, a Mallika Sherawat movie on the local cable etc. etc.) that they finally went up to the local councillor and demanded an explanation. The reply they received said it all - 'Oh, it's the birds, people. They perch on these wires, which bends under their weights and touches the next wire, and so kaboom!!you have short circuits all over.')

Sayan Ray
(Batch of 2003) I think