Do we know what’s coming?
The world is changing faster than you can say “global warming.” Or is it called climate change nowadays? Doesn’t matter, really; whether ye be rich or poor, whether you are cocooned inside the top floor of your ivory tower or sleeping on bug-eaten sheets on the streets, it affects us all, for you cannot escape the atmosphere. Not yet anyway, and to various extents, of course. Sea levels are rising, ice caps are melting, there are floods and droughts, droughts and floods, forced migration, food shortages, rising temperatures, plummeting temperatures, et cetera et cetera.
And Bangladesh, because of its geological location, obviously, is the country most vulnerable to climate change. Suffice to say, climate change, or global warming, or whatever you choose to call it, is the most important global issue of our time.
If only it weren’t so mind-numbingly boring.
Every climate change article or piece has three main running themes: Words like “development” and “sustainable” and “goals” and “policy” and “adaptation,” among others. And, more annoyingly, uncountable numbers of acronyms, bemoaning some NGO or other’s agenda or grief that the government or some organisation needs to change what they’re doing, or not doing it well enough. To top it off, there are copious amounts of facts and figures, either attempting to prove that climate change is a real thing, or to explain to us how exactly this change is being brought about.
By the end of the article, the reader is left with barely a vague recollection of what he has perused, and a brain that is running low on energy and concentration power.
Do not get me wrong, reader mine. I do not wish to insult the intelligence of readers who actually imbibe the information swiftly and competently, and leave with a better understanding of the perils of global warming and/or climate change. Nor do I wish to belittle the very idea of climate change; it is a very real thing, and it is most definitely taking place as we speak. Nor do I wish to say that these facts, figures, acronyms, lexicons serve no purpose; they very much do, for we need the information, and ignoramuses (ignorami?) such as ourselves need to be taught to take these phenomena seriously. Nor am I saying it is their job, this sector filled with selfless people fighting for a cause, to make the material they handle more interesting, for who will care about “interesting” when we’re dying?
But I am a plebeian, and most of the world, too, is filled with plebes such as I.
A few months ago, I was “lucky” enough to have attended a discussion of sorts, at the residence of the French ambassador to Bangladesh, Sophie Aubert. The discussion, entitled “Climate Risk and Popular Perceptions,” was organised ahead of the COP21 (apologies for the acronym) -- Conference of Parties -- being held in Paris later this year over two days, specifically, December 7 and 8.
It boasted a plethora of important figures from the field, highlighting issues of grave importance, not just for us in Bangladesh, but for the whole world. Important statements were made, topics dealing with irrevocable damage to the environment were brought up. Philllippe Zeller, French ambassador at large for climate negotiations for Asia and Oceania (what a mouthful), an important figure leading up to the COP21, said that the COP21 was “crucial as it would make a legally binding agreement among the countries regarding cutting emissions and concrete fund pledges.”
Unfortunately though, halfway through, I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t brought a whole tub of sleeping pills to end the torturous monotony.
Forgive me, dear reader, for what was I to do? The heart feels what it feels, and it is a matter of great injustice and shame that I could barely focus on the important words that these important people were saying, words which it should have been my privilege to have been able to listen to. All I could think of was sweet, sweet escape.
Three hours later, I was free. But I was, despite by mind’s efforts to do the opposite, more enlightened as a result. I learnt, for example, how, even though the amount of annual rainfall hasn’t changed, its frequency has, which makes river water flow faster, and, consequently, causes more land erosion.
I was made aware that there were small communities, hidden within the most hard-to-reach corners of Bangladesh, who were being affected by climate change more than all of us. And, most importantly, I was taught that there was such a thing as COP21 to begin with -- where countries were coming together to work towards a more sustainable future -- an acronym I had no idea even existed before going to the conference, or discussion, or whatever you may call it.
But these are mere details, important as they are. The basics remain the same: Climate change is happening, and fast. If there are people still out there who claim otherwise -- I do not, for the life of me, know even how they exist -- please read more, do more research and figure out the fact that it is, indeed, a very real thing. And it’s up to us to change our ways, by reducing carbon emissions, focusing on taking care of the environment, to make sure this doesn’t happen.
As George Carlin once said, the Earth isn’t dying. But we are. And chilling on the backseat with our feet on the headrest, watching the apocalypse come, won’t change the truth. All we can do is look back at how the world once was and how it has become, and say: “The horror, the horror.”