A day for the environment
The World Environment Day observed on June 5 every year is, like planting a few trees or shutting the lights off for an hour, an act of tokenism. Spending one day a year holding seminars and hearing government officials pontificate about their duty to the environment is not going to do anything to heal our warming planet by itself.
The world is at a precipice and simply ‘raising awareness’, as important as that may be, is not sufficient at this perilous time. By any measure, the planet stands threatened like never before. Extreme weather events like floods and droughts have become more common; and the world just experienced its hottest year ever on record. Already, many communities are being displaced by climate change and as climate migration increases so will wars over resources like food, water and land. In response, the international community has finally begun to make some progress.
The Paris agreement does set emission targets for the three biggest polluters in the world – the US, China and India – and has set up a framework to continue combating climate change. On its own the agreement is woefully insufficient but as a first baby step it does offer cause for hope.
Hope is something that should be in short supply in Pakistan. We are expected to be one of the countries that are worst hit by climate change. A 2013 government report, commissioned in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund, found us among the 10 countries that will suffer the brunt of global warming.
This is because we live in a region where temperatures are higher and so the effect on vegetation will be more profound. While we may be reliant on action from the international community for tackling climate change, we can at least try and be better stewards of our environment at home. Our reclamation of coastal land and deforestation has done untold damage to the environment.
Even small action like tree-planting is carried out haphazardly as we plant the first seeds that come to hand rather than those which are ecologically suitable. There are many who have warned that our next war with India will not be over land but water. This is why the environment needs to be at the forefront of every decision we make – be it political, social or economic. This is too important a matter to just be relegated to one day of the year.