A wake-up call to save Planet Earth | Daily News


A wake-up call to save Planet Earth

It is time to wake up. No matter what age which race or how rich or poor you are. Open your eyes to the Earth’s destruction around you.

The Earth's temperature is rising rapidly. Air pollution is getting worse by the day while the oceans are becoming the favorite garbage dumps with tons and tons of polythene and plastics lying on the seabed. The soil is already dead with so much of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. The remaining trees of our planet are felled with great speed and they will not last a century. At the rate humans exploit the limited resources of our planet it will not be inhabitable by 2100 if not much earlier.

According to scientists we are now facing a Climate Emergency more than just Climate Change. The deadly storms that batter Earth is a common feature today. Frequent forest fires, floods, earthslips which were rare incidents in the past are a daily occurrence now, not to mention the heat waves and cold fronts which are killing hundreds of people and animals on a daily basis. The intensity and frequencies of these natural calamities which are growing rapidly is Nature's unique way of conveying a message loud and clear – the end is near. Continuous exploitation of Earth’s resources as well as unprecedented levels of pollution, means the Earth is slowly but surely heading towards a total disaster. Human greed for selfish profits, over-consumption and over-exploitation of our natural resources and unprecedented pollution is transforming our cool green planet into a hot toxic cauldron of gas, dust and heat.

This is clearly evident in our day to day lives. Piles of garbage, polythene, plastic bottles, ice cream wrappers, empty milk packets, discarded beer cans etc. are a common sight in our surroundings. People of good standing carry their garbage in cars and throw them in other people’s neighbourhoods thinking how smart they are to dump garbage away from their homes. Look further and you will see trees chopped to death, forests cleared by property developers who bulldoze and destroy forest patches full of life and greenery turning them in to blocks of barren dusty plots for sale.

If you happen to travel out of the city you will notice how green areas with majestic trees are bulldozed and cleared for agriculture and construction so much so that the remaining forest cover of our motherland is being encroached illegally. Sinharaja, Pidurutalagala, Hakgala, Hantane, Knuckles, Wilpattu, and the other remaining forests are slowly vanishing forever.

Travel further, and you will be amazed to see and hear how our farmers dump all kinds of poisonous chemicals on the vegetables and fruits they cultivate. As a result soil and ground water in both up and low country have become so poisonous that they are called dead soil with no living organisms in them. Imagine the levels of poison that we daily consume by eating our veggies and grains grown in such toxic soils and water. No wonder we contact deadly diseases each passing day.

The plastic and polythene waste in the oceans is threatening the entire ecosystem of the ocean and marine life. Due to such toxicity the seafood we consume is contaminated with deadly Mercury. The same situation exists the world over. For example the Amazon which is home to 43 percent of the planet’s trees is destroyed at the rate of 1.4 million hectares a year.

Destructive mode

The reason for this is greed. Most will cut and sell a tree for a few thousand rupees without batting an eyelid not realizing that we are destroying a piece of our own breathing apparatus bit by bit. How many businessmen think twice of the consequences when clearing land and cutting down trees if it fattens the bottom line? Chipping in to our very own lungs does not bother them at all as we have not reached the choking stage yet. But the day we struggle to breathe is very near and the clearest signal was the smog sheet we experienced recently. But who cares? Wear a mask is the advice given or stay indoors. Unfortunately, it is not going to clear that easily given the destructive mode that we are in.

“10,000 years ago, at the end of the last great ice age, six billion hectares of forests covered 45% of the Earth’s land. Over the last 5,000 years, 1.8 billion hectares were lost, and most of this loss, 1.4 billion hectares happened in the last 300 years. Today forests cover only about one third of land on our planet”. (United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs newsletter, March 2018)

That is before Mankind learnt how to wield the axe our planet had approximately six billion hectares of forest cover. It has dwindled to about four billion hectares at present due to human activity. According to the research 1.4 billion of this was lost during the past 300 years. This clearly shows the sharp increase of the speed of destruction since 1700.

“Earth has 3.04 trillion trees which work out to approximately 422 trees per person. THIS IS 45 PERCENT OF TREES THAT EXISTED BEFORE THE RISE OF HUMANS. Since then the Earth has lost over 50 percent of all trees since humans learnt how to wield an axe. Humans cut and destroy 15 billion trees annually and only plant 5 billion trees annually which works out to a net loss of 10 billion each passing year” (THOMAS CROWTHER / Henry Glick YALE UNIVERSITY)

Estimated global warming

The models predict that as the world consumes ever more fossil fuel, greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to rise, and Earth’s average surface temperature will rise with them. Based on a range of plausible emission scenarios, average surface temperatures could rise between 2°C and 6°C by the end of 21st Century. (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/GlobalWarming/page5)

According to climate scientists and researchers such a rise in temperature by 2100 will trigger life-threatening illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney diseases. Most of our animal and plant species will be extinct. Sea levels would rise by about four feet with most coastal cities under water. Agriculture lands will go barren.

More cities will be under a cloud of toxic smog permanently choking the inhabitant’s day in and out. Dust particles in the air will double and treble where breathing clean air will be a luxury. The glacier ice sheets which are the planets fresh water storage tanks would have dwindled to a very low percent from what it is today. The oceans will be hotter and toxic and marine life will be closer to extinction. The severity of storms, hurricanes and forest fires is expected to increase as well, and moreover, they will occur more frequently. Just imagine a scorched burned barren Earth with all these natural disasters.

Unfortunately, no one seems to care. Yet, with every inch of land cleared, each tree cut and every building constructed a temporary monetary income is gained, at the cost of permanently damaging the planet. As long as we blindly measure GDP, per capita income, unemployment etc as our development goals we are heading in for an irreversible path of self - destruction.

Let us wake up and reverse the process. Let us travel back in time to the days when we revered and loved nature as much as we love our own kith and kin.

(The writer is a naturalist)


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