The fact that climate change and its potentially disastrous consequences if left unresolved has been a hot topic of debate for quite some time now. Even school going children have greater awareness to this threat to our planet and our survival. On March 15, they took matters into their own hands. Tens of thousands of them around the world skipped their classes and took to streets to demand greater action to control pollution and save the environment from their governments and world bodies.
Why has the focus on climate change increased? One reason is because scientists and researchers have comprehended that the 6th mass extinction event is underway on our planet. The trademark identification of such an event are the increasing cases of complete extinction of many species of animals because of the overpopulation of one or certain number of species.
Population explosion of humanity and industrialization, especially in the last 100 years has exponentially increased green house effects. But what many people do not know is that this is not the first instance of our planet experiencing the drastic and adverse effects of green house effects. Herbivore dinosaurs had chomped their way through massive forests and expelled humongous amounts of methane gas from their belly after digestion creating massive greenhouse effect.
I had attended a seminar on wetland conservation at the Agricultural University in my hometown a few weeks back. One of the speakers was a researcher on greenhouse effect and he did an excellent presentation on the topic. But I realized that one critical factor was missing from his presentation. If our planet is in the midst of the 6th mass extinction, it means complete destruction of our planet and all its beings has happened five times before. Each time nature has been reset and life has taken roots again. The last time it happened dinosaurs became extinct. But interestingly, crocodiles, cockroaches and turtles survived. So if it happens again, can we survive and what will it take for us to survive? I asked the speaker these questions and he admitted that he had never considered those aspects in his research.
Interestingly, I found the answer to my question on social media the next day itself.
The arrival of the Spanish Inquisition in Central America in the 16th century and the subsequent destruction of the thriving civilization of the Incas resulted in the Amazon forest reclaiming its lost land to people. The unintended effect of this reforestation was the drastic drop in temperature in Europe in the 17th century and large number of people dying because of unbearably cold conditions. We keep adapting to small increases in temperature and changes in weather conditions without realizing that the overall impact of the changes is considerable. Only when the changes are reversed by nature will we know what its effects will be on us.
The floods in Kerala and the destruction it caused is a fresh reminder of what can happen to us when nature resets itself. Kerala has traditionally been a rainfall abundant region because of its proximity to the Indian ocean and Western Ghats. I have learned in school that after Cherapunji, it is Kerala that receives the most rainfall during monsoon season every year. In spite of this known fact, people encroached into low lying areas to build their houses.
While rainfall in Kerala has decreased considerably in the last decade or so, it never meant it would never rain like before. When it did rain, water had nowhere to go. So where water could flow it swept away everything in its path and where it couldn’t flow it got stuck causing massive floods. There was also an enduring image circulating on social media of a bridge filled with plastic bottles and containers, which the water had deposited back on to land.
So mass extinction and resetting of nature has been an ongoing phenomenon on our planet. We can blame human overpopulation and wanton industrialization for climate changes now but that has always been the problem with dominant species as the dinosaur case illustrates. We are the only species on the planet that destroys nature’s ecosystem to create our own. No animal cuts trees to make its own shelter.
Animals adapt to what is available in nature. The reason could be that we were created to rule over nature and not protect it as the quote from Bible suggests. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to RULE over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.”
The question now is how to control our effect on climate change. I believe we are a little too late to think about it. A few billion of us have to die off to restore parity in nature. But there is a catch here. The few billion of us have to die without disturbing the nature, which is impossible without a natural calamity on a massive scale or a man made disaster like a nuclear war. There is an analogous situation happening right now. Flickr, the online photo sharing community has created a new rule which restricts its free users to upload and retain only 1000 photos on its website. The difference here is, nature cannot tell us the size of the human population it can manage. The onus is on us to find it out, reduce our population accordingly and keep it below the threshold number.
Sounds ridiculous right? We cannot wipe off our own population that too on such a massive scale. What we can do is control our population growth and not increase our negative impact on nature anymore. One purpose all species procreate is to stay dominant in nature. We do not need to procreate like other species anymore. All of us do not have to leave our own unique genetic imprint on our population.
There is something more left for us to do though. Humans have been trying to understand nature from the dawn of our existence. Exponential technological advances we have made has helped us to investigate and understand every aspect of nature closely. Even then, we are restricting our research to simply collecting data about nature. The more we learn about something it is natural that we also learn how to control and manipulate it. This is how the field of medicine has grown and how we have learnt to treat diseases.
But surprisingly, other than cloud seeding to create artificial rain, we have not been able to control weather and climate changes. There are places in our country like Kerala which receive abundant rainfall and other areas which suffer from extreme drought every year. All government departments and research institutions watch this unfold every year helplessly. None of them have even wondered if it would be possible to distribute rain clouds or rainwater to all parts of the country uniformly.
There is a story in ancient Indian texts about the young Hanuman who leapt into the sky to catch the rising sun to play with it. Indra, the God of lightning and thunder, in his apprehension threw the Vajrayudha (thunderbolt) at Hanuman who got struck by it and fell back to earth unconscious. Maruti, the God of wind who was Hanuman’s biological father got enraged and pulled out all the air flowing on earth and relented only after Hanuman’s health was restored. The takeaway from this story for me is that air flow on our planet can be controlled. Ancient Indian texts are treasure troves of extremely advanced technology and interpreting them correctly can answer and solve most of the problems we are facing now.
There are primarily three obstacles we are facing for space exploration and one of them is creating and controlling weather conditions suitable for us on other planets. The key to this lies in greater understanding and controlling weather and climatic changes on our own planet. The fact that children are speaking about climate changes reflects poorly on their parents and exposes the ignorance they have on the subject. People have to start talking about solving social problems and these discussions have to start from educational institutions. The research that the speaker did on the greenhouse effect creates no value because all the effort he put in does nothing to help humanity. What is the objective of doing research on any subject if it is not helping in the survival and evolution of our species?