Maya Rose Fernandes
I was at a friend’s party where I was introduced to a couple of thirty-somethings who had recently moved to Goa from Bombay, after surviving a very difficult pandemic lockdown. The conversation meandered for a bit, then when I was asked what I do, I said that I was a climate change policy consultant.
The person sitting across from me shifted uneasily, then said, “Isn’t it all just natural processes though? These weather changes have been going on for millenia.” I took a deep breath and waited for them to drop the words Arctic ice cores into the conversation.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Arctic ice cores provide scientists with information about past global climate conditions, as they contain layers of ice that have accumulated over thousands of years.
Analyses of these ice cores reveal changes in global temperature, greenhouse gas concentrations and other key climate indicators. Evidence from ice cores has shown the evolution and shifting of climatic conditions over time, through natural processes.
However, the information obtained from these cores shouldn’t be confused with the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that concludes that human activities, particularly through the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary drivers of current climate change.
The climatic conditions captured by these cores showed gradual changes over a period of time and not the intense, frequent changes that pose an existential threat to our lives and livelihoods.
When I used the words, ‘existential threat’ the person said, “Isn’t that really the sort of dramatic language that only people abroad use? Surely this is their issue, not ours.”
At this point, I really began to wonder at how disconnected people really are from what is happening to the land around them. They don’t link their survival to nature anymore, even as it supports their ability to live and breathe on a daily basis. I wondered, do they even realise that most of the world still depends on the land for its survival? Is this largely just an Indian middle-class blinding?
People still flock to Goa from the metros. They come to consume the beaches, the mangroves, the riverside landscapes. They hike, trek and cycle around.
They talk about how lush and green everything is, but are they just blinding themselves to the impacts of rising sea levels, extreme weather events and biodiversity loss that Goa is constantly threatened with?
One only has to speak to those who live off the land to get a truer picture of what has been impacting their livelihoods over the last two to three decades.
Farmers and fishermen have been reading the weather for centuries, because they rely on it for their daily life. They can tell you about weather anomalies, odd micro-climates, intense cyclones and heat waves unlike anything they’ve experienced in any other lifetime.
Changes in monsoon patterns have been impacting Goa’s agriculture. Rising sea-levels and temperatures impact larval spawning, as well as coastal infrastructure. They’re noting how rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are disrupting ecosystems leading to plant and animal species loss.
Climate change deniers may argue that species extinction is a natural process, and they wouldn’t be wrong, but, once again, the accelerated rate at which it is happening is shocking and is directly impacting the food chain, agriculture, and therefore, food production.
If you come from a metro, you will probably feel the impacts more strongly when faced with water drought due to unexpectedly less rainfall in the year, or overflowing drains due to frequent and intense flash floods that have never occurred before, but seem the norm for many cities nowadays.
We haven’t even discussed the massive increases in health risks from the burning of fossil fuels (the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions) directly related to an increase in deaths from respiratory diseases like asthma.
The United Nations Framework for Climate Change will be holding its 28th global climate change negotiations at the end of this month in Dubai, and they are operating from the premise that climate change is today’s existential threat.
We need to be listening to the voices of those affected and working together to mitigate and adapt to the challenges posed by climate change. We are way past the time for doubting whether climate change is indeed real.
One only has to pay more attention to the world we live in that sustains us, to understand the urgent need for action. Ignoring the realities of climate change and choosing to remain in denial will only impede our goal of living in a cleaner, healthier world.