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Environmental catastrophe looming on horizon

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WORLD Environment Day (Wed) is celebrated annually on June 5 and is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment.

This year’s theme: “Only One Earth” focuses primarily on the need for humans to live sustainably in harmony with nature in order to save the earth.

Since time immemorial, humans have remained remarkably resilient and steadfast in the face of the numerous adversities that have beset this world.

However, of all the problems currently facing humans, nothing is more terrifying than environmental degradation.

Prominent people, including scientists, educators, evangelists et al are warning that humans must change their thinking and learn to live differently if planet earth is to be saved from an environmental catastrophe.

“I believe the environment of the mind is every bit as important as the physical environment. It is maybe an even bigger battlefield because until we win the environment of the mind,we have very little chance of winning the fight to save the physical environment.

“We live in an inherently anti-ecological society. This situation will not be resolved by acts of statesmanship or the passing of piecemeal legislation. Ours is a world in need of far-reaching structural changes and those changes must start in the mind,” said Murray Buckchin, author and lecturer on environmental issues.

Scientists, government leaders and citizens around the world are worried about what is happening to our planet.

They warn that time is running out and nations must act now to avert an environmental catastrophe that looms overhead.

Former United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, once said: “In future, environmental problems will have reached such staggering proportions that they will be beyond our capacity to control. Unless we act now, the earth will be rendered desolate and inhabitable.”

Indeed, for thousands of years, generations have come and gone, and planet earth has proved to be remarkably resilient and stable in its ability to host life-until now.

Some scientists say we have now entered a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene — an age in which humans are making an increasingly notable impact on planet earth.

This has raised fears that we might be approaching “tipping points” where sudden and unanticipated climate changes will rock this world.

The Christians’ Holy Bible, in Revelation 11:15, foretold a time when mankind would destroy the earth. In light of the alarming climate changes that are occurring worldwide, many are now wondering if we are now living in that time.

Environmental problems that bedevil this world are manifold and include desertification, deforestation, the destruction of the ozone layer, acid rain, the extinction of plants and animals, toxic waste, air and water pollution, the greenhouse effect… The list is long.

Global warming from the greenhouse effect has been a hot topic at many a climate change summit held across the world, over the past few years.

Most of what we read about the greenhouse effect is that carbon dioxide levels are rising in the atmosphere due to the fact that people around the world are using fossil fuels and cutting and burning  tropical forests.

This, according to some surveys, has resulted in world temperatures rising.

A 2012 report from the American Meteorological Society noted: “There’s unequivocal evidence that the earth’s lower atmosphere, oceans and land surface are warming … The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities.”

Experts warn that the rise in world temperatures will melt polar ice caps and raise sea levels, causing dramatic changes in global weather patterns.

This, they say, could spell disaster for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

James Hansen of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, once warned a US Senate Energy Committee of the adverse ramifications of the greenhouse effect.

He warned that unless humanity stopped polluting the air with gases, principally carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and methane that trap solar heat in the atmosphere, humanity can expect the climate to get hotter, causing massive crop failures around the world and, as polar ice caps melt, major coastal flooding.

It is quite clear that humans are clueless in terms of how to manage and control the environmental and, through their misguided activities, have pushed the planet to the point of ruination.

Instead of taking good care of the earth’s fauna and flora, humans have, over the centuries, hunted species to extinction; and, instead of replenishing the earth, they have indiscriminately destroyed its forests and, in the process, annihilated species that live only in limited areas.

Edward O Wilson, a biologist at Harvard University, estimated that 27 000 species are becoming extinct each year.

“At this rate, up to 20% of earth’s species could be extinct in 30 years. But the rate of extinction is not constant; it is growing and it is expected that in future hundreds of species will disappear each day,” he said.

As if this is not bad enough, humans have ruined massive areas of the earth through improper agricultural techniques and then moved on to plunder more and more sections of the planet.

Alas, lack of awareness and concern for the environment has characterised human history.

The foregoing notwithstanding, however, most world leaders today aver that they are concerned about the state of the environment. But are they doing enough to protect and safeguard it?

World leaders have, for donkey years, voiced their concern over the state of the world environment and have pledged to effect measures to defuse the ticking time bomb of environmental degradation that threatens to blast humanity out of
existence.

However, the bitter truth that we must all swallow in huge gulps, is that world leaders have ignominiously failed to honour their pledges to protect the environment and one would not be totally off the mark to conjecture that a worldwide environmental catastrophe is now imminent.

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