This week’s article is a follow up to my last article entitled, Nature is fighting back and may win the war. In the article, I had talked about my first and subsequent encounters with nature that moulded my reverence for mother earth and all she has to offer – the air we breathe, the land that gives us shelter and food, the ocean that gives us food and much more. Many of my readers across the country and beyond reasoned with me positively particularly on the catastrophic consequences that are likely to take place if we continue to show nature very little respect and ignore all the wake-up calls that have been taking place all over the world in the two decades. When I became a climate whistleblower and activist, following my first desert expedition over 50 years, I knew that there was going to be drought along the countries bordering the Sahara and that the water bodies were going to disappear and deplete the grazing field. I knew that there was going to be desertification travelling thousands of miles in all directions. And, I knew there was going to be climate migration leading to conflicts and wars as people search for greener pastures, literally. I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly as though some mitigation had started following early warnings by scientists; the denials were many coming from the high and mighty.
At the time, I saw what desertification was bringing to a good part of the North by taking away the grazing fields, taking away the water bodies, taking away the farmlands and giving back in return – drought. I shared with a friend of mine then in Maidugiri where I was living that there was going to be some changes in climate, followed by climate migration and climate crisis. He asked me how long it will take for all that to happen and I told him it could take up to 50 years. He gave me a sarcastic answer meaning that both of us would have been gone by then. Unfortunately and fortunately, we are both living and witnessing the changes in climate happening all over the world.
There is no world in which humanity exists apart from nature; it is clearer than ever that our fates are intertwined, and that our failure to accommodate nature has rendered the life support systems that humanity depends upon far more brittle and more vulnerable to devastating shocks.
Take the fires that have ravaged the Western U.S., the Arctic’s boreal forest, the Amazon rainforest, and the Australian outback — each with distinct close causes, but all embodying shared lessons about the warning signs of a world out of balance with nature.
Volcanoes that were dormant for decades have started erupting sending ashes, lava, gas and other hazards into towns and cities miles away and dislodging communities. For over 85 days, Spain’s Canary Islands have been experiencing a volcanic eruption becoming the island of La Palma’s longest eruption. It has since destroyed almost 3,000 local buildings and forced several thousand people to abandon their homes. No lives have been lost fortunately but the same can’t be said for Indonesia where the death toll from the eruption on one of the highest volcanoes on the country’s Java Island has risen to at least 34, with rescue operations are still underway.
Over the last few days, America has lost at least 100 people in tornadoes that president Joe Biden has described as likely “one of the largest” storm outbreaks in history and weather forecasters say are unusual in cooler months.
If we thoroughly analyse the current coronavirus and its many variants’ crisis, it becomes alarmingly clear that COVID-19 is less a black swan event that no one could reasonably see coming, and more an example of the kind of human security disasters that we may find ourselves catalyzing with growing regularity if we continue to push the natural world past its breaking point.
I like the way George Monboit, a columnist for the UK Guardian Newspaper describes the way we have been approaching the situation. He writes: We have been living in a bubble, a bubble of false comfort and denial. In the rich nations, we have begun to believe we have transcended the material world. The wealth we’ve accumulated – often at the expense of others – has shielded us from reality. Living behind screens, passing between capsules – our houses, cars, offices and shopping malls – we persuaded ourselves that contingency had retreated, that we had reached the point all civilisations seek: insulation from natural hazards.
In his forthcoming book, Our Final Warning, Mark Lynas explains what is likely to happen to our food supply with every extra degree of global heating. He finds that extreme danger kicks in somewhere between 3C and 4C above pre-industrial levels. At this point, a series of interlocking impacts threatens to send food production into a death spiral. Outdoor temperatures become too high for humans to tolerate, making subsistence farming impossible across Africa and South Asia. Livestock die from heat stress. Temperatures start to exceed the lethal thresholds for crop plants across much of the world, and major food producing regions turn into dust bowls. Simultaneous global harvest failure – something that has never happened in the modern world – becomes highly likely.
In combination with a rising human population, and the loss of irrigation water, soil and pollinators, this could push the world into structural famine. Even today, when the world has a total food surplus, hundreds of millions are malnourished as a result of the unequal distribution of wealth and power. A food deficit could result in billions starving. Hoarding will happen, as it always has, at the global level, as powerful people snatch food from the mouths of the poor. Yet, even if every nation keeps its promises under the Paris agreement, which currently seems unlikely, global heating will amount to between 3C and 4C.
Thanks to our illusion of security, we are doing almost nothing to anticipate this catastrophe, let alone prevent it. There are two ways this could go. We could, as some people have done, double down on denial. Some of those who have dismissed other threats, such as climate breakdown, also seek to downplay the threat of Covid-19.
Or this could be the moment when we begin to see ourselves, once more, as governed by biology and physics, and dependent on a habitable planet. Never again should we listen to the liars and the deniers. Never again should we allow a comforting falsehood to trounce a painful truth. No longer can we afford to be dominated by those who put money ahead of life.
For the last 35 years, I have written and spoken about my serious concern about the severe changes in weather and for that I would like to repeat the questions I have severally asked in this column;
- What will it take for us to start now to accord nature some respect and to give back to nature a bit of what we have been given?
- Secondly as was contained in so many holy books, are we preparing to leave the planet earth a better place than we met it?
The answer to these questions will go a long way towards correcting the damage that we have inflicted on the lands, the environment and nature that have given so much to mankind. If we don’t act now by starting to appease nature, we the humans will face unimaginable consequences the likes that more dangerous and devastating than the volcanoes, the tornadoes, fires and disease outbreaks experienced so far.