Concrete dinosaurs vs human existence

21 April 2014 08:19 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Today is World Earth Day

It is time we focused our vision towards the fast approaching environmental catastrophe
 

“I suppose, I must walk to church”. About a hundred years ago, it happened to be a caption that appeared in every newspaper in the USA, attributing to President Woodrow Wilson (1913-21). During the First European (or the world) war, the USA was in the grip of oil shortages, resulting in the government imposing “gasoline less Sundays’.



Setting an example to the nation, President Woodrow Wilson and the first lady walked to church. Coincidently, with this year’s Earth Day (April 22), the United Nations Climate Change Scientific Panel (IPCC) has released its fifth assessment report. It has warned the entire world that unless immediate steps are taken to cut down gasoline consumption, mostly by industrialised or the so-called first world countries, global climate change events may undergo an irreversible path, leading towards an environmental catastrophe. Will President Barack Obama impose “gasoline less Sundays” to save mankind? Will he transform New York, the world’s highest gasoline consumer city into a green city as envisaged by the theme of Earth Day? Will President Barack Obama, the first lady and their two daughters go on foot, in the streets of New York or Washington to set an example to others?



April 22nd  is Earth Day and was first celebrated in the USA in 1970. A young student activist Denis Hayes, organised the event and 20 million US citizens, from the west coast to the east participated in it. Hayes was financially and morally supported by Senator (Wisconsin) Gaylord Nelson and Pete Mcklowski (congressman). They were perturbed by the oil spills in California (1969) and were campaigning against oil spills, dumping of chemical waste, water and air pollution caused by power plants and factories, loss of eco-systems due to the construction of freeways, ports and airports. As a result of the impact made by them on USA policy makers, new environmental laws were enacted in the USA and the Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970.



In the USA, a modern environment movement was initiated by ‘Rachael Carson’. Her publication “Silent Spring” (1962) later became a holy book to environmentalists and it had clearly spelled out how chemical-based agriculture posed a serious threat to living beings. After the World War (western) two, DDT was believed to be a miraculous chemical compound which could eliminate harmful pests from farmlands. It was once used as an insecticide in prisons and jungle warfare. When media woman Carson, scientifically proved that the bird ‘Robin’ was made silent due to DDT’s anti-life capabilities, she had to encounter a barrage of arguments, backed by a huge ring of chemical industries in the USA. However, with the sudden demise of Rachael Carson in 1963, a modern environment movement was formed and the US government was compelled to appoint a scientific committee to investigate the fatal after-effects of DDT. Although the committee recommended a ban on DDT, it became a reality only in 1972, after a prolonged delay.


"Will President Barack Obama impose “gasoline less Sundays” to save the mankind? Will he transform New York, the world’s highest gasoline consumer city into a green city as envisaged by the theme of the Earth Day?"



The US citizen movement carried out a successful campaign against harmful pesticides and weedicides, at a time when it was regarded as a miraculous cure for a so-called green revolution (chemical based agriculture). However, it is very unfortunate that agitations of our citizen movements to ban harmful pesticides and weedicides which cause CKD in Rajarata has gone unnoticed, as the agro-chemical business community still has a firm grip on our society and the corrupt polity.
1960-70 is marked as a revolutionary decade for many reasons. Silicon transistors and integrated circuits led to synergy among computers and communication technologies. During that decade, the modern IC computer, satellite communication and internet were born. Student led counter culture movements, disregarded the ‘tie-coat, top hat’ elite culture. Beatles romanticised the general public, sidelining classical music and operas. Revolutionary movements launched armed struggles. Vietnam and anti-war movements gripped the US polity and society. Even the Catholic Church underwent new reforms called liberation theology.



Modern feminist movements questioned male dominance and modern black consciousness movements challenged white people’s hegemony in every sphere. Seeds of post-modern philosophy were also sowed. Further, new environmental movements were formed, demanding a sustainable future for the next generation. The water-shed event during the period was the Club of Rome Summit (1968) which predicted a serious crisis the modern civilisation would face, due to pollution and scarcity of resources. It was in this context that Earth Day celebrations were launched for clean air, water and soil for the next generation.
The Club of Rome predicted that oil and other fossil fuels would exhaust during the 21st century.  A great Jewish engineer named Rickover, pioneered the nuclear powered submarine for the US navy and it was he who in 1957 predicted that oil, gas and coal would exhaust within the next century (or by 2057).

























It was also stated that the generation born in 1965 would be the last generation living under the fossil fuel era. The Club of Rome publication ‘Limits to Growth’ clearly changed the scientific psyche of the western academia. God believing scientists, argued there would be no scarcity of resources or extinction of humankind, for God will reveal new technologies and hidden theories, enabling God- fearing humankind to exist forever. Humanists argued that resources lay not in earth, but in the human brain! Therefore, limitless human creativity will find new energy sources and ways to clean the environment. However, the findings of the Club of Rome were proved real. The world experienced an oil crisis in 1973-74 and then a global warming. New predictions on resource mapping and global warming were presented (Our Common Future – 1985). More and more scientists braved the traditional Euro-centric thinking wave and warned the global leaders.



In this regard, firstly, it is the ozone layer protection movement that is going to be a success story (1989). Perhaps, the whites had motivated themselves to prioritise its success for good reasons. If the ozone layer was not protected, the white skin would be the most affected due to ultra-violet radiation.
Davis Hayes, who introduced the Earth Day in 1970, organised a huge network to propagate issues related to global warming (1990). George Bush (Snr), said the greenhouse effect would be nullified by the Whitehouse effect!  Chemist Margaret Thatcher too supported the movement.  The 1992 Rio summit was a watershed and the UNFCC was formed. Everybody accepted the fact that global warming was happening. Thereafter, Kyoto Protocol (1997) suggested that each country (29 countries were identified) should cut its emission level by 5.6 percent with respect to the 1990 level. US under Bill Clinton became a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, but the US senate subsequently reneged on the decision, saying that the USA would not agree to any international convention which retarded its consumption and competitiveness in global markets. High polluters like Canada and Australia followed suit. That was the way through which, Anglo-Americans jeopardised the noble attempts of a global movement to protect humanity. Now IPCC has clearly warned that due to the ever increasing consumption of fossil fuel, global warming will reach an irreversible line (increase in 2 degree Celsius with respect to pre-industrial era), making water the first casualty and then the food production. Poor people and their countries will not be able to withstand these climate-related calamities.

"We Sri Lankans are still stipulating on high-rise buildings, modern expressways and markets etc."


This time, the UN has focused its attention on green cities. However, we Sri Lankans are still stipulating on high-rise buildings, modern expressways and markets etc. The interesting question is, in another two or four decades, who is going to fuel these concrete dinosaurs.
In Sri Lanka, our sustainable development priority should be conservation and preservation of water. Since pipeline water projects are not holistic, we should revive our ancestors’ vision on hydrological civilisation. The short-lived euphoria on concrete dinosaurs will come to an end after 2020. It is unfortunate that without a proper vision and guidance, a few people are trying to drive this country into an environmental catastrophe. Our children need to exist, not concrete dinosaurs.
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