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12 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM

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We are killing the planet

Humanity has failed this planet. Our constant need to pollute, and to consume resources at unprecedented rates is making life harder, and if the proper steps are not taken soon, then the result might be disastrous
Dr Faisal Ali
We are killing the planet

The Paris agreement of 2015 reinforced the commitment of the participating states to curtail the maledictions of climate change, but the future of the planet will still be prone to deforestation, air pollution and unhygienic water quality due to high population growth rate, urbanisation, industrialisation, radioactivity and new environmental constraints.

The long debate over environmental pollution was previously held in the convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) in 1979, the Vienna Convention of 1985, the Kyoto Protocols of 1997 and several other international level conferences like these, but each resulted in limited successes.

In order to improve the standards of environmental protection, and to address contaminated water, multiple agreements were inked in the past decades like that of CRTD Geneva in 1989, the Bamako Convention of 1991, the Rotterdam Convention of 1998 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but the concerning situation still prevails. “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” is, as its name would suggest, a follow up to a similar notice issued in 1992.

Scientists have apparently been concerned about the wholesale destruction of Earth’s biosphere for a little while now! The first notice made the dour observation that human civilization and the natural world were on a “collision course.” We were depleting the oceans of fish, bulldozing rainforests, releasing climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and overall, “massive[ly] tampering with the world’s interdependent web of life.”

Regrettably, it seems that we are still doing these things.

“Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” the scientists, who apparently think it would be nice for their grandchildren to have a breathable atmosphere, remark.

“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out,” the letter’s authors, clearly more alarmed than humanity as a whole, continue.

“Humanity is now being given a second notice.”

The scientists’ warnings have evolved with the times. While the 1992 letter focused on stratospheric ozone depletion, over-consumption of natural resources, and unchecked population growth, the 2017 revision places more emphasis on “the current trend of potentially catastrophic climate change,” and the fact that we are now in the early stages of a sixth mass extinction event “wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”

Here are just a few examples of how the planet has changed since we were first alerted to our bullshit in 1992:

•    Per capita freshwater resources have declined by 25 percent

•    The number of oceanic dead zones has increased by 75 percent

•    Nearly 300 million acres of global forest cover have been lost

•    The total number of wild vertebrates on Earth has declined 30 percent

•    Emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide hav

The anathema of despair and pessimism in the environmental arena is a searing indictment of the way humanity has performed to date. The disastrous results of water borne diseases, especially in underdeveloped countries, are immense, and needs the full participation of the people in authority to come up with methods of prevention and minimisation of the many health hazards it might cause. For this purpose, environmental protection agencies should be set up in each and every country, and thankfully this has already been done in Pakistan. A network of waste treatment plants needs to be initiated, with a focus on the developing world that can be financed by either a contributory fund provided by developed nations or through interest free loans. Furthermore, an international environmental protection tribunal should be set up, in order to provide our planet with the legal protection it so clearly needs.

Similar setups on a smaller scale might be beneficial as well, in order to persecute people, organisations or even states that play a part in hurting the planet. Basic tech like Vehicular Emission Testing Systems (VETS), Noise Meters, and Air quality monitoring equipment should be made easily available, while waste water, surface water and microbiological characterisation laboratories should also be set up around the world. Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there may be none left within a century if trends continue, according to an authoritative new study.

Researchers found a vast area the size of two Alaskas – 3.3m square kilometres – had been tarnished by human activities between 1993 and today, which experts said was a “shockingly bad” and “profoundly large number”.

The Amazon accounted for nearly a third of the “catastrophic” loss, showing huge tracts of pristine rainforest are still being disrupted despite the Brazilian government slowing deforestation rates in recent years. A further 14% disappeared in central Africa, home to thousands of species including forest elephants and chimpanzees.

In Africa, none of the lowland forest in the western Congo basin is now considered globally significant wilderness, the study found. WWF believes the area is possibly home to more gorillas and chimpanzees than other area in the world.

The writer is an expert on

environmental issues

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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