Are we human beings?
I have asked this question from myself a million times. It has been 2 days since I watched something that has boggled my mind upside down. So I decided to understand the real meaning of the word ‘Human’ and ‘Being’. Interestingly, I found that the meaning of the word ‘being’ is an existence.
Now, I asked myself another question. Do we really care about ‘our’ existence?
On a fine Saturday afternoon in Beijing, I decide to write about my feelings after I watched a documentary day before yesterday named ‘Before the Flood’ made by a famous actor and an infamous ‘Human Being’, Leonardo DiCaprio. I have never been a fan of actors. Since, I believe that such famous personalities have a moral responsibility towards making our planet a better place and having such immense fan following is the best way to inspire people to take action towards that. However, there are very few who do that. Leonardo utilized the stage and the limelight after winning an Oscar Award to highlight the importance of the same. It makes me wonder, How many more stages, famous personalities and oscars do we need to engage everyone towards Climate Change?
It has been 2 nights since I watched the documentary and I haven’t been able to sleep properly. Adding to this chaos was my VPN (a requirement to access YouTube in China) while watching it and what follows this is a wrestling game between me and the VPN since it keeps getting disconnected every 5 minutes. So, I spent over 2 and a half hours to watch a 1 hour and 35 minute documentary. Not to mention, the bad quality of the video it brings with itself. Anyway, there was something different in this documentary which did not let me give up on watching the documentary itself. And hardly this happens to me, I cried endlessly and got uncountable goosebumps thinking about the ‘existence of human beings’ itself. Never has this happened to me, ever!
My connection with documentaries has been pretty strong. I dedicated a 1TB hard drive solely to store documentaries and I have watched every kind of documentary possible from unsolved mysteries to super factories. Before I started watching this one, I was in my self-made cocoon consisting of my work, my salary, my development, my friends, partying and every other irrelevant term that you can find which has no relation to the existence of humans. Also, It was this self-made cocoon which constantly pushed me to ignore many bigger and long-term problems and always pushed me to focus on the short-term problems that we face with our offices, girlfriends/boyfriends, families, facebook, universities, and schools. The question I kept asking myself in these last 2 days is, “If not us, then who and if not now then when will we care about these long-term and bigger problems?’
So, I decided to do something about it and it turned out to be a different day altogether. Interestingly, I walked from my home to this cafe wearing an idiosyncratic mask, for the first time in my life. This mask is supposed to prevent me from a term which I didn’t study in 18 years of my education. This term is ‘PM 2.5’. Apparently, the air in Beijing is harmful today. I am sitting in this cafe, right across me is an under-construction building which is supposed to be the second tallest building in China soon and I can’t see it clearly. Thanks to the smog. But, that’s not contrasting enough for me. I am from New Delhi, a city which has been devastated already. A city where people are choking, abusing the mass on Instagram, blaming the ever-failing government for not taking actions on twitter and sharing their extreme experiences on Facebook, etc. This is what my friends have been experiencing when this famously infamous term ‘PM2.5’ scale has reached beyond its maximum capacity and could not measure the pollution level anymore. It’s like when a car’s odometer’s needle/reader has finished a semi-circle and can’t go beyond.
Call it my fate, but I have spent the maximum time of my life in 2 of the most polluted cities in the world. This should make me vulnerable enough to get heart diseases, congestive heart failure, asthma, emphysema, etc. Adding to this possibility is my mother and my father, both of whom have heart diseases, thanks to the bad air that they have been breathing their entire life. I just turned 22 and I am already scared and living in this constant fear that one day this air may kill me.
Today in the morning after I woke up, suddenly, I find myself thinking of a conversation with one of my friends in my high school. Once, He asked me, ‘Which car do you wish to drive in your life?’ I said ‘I will answer after you’. Then he replied a ‘Lamborghini Reventón’. And my answer was a ‘Toyota Prius’. Interestingly, He didn’t even know about the car. He asks me ‘Which car is that’ and I reply ‘It is the first hybrid car in the world and is among the cleanest vehicles on the planet which can be charged from electricity without emitting any smoke and make this planet a better place to live’. Right after this, he gave me a judgmental look and that’s how we ended this conversation. The reason I got reminded of this conversation is due to the sheer disgrace that he had on his face as I never knew back then that caring for our environment leads to such judgmental and disgraceful experiences. When fossil fuels pollute our environment and I don’t want to use fossil fuels to power my car in order to contribute my bit to our environment, Is this how people should react? Sometimes, I imagine the world where we had people who cared about their existence. How different would the world look like?
The problem of our ignorance towards our planetary problems is getting worse every single day. Try to have a conversation with someone about it and they can’t care less. The biggest problem is that we are knowingly doing this and on a much larger scale and if this continues, imagine what our planet will look like when 7 billion people can’t stop caring less about our own existence. Have we become such short-sighted? Has this cocoon made us so busy about our everyday life and earning money that we have stopped caring about our own existence? Will we ever be able to blame ourselves enough for this?
While thinking of this, I got reminded of 2 instances.
Firstly, when I was in 5th standard, our science teacher would scare us. He would scare us with a term that I don’t hear anymore. This term was ‘Hole in the Ozone Layer’. He would say that it is this one layer that protects us from harmful radiations of the sun. But thanks to our lifestyle, there is bound to be a hole in this ozone layer soon enough and that would be catastrophic for us. Now that I can recall, the students would be feared by this hole so much that they would even talk about it after the class. So, In today’s world, How many teachers do we need to instill this fear? Do we need teachers, all over again? Is there anything better than a fear to make people care about our own planet? Is it even the right thing to do? Is it the only solution left?
Secondly, In January this year, I was in a city named Ekaterinburg in Russia. Notably, It was January and there was snow anywhere and everywhere up to my knees. However, one fine morning when I was complaining to my local friend about so much snow, he replies ‘When I was a kid, this snow would cover our cars, but lately in the last few years, it can only reach our knees’.
In both these instances, there are 2 things that are common –
Firstly, My inability to act upon Climate Change.
Secondly, Having more questions than answers.
Recently, There was a massive conference in Paris, where government personalities from all over the world were supposed to decide a common framework to keep the temperature increase under 2 degrees celsius, for our future. I remember opening a news app on my phone and ignoring that article just because I couldn’t care less.
What I forgot was that, I am an equal fraction of this ‘we’.
Now that I think, the human race has known about this for decades. I have known about this since 5th standard. But, Why does it matter to me so much today? Why did I decide to write this blog today? I haven’t been vocal about my opinion, my perspectives, my beliefs ever. So what’s wrong today? I could have easily spent this Saturday sleeping on my comfortable bed and watching some TV series.
Well, Probably, It is the fear. It is this fear which didn’t let me sleep for over 2 days. This fear, which tells me that:
1. By 2040, I can sail across the North Pole because there won’t be any ice left if we continue our lifestyle the way it is. This may drown the cities where human beings live. A change that has already changed the weather patterns, Ocean currents and has made floods and droughts more catastrophic. What scares me even more is that I don’t know where my friends who are living in coastal cities from Miami to Mumbai will move to, since their cities have started submerging already. Do we have enough area to accommodate these people? The worst, no one cares about it.
2. As contrary to popular perception, Chinese media talks about Climate Change on a regular basis. Every hour, every factory is supposed to release their harmful gas emittance data to the public which can be accessed by anyone in China. Imagine the impact of this data on people. It is this access to data which is empowering millions of people in China. When will this ever happen in the rest of the world?
3. 300 Million People or 30 Crore people in India don’t have access to power. I wonder how the country is going to be like when these 30 crore/300 Million people will have access to electricity, electrical appliances and vehicles. Our lifestyles are improving, our consumption has grown extensively. Both of them are only bound to increase at a pace not witnessed in the past. I look forward to the future, but actually, I am scared of the actions of this growth and its consequences on India and our planet. Are our lives bound to get worse?
4. In the last 30 years, 50% of all the coral reefs around the world have died. I am scared that the next time I am traveling to a beautiful island, I don’t know if it will be the same as it used to be. Will our planet be as beautiful as I have been lucky enough to witness?
5. To what extent are we going to let our lifestyle remain the way it is? Indonesia has burnt more than 80% of its forest area to make space for Palm Oil Plantation, a cheap oil that we consume in the form of anything ranging from chips to ice-creams. Yesterday, my Malaysian friend shared about how much he cares about it. Our dire need to consume more and cheaper has led me to start imagining a world where there are no toilets? Can we? Well, The forests that were supposed to breathe our waste (CO2) are not alive anymore. How can we live in such a planet where there are no trees left to breath our waste?
6. Lastly, which I didn’t have any clue about. Recently, one of my Australian friends shared about turning vegetarian. I couldn’t care less. But, she was smart. Out of 47% area of the US which is used for food production, 70% is used for feeding cattle and a mere 1% for growing fruits, vegetables and nuts. This 47% area is in use to produce beef, and cows emit the most amount of methane while every molecule of methane = 23 molecules of CO2. All this methane in the atmosphere is due to Iive stock. Imagine this, 1/2 Lb. of a beef burger = CO2 released after 24 hours of using a window air conditioner. Whereas, it’s fairly easy to move to chicken which can reduce this emittance of methane by even up to 90%. If we want to do something without appealing to any higher authority, the best and easiest way is to change your diet. You can start tonight! It scares me that I care about the planet so much and I didn’t even know about this.
Today, I convinced myself 1000 times to take an action. I know that writing a blog and watching a documentary is the least of actions I would think of taking. But if I can convince 10 people to believe in this cause and make it reach their sub-conscious mind, then one day, if given a chance they will be those change agents who will do something about it, who will do something consciously.
If you think, I am exaggerating then let me tell you, it’s happening today! I have searched about it enough and have seen enough. I have seen cities like Delhi becoming unliveable in Summer, whereas I would love Delhi’s summer when I was a kid.
Let’s not create any more damage to ourselves and our existence. We are going to end up leaving a degraded planet. Its not even about our kids anymore, its about us. Its us who can’t breathe fresh air. It is us who are going to experience these catastrophic weather changes and natural calamities.
We have been rich enough to get affected by the first hit. It is the result of our sheer ignorance that is putting our life in danger. It is real. We have been criminals towards our planet. We have reversed the evolution of our planet by half a billion years.
The future of our planet terrifies me. The shame that I carry today due to the inability of my ignorance makes me look down upon myself. We are the last best hope and our lifestyle and consumption is on the verge of becoming history.
We need to start caring about our planet and that happens in our sub-conscious thinking. It can happen from not buying a product which contains palm oil to installing solar cells in your homes. The least, don’t judge someone who says something which sounds stupid to care about our environment.
This requires combined efforts where each one of 7 billion people on the planet have to be the Messengers of Peace.