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Our Impending, Self-inflicted Disaster

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By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Climate Change has hit us and it will continue to strike at Uttarakhand over and over and over again.

This is happening because the green chemical, chlorophyll, in plants, can no longer convert all our industrial burping of greenhouse gases, such as Carbon dioxide, into the Oxygen which we and most living creatures breathe. The excess carbon dioxide causes the earth to over-heat. This, in turn melts the icecaps in the Polar Regions and on the Himalayas. Ice and snow act like giant mirrors and reflect the heat of sunlight back into space, helping to cool the earth.

With decreasing ice and snow the earth gets hotter, more fires rage across our gasping forests, destroying more green vegetation in a vicious, self-sustaining cycle.

But for thousands of years, humans were unaware of the importance of green vegetation. When they travelled across the globe, they needed fire to make raw food more digestible, provide heat and light when darkness fell, and to keep away predators. They also wanted shelters. They felled forests to meet these needs thereby reducing the great oxygen factories of living green plants.

Finally, by removing forests and plants, they robbed the soil of its major binding factor: the network of plant roots. The unbound earth slipped away in massive landslides which destroyed more forests and further added to the breakdown of the vegetation-oxygen-producing-climate-sustaining balance.

In short, as green cover disappears, less carbon dioxide is converted into oxygen and the earth heats up faster. Wildfires rage, ice-caps melt, floods and cloudbursts ravage the land, and the atmosphere gets laden with heat-trapping Carbon dioxide!

This is where we stand today. And this is what many of us learnt in school. And have forgotten. But THE EARTH REMEMBERS.

Long, long, before humanity’s first ancestors evolved on earth, the Himalayas had risen as a high northern bastion. They pushed back the moisture-laden winds forming above the sun-warmed southern oceans of Asia, forcing them to rain in life-sustaining seasonal (mausam aka monsoon) storms. Because of the monsoons, South and South-east Asia became the most fertile and populous lands of the world, the knowledge generator of Homo sapiens. These annual storms helped the first great civilisations sprout ant thrive. Finally, the monsoon winds powered the first predatory expansion of the pale, sunlight deprived, nations to start their great voyages of exploration, the age of the colonies and globe spanning empires, international travel, trade and tourism, the spread of the Corona Virus and the firm foundation of a real-time network of world-wide communications. Mankind could now raise its eyes to the limitless possibilities of space.

Much of this happened in tandem with the, recently near-sighted Ministers of Forests, Environment and Climate Change who believed that Development was the victim of Conservation. China thought so but it is now licking its self-inflicted wounds and trying to reverse the Environmental Clock as the world is trying to do. This is the very first time that the Nobel Prize has been given to Environmental Scientists. But if we don’t want to believe those foreigners, surely we should listen to our own dedicated environmental scholar. Pauri resident and MSc in Forestry, Subir Mario Chowfin writing in the Garhwal Post, said; “… the state of Uttarakhand has taken the view that destroying our state’s best natural resources – its forests- will be the order of the day. A large number of development projects are being passed in forest areas with trees being felled by the thousands. Reserve Forests are being converted into cycling paths and trees in tiger reserves are being mowed down to reduce the travel time to the National Capital by a mere eleven minutes and have tiger safaris to what was once one of the country’s premier tiger reserves so that tourists are guaranteed a “tiger sighting”.

It seems that while the state government focuses on development at the cost of destabilising the mountain slopes and fragmenting the forests of the Himalayas, leading to ecological and environmental misery, it has no plans for safe-guarding the assets that make Uttarakhand unique.”

Meanwhile, till wiser sense prevails on the many puffed-up prelates of our numerous Parties, we, in Uttarakhand, must prepare ourselves for our next self-created disaster.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)