“The test for first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his famous essay “The Crack Up” in 1936. The determination to deliver even when odds are high can be a manifestation of this quote or forming a considered opinion on the basis of an argument and counter argument can be another. And from the runway of this second manifestation, the context takes off today. The ability to function sums up to either the will to analyze or in actual indulge in an analysis.
Analysis breeds perspective, which idealistically tends to be unique, and this uniqueness stems from the height “above mean “see” level”. Shunning the biases foremost and then accruing the benefits of viewing from a higher place – clarity of the bigger picture. We today are being carpet bombed by trends and phenomena, some new and some old ones in newer bottles. One out of these is environment, which first came to fore on list of issues which were likely to go global, more than one and a half century back. It was in 1850s, when Irish physicist John Tyndall established the correlation between properties of air and Green House Gases (GHGs) of today.
Most important to develop an environmental perspective, is to break it down into its three constituents, mainly, climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution. The common denominator to all three are the emissions. Emissions of GHGs. There is enough scientific evidence to set up an interrelationship between these ingredients. Simplistically, let us consider carbon dioxide only, which when emitted throws an additional blanket over the earth’s atmosphere, which doesn’t let the heat energy escape, resulting in warming up of the planet. Climatic patterns change to extremities which lead to loss of biodiversity due to extinction of flora and mortality or mass migration of fauna and at times human beings too. Deforestation and rising sea levels affect the overall efficiency of these major and natural carbon sinks.
Despite this brief explanation, the issue still presents itself as new, “Hi I am environmental issue, pleased to meet you Mr President”, mainly due to time lapse in formulation of considered opinion by societies (will be elaborated again in succeeding lines) and thus the lack of coordinated response, not only in the third world but also in the developed countries. Therefore, it can be concluded that it is still “6 to some, 9 to others”; classic case of perspective differential.
6ers consider it as a global issue warranting global action. NGOs like “Green Peace” advocate “Greener” solutions to address the energy crises and food insecurity coupled with water scarcity. Means of alternate energy and going organic are the buzzers ringing our ears for the last four decades or so. Alternate energy places lesser dependence on use of fossil fuels and thus controlled or lesser emissions of environment damaging gases. Growing organic food cuts down the demand on use and manufacturing of fertilizers and thus lesser release of by-produced unfriendly gases in the environment. For 6ers, conserving environment is conserving planet for our generations to come and they point finger on 9ers for awaiting economic slowdowns or complete jams ala Covid 19 in last two years for earth to heal itself, rather than taking practical measures and safeguards.
9ers on the other hand take a different perspective. They believe that the hoopla around global warming has presented human being as the biggest predator on the planet and its resources, which otherwise are supplied by nature, for civilizations. The fuss on carbon dioxide is unwarranted in the eyes of 9ers, as its footprint in the earth’s atmosphere is ignorable. They blame the 6ers for denying planet’s resources in all fairness to the those who tread the planet now, by saving it up for those who are yet to come. Their agendum of denial, despite proven scientific evidence on global warming, is also political and economic in nature, driven by conservatives. Most powerful of these deniers are at work in USA. As per Wikipedia around 64 groups are working under an umbrella of major corporations and conservative donors to counter the climate change. Last but not the least, 9ers feel and project that environment conservation is an idea best sold to filled tummies.
Why the environment issue is pleased to meet Mr President, it is because, it has taken a short cut to a political discourse and that too as one of the leading issues of debates during elections in the west aka playing to the galleries from the corridors of power. But has it bypassed the social route, while doing so? Are the societies and communities across the globe, really willing to invest their time, resources and intellect in conserving the environment? Or it is lip service being accorded to the issue only? Can this be a leading priority in third world countries? Are the societies primed to nullify the notion that environment conservation is an idea more marketable to the “well fed” than to those who are “fed up”. Till then, it will remain “6 to some, 9 to others”. Debate on, keeping the first rate intelligence intact.
Zulfiqar Ali Shirazi, is a retired government officer, with almost three decades of insight on technology and engineering management. Can be reached at [email protected]