Recent events in India—like the recent floods in Kerala and droughts in parts of Maharashtra—and around the world have served as reminders of climate change and ecological imbalance. The repercussions of man-made damage on the globe have been on our conscience for a long time. However, one imminent question that begs an answer is: Have we reached a point of no return?
Environmentalist, inventor and poet Anadish Pal answers the question in an interview with THE WEEK. Anadish has 10 US patents, including the one for an electromagnetically controlled, fuel-efficient internal combustion engine. He started out as a self-taught electronics designer who worked as a freelancer for companies like Honda, Maruti Udyog (now Maruti Suzuki India Ltd) and Duracell. Excerpts:
There have been events around the world signalling climate change—fires in California, floods in Assam, Nagaland, Kerala, drought in Australia, hotter summers in UK. Where do you think we are headed with all this?
It is climate change and yet not climate change! The fires in California were man-made—a grid-like burning in clear patterns to clear vegetation. The purpose being possibly real estate growth in future or some plan of a tactical kind. Floods in Assam and Nagaland are less due to climate change and more due to man versus nature where man is destroying (read building and progressing in "Modivian" terms).
Drought in Australia is nothing new—Australia always was a kind of arid continent. Hot summers in UK and (recently) in Japan is due to climate change, surely. Drought in Maharashtra (and some other parts of India) is due to climate change mixed with local ecological dis-balance (tall trees spawn the clouds with the bacteria and other extracts, which they release in the air). So these are, yes, signals of climate change, but more, a trumpeting of man destroying the habitat in direct terms.
Would you term it an apocalypse of sorts?
Not really. We still have time to reverse the whole of it.
What kind of further change in terms of weather should we Indians be prepared for? Could you suggest ways to survive these—like a change in the way we grow crops or change the crops themselves, change building material for infrastructure?
Definitely build safer houses that can resist many such calamitous situations. Crops sure have to be adjusted to the changing weather and alluvial situations (like, in Goa they are reclaiming wild grasslands in an island by planting a specially developed variety of paddy, which can survive saline soil). Indians themselves cannot reverse climate change; but they could have decreased their rape of the earth by not being so hoggish about "development".
Local habitat destruction and micro-climate management can surely bring about positive changes in terms of weather, rain and living conditions. For instance, concretisation in Delhi has not decreased the mosquito population, but it has increased waterlogging by preventing rainwater from seeping in (water tables have also fallen as a result). Mindless, aimless "development" for the sake of "development" is a curse, which we Indians hardly realise, as we are stricken with a Third World inferiority complex of decades.
How do we move ahead in terms of resources—is renewable energy and complete banning of plastic the only way forward? What does that mean for the next generation?
Renewable energy and banning of plastic (bags only) is a step forward; but blatant consumerism has to be tempered, which is not happening. The adulterous relationship of welfare and free trade has spawned a hydra-headed monster, which resents price rise and craves for subsidies. If the Indians do not know how to exercise self-control in terms of procreation to consumption, circumstances are not going to be a benevolent democratically elected government.
Nature and the physical circumstances (including weather) do not read either Marx or Machiavelli (not even Harold Laski!). The next generation shall continue to scratch their smart devices and would not get time to even scratch their heads till they find themselves completely blind-sided by the forces of nature.
But I am sure, nobody shall heed—till a Fukushima-like situation perpetuates itself—even then there would a Mayan-like extermination, and even less sensibility. (Are the Syrians showing signs of sensibility today? They are just fleeing their homeland in blind panic.) Panic doesn't make people sensible, for sure.
Do you think we will ever reach a 'point of no return' in terms of climate change and the damage we are currently doing to the environment? When would that be? Where is India when it comes to the climate change situation?
India is just a brat busy being arrogant and trying to look smart. India doesn't even bother, beyond tokenism. Your first point, sure, globally, we shall reach a very bad point. And going by the way the humans respond now, it seems, it will be a point of very slow return. Doomsday forecasters might call that point a point of no return—but there still would be chance (of making things better).
Considering that the Earth has always evolved and rearranged itself for survival, do you think human survival is on edge?
Earth is not a goddess—hardly a mother. We are just a crust of dandruff on it. The fact that billions of planets all around us in the universe are either devoid of life or at least devoid of such life as ours, is proof enough that life as such is an ephemeral phenomenon, which has no basic place in the basic scheme of the universe. So, do not expect any automatic self-correction on the part of our Earth, the planet. (Life could be very evanescent; Enrico Fermi once asked, "Where is everybody?")