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Earth Day re-emphasizes need for resolving survival crisis before it is too late


By Bharat Dogra

This year the Earth Day ( 22 April 2022 ) is being observed at a time when the dangers to our once beautiful and bountiful planet appear to be at their most extreme. This is not just because of the more worrying projections of climate change by leading scientists, or because of similar projections of a worsening situation with respect to other serious environmental problems. This is also because of the deeply disappointing attitudes of world leadership as seen in the rapid escalation of the Ukraine crisis and now in the Ukraine war.
When our home is in extreme danger of collapsing, shall we repair the home or shall we fight in such ways that the structure gets damaged even more? This is a question that people need to ask their leaders at a time when the world is getting divided and the dangers of actual use of nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction, are increasing. In the course of Ukraine war such threats have been used and fears have been expressed as perhaps never before.
Even before the Ukraine war started, there were clear signs that the structure of de-escalation and stepping back in nuclear weapons race, of creating more checks and balances, was dismantling and gradually breaking down, being replaced instead by efforts of the USA to emerge as the clear world leader in nuclear weapons race , matched by efforts of Russia and China to resist and if possible defeat this ambition of the USA to create a unipolar world based mainly on unquestioned, technology-based supremacy in the context of weapons of mass destruction.
While the invasion by Russia has been widely condemned and should have been certainly avoided, the other aspect which has not been written about so widely is that the USA and the NATO were relentlessly increasingly their anti-Russia hostility and were using Ukraine as a proxy for this, to the extent of strengthening fascists and mercenary militants within Ukraine as long as they were opposed to Russia. Russian language citizens and region of Ukraine were increasingly threatened and confronted with actual violence. Early this year this increased further, in turn leading to the Russian invasion.
This as well as the resulting sanctions have so divided the world that the close cooperation needed to resolve climate change and other serious global environmental problems will be very difficult to obtain. Also what we should not forget is that wars and the arms race they involve are themselves very big polluters of earth. If weapons of mass destruction are actually used then this will destroy most life on earth as the nuclear weapons are now much more destructive compared to Hiroshima type weapons. Apart from the destruction directly caused, such use will initiate a nuclear winter when sun rays will not reach a great part of earth for a long time, resulting in failure to grow food and mass deaths. Whatever gains we make with years of careful efforts to protect environment can be destroyed within hours and perhaps minutes of nuclear war.
The number of scientists who are convinced that basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet are seriously threatened has been growing, and this is not just because of climate change. About a dozen other serious environmental problems are also implicated in this, as also the accumulation of WMDs, or Weapons of Mass Destruction.
In 1992, 1575 senior scientists, including many Nobel laureates, signed a document titled World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. This document was sent to government leaders all over the world.
This document stated, “We the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”
25 years later, in 2017 a follow-up statement was issued, this time with nearly 8 times the earlier number of endorsements, with 13,524 signatories. This statement concluded,“ Since 1992, with the exception of stabilising the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”
This assertion by over 13,000 scientists of life-threatening environmental problems getting worse is worryng enough, but we need to add the threat of WMDs. At present there are around 14,000 nuclear weapons. The use of only 1 per cent of these can destroy most life on earth, in terms of impact of fire, explosion and radiation as well as, as pointed above, the resulting smoke and dust blocking out sunlight for a period of several months, endangering much of the earth’s remaining life.
Apart from nuclear weapons we have to contend with the implications of chemical and biological weapons, weather weapon, robot or AI weapons, the possibility of space warfare as well as highly scaled up conventional weapons.
The Bulletin of Atomic Weapons, supported by the opinion of several senior scientists including Nobel laureates, has set up a doomsday clock which considers 12 a.m. midnight as a metaphor for doomsday time. This clock currently shows a time of 100 seconds to 12 a.m.
What is more, several of the factors that constitute the survival crisis come with ‘tipping points’, meaning that beyond a point these can quickly escalate and spiral beyond human control.
Having spent decades reporting on these prolems as an independent writer, I became increasingly struck with an idea that the next decade should be declared the decade of saving earth, when an agenda of peace and environment protection within a framework of justice and democracy should predominantly guide global discourse and actions. In particular I emphasized the justice part as it is already clear that justice based aspects are not getting the due emphasis in such efforts and without this no mass mobilisation on such important issues can be sutained. Hence summoning all my limited resources and energy I wrote and published seven books in English and Hindi as the factual and intellectual base of this campaign. I collected endorsements from some eminent persons, and then sent a campaign statement endorsed by them to the UN Secretary General.
This campaign emphasizes that a serious survival exists on our planet which should be resolved within a framework of justice, peace and democracy. Reduction of GHG emissions should be linked also to meeting basic needs of all people and to basic freedoms. Time is running out and the decade 2022-32 is most crucial. A firm commitment to peace and non-violence at all levels is essential. Spread of values of cooperation, equality, justice and environment protection as well as world citizens uniting as one to protect earth can be extremely helpful in this effort.

The writer is Honorary Convener of Campaign to Save Earth Now with SED Demand and author of recently published books ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘Man Over Machine’, ‘Protecting Earth for Children’ and ‘Earth Beyond Borders’

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