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Charudutta Panigrahi

News Highlights

  • Currently, we are battered by waves of the pandemic, variants, the lethal black fungus.

  • Climate change is a major contributor to all this mortality.

  • Experts opine that an estimated 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction.

All the while we lived recklessly and suddenly besieged by doom, we preach positivity. Posters sermonising “Stay Calm” are floating around on social media. What does it mean by ‘being positive’ and why does it need to be promoted? Being positive is keeping oneself optimistic about the present and mostly the future. After finishing off 83% of all wild mammals and half of the plants, we have not yet realised that we are actually insignificant in the planet. In biomass terms, we are only 0.01% of the life on Earth, which is almost negligible, but we have devoured everything. The planet will be happier without us, the predators, and destroyers. But “keep decimating and keep calm” – is this our credo? Experts opine that an estimated 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction. What will happen after all the extinctions? We alone will survive and eat each other. Even that won’t be enough because the microbes from animal to human transmission will decapitate us by then.

Nathan Wolfe, renowned biologist says that “pandemics almost always begin with the transmission of an animal microbe to a human”. In the last two hundred years (a) Bovine tuberculosis, from cows to humans, (b) Q fever, bacterial, airborne transmission (c) Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Consumption of infected cattle meat (d) H5N1 bird flu, infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments, such as live bird markets, (e) Nipah virus, viral, mainly from pigs (f) Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), butchering or consumption of undercooked infected meat (g) H7N7 – bird flu, direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry (h) H1N1 – swine flu, animals to humans through close contact with infected meat, such as at slaughterhouses (i) Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), through direct or indirect contact with infected animals have debilitated us time and again. The waves of epidemics have hit us repeatedly, indicating a planet-numbing catastrophe. We have not heeded to the signals because somewhere our arrogance in capabilities in getting a solution for every pandemic made us remorselessly hedonistic.

Currently, we are battered by waves of the pandemic, variants, the lethal black fungus. We are gasping for breath, the basis of life on earth. Frankly, the medicine scientists are fumbling to understand COVID, Black Fungus and other variants and are left scampering for an answer. Every day there is a new theory about a new medicine or a new protocol. We are under a severe attack from Nature which is the Supreme. We are still under the illusion that we are Supreme – the Knowledge Supremacist. If we had the fundamental knowledge, we should not have slighted the placenta from where we are born. What a pitiable state have we brought upon ourselves? 

Climate change is a major contributor to all this mortality, but we carry on unabated and unabashed our mass ecocide. We have been brutal with nature and have accorded no time for normal natural development in anything. For example, we are harvesting fish much faster, artificially than they can reproduce themselves. Heavy metals and toxic sludge dumped into the rivers and oceans breed devastating diseases and invasive species. They in turn attack the vulnerable environments. More than 75 per cent of the Earth’s land, and 85 per cent of its wetlands, have been severely altered or destroyed by human development. Do we still call this “human development”? When do we start living real lives without such monikers and self-serving, high sounding terms? What do we get out of this apathy, besides death and sufferings?

After all the havoc we have wreaked on Earth, it is giving us food more than ever before. But we’re sapping the ecosystems on which the bounty is treasured. Land degradation is finishing off the agricultural productivity of nearly 25 per cent of the Earth’s landmass. The pollinating insects are dying en masse, and this has directly hampered $577 billion in annual crop production. Overfishing and the death of major coral reefs, is creating a major protein deficit in the diets of billions. Sundaland (Indonesia), Indo-Burma (mainland southeast Asia) and Mesoamerica are among the biodiversity hot spots of the world. These areas contain “exceptional concentrations of endemic species that are undergoing exceptional loss of habitat”. Extension of farms, urbanisation and cities have gobbled up 148 million hectares or more than 10 per cent of the tropical forests in this biodiversity wealth in the last 25 years. 

The Bhitarkanika mangroves forest of Odisha is connected to (even though it is growing thinner) the tropical Indo-Burma forest. This biodiversity and tropical vegetation help in capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. This is called carbon sequestration and is a sustainable method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to reduce global climate change. Odisha’s biodiversity has a major contribution to climate change mitigation because the emissions due to the metal & mining industry need to be absorbed and contained. But these forests are actively chopped off and the dependent communities are not sensitised. We convene high profile climate change meetings, wax eloquence but destroy tracts of forests. At the end of all this, when the time for payback comes, we preach zen like “being positive”. Whom are we trying to browbeat? Nature?

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at charu.panigrahi@gmail.com)

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