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Hurricane Highway

Driving down streets of India one notices a peculiar behaviour of pedestrians. A majority of them cross the road, with eyes averted from traffic. Sometimes it is a mad dash with eyes fixed on the opposite side. Sometimes it is a leisurely saunter with scarcely a glance at the oncoming traffic. There could be several reasons for the reckless behaviour – road congestion, dearth of zebra crossings and footpaths, a culture of jay walking, rash driving patterns and poor enforcement of traffic rules among them. The behaviour is extremely risky, based as it is on ‘blind’ faith in the eyesight and driving skills of motorists. One could get run over anytime….
Our attitude towards climate change is similar.

Climate Change – Initially we could only hear its rumble. Later it became visible like a speck on the horizon. Now that it has come closer, its speed and ominous proportions have become clearly discernible. Yet, many among us prefer to keep our eyes turned away, hoping that it will pass us by. Some hate it. Some are overeager to denigrate the supporting scientific evidence. Some refuse to acknowledge it. Among those who recognize the threat, many are reluctant to admit the role played by humans. However, if the ‘flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a Tornado in Texas’ (see Butterfly Effect Edward Lorenz), what unpredictable and catastrophic outcomes can result from our uninhibited and destructive exploitation of the environment? Unlike motorists watching out for pedestrians, climate change is a blind force and could run us over, unless we pay attention.

If we change ways, adopt environment friendly lifestyles, reduce dependence on conventional fuels and embrace renewable sources of energy, we can probably save ourselves. But “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity” as Albert Einstein put it. Harbouring a false hope and continuing our present course could have disastrous consequences.

Rabindranath Tagore, in his poem “Where the Mind is Without Fear” hoped that India would “rediscover the clear stream of reason and awake into a heaven of freedom”. As the Copenhagen summit to reach an agreement on emission cuts is underway, I too wish that “nations broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls” would overcome their differences and galvanize into positive action.

Where The Mind is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
 – Rabindranath Tagore

Categories: Planetwatch
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