By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
Global warming or not, climate change will always be a reality of our condition of life on this Earth. We will continually adapt and not perish: life will simply go on
As a Curepipian, I cannot help it and keep coming back to the weather, if only because practically all those valiant walkers at the Trou-O-Cerfs every morning exchange a point of view or two about it when they meet. So do I too, inevitably, with my companions. One thing is sure: we have adapted to whatever comes, from soft drizzle to light or heavy rains, to cool/less cool or windy mornings, welcoming sunny ones with great cheer and looking forward to the next day as we part ways. All of us have but admiration for the changing ways of Mother Nature, because each of them presents us with a different spectacle every morning.
Two days this past week there was lovely mist that wrapped around us, and the crater too had its share of the bounty as a thin veil rose from its green depths. It was a feast for the eyes, enjoyed in the silence of our seeing, almost compelling our attention. And thus it has been for the past few weeks, the pattern alternating practically on a daily basis. One day we think there, winter is back with a vengeance! Next day it’s a warmer, dry morning and the day turns out to be summery. So what is what, we ask ourselves – is summer going to come once and for all? We have no answer, but despite not overtly complaining about the colder, wetter and windier days when we are all heavily clad again – to do the exact opposite the next day! — there is a secret wish to see the summer set in, so that we do not have to miss any day because of too heavy rain or cold and wind.
Besides, as the days begin to lengthen, the mornings are brighter earlier, and that allows for longer walks for many, and an earlier start for those who have to go to work. I have had the opportunity to say it before, and I will reiterate that nobody can complain about lack of places to walk in Mauritius, wherever they stay. Every single locality in the country will have some green space where one can enjoy nice walks; over and above that there are some specific health tracks that have been constructed, such as in Rose Belle.
We have all we need to keep ourselves healthy and fit, and there is no excuse not to do some regular physical activity, walking being the best and most accessible, not requiring expensive equipment or accessories. And best, it’s something one can do all one’s life, at one’s own pace – like the 3 or 4 over 80-year olds who are at the crater every single morning practically, shaming the younger ones among us by their regularity, good cheer and why, even speed!
I was invited the other morning to make an opening address at a workshop on climate change and health, part of a programme that we have been conducting at the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life with the help of an expert who was here some months back. There are many aspects of the impact on human activity on global warming, and how the latter is likely, in turn to affect human health, and for which we have to prepare ourselves through mitigation and adaptation measures. Referring to an effect of global warming that has been cited often, namely the flooding of coastal areas with the possible submerging of low-lying islands (such as the Maldives), I joked that if this were to happen in Mauritius then Curepipe would be spared – and as far as I was concerned I could still go for my walks. And I invited those in the audience who thought they might be threatened to consider migrating before it was too late!
Who knows, really! Unlikely scenario of course, just a flight of the imagination and a wild extrapolation. But the whole issue of climate change does make us think, doesn’t it, about certain concerns which appear a bit odd to me, as I said at the workshop. For example, in the temperate climes, people are fretting about a rise in the temperature to levels that they think will be intolerable, in the 30 degrees Celsius range for example. But these and higher levels of temperature are a matter of routine in several countries, and people are not only surviving but living quite well too for that matter.
The human body has indeed a remarkable capacity for adaptation. I remember one day when I was an intern way back in 1971. I had finished my duty at the Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, and I was standing outside the hospital waiting for a transport at about 3 in the afternoon. The heat was fierce: later I learnt that the temperature that afternoon was 47 degrees C! I could feel the tar melting and the soles of my shoes sticking to it. People were going about carrying out their normal routine — one of which that amazed me was the preparation of hot chai on a fire by vendors sitting under a tree (not very much less hot there I am sure) and selling it to passers-by in small earthenware cups. They delighted in drinking it, blowing off the steam from to time as they did so. Eventually, I also found that I could do the same and it did not trouble me the least.
By the same token, people live in the most extreme climes of subzero temperatures where they do not have the amenities such as are found in advanced countries. I once watched a documentary showing how people lived in Siberia and Mongolia, and just seeing the frozen whites made me almost shudder with cold!
Global warming or not, climate change will always be a reality of our condition of life on this Earth. We will continually adapt and not perish: life will simply go on. Cheers to that – and may summer bless us soon in Curepipe. And good luck to others.
* Published in print edition on 28 September 2012