By Dr R. Neerunjun Gopee
If 2020 & 2021 will be remembered for the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the Ukraine war that will probably define 2022 the most. If there is one thing in common between these two destructive events, it is that no early closure is in sight for either of them.
As regards Covid-19, almost three years since the causative coronavirus surfaced there is no definitive conclusion about its origins, but what is now clear is that it is here to stay: it has become endemic.
Apparently – so the experts opined when the Russians began to get mired into the Ukrainian soil within a couple of months after the conflict began – the latter had thought that their ‘special military operation’ would be a cuit-vidé — affair: a swift massive and paralyzing attack and an equally prompt withdrawal. It is now almost a year, and there is no end in sight. Ukraine is putting up a strong resistance even as the Russians seem to be weakening.
Needless to say, there has been much destruction and hundreds of thousands of needless loss of human lives, both military and civilian on the two sides, with the accompanying social, economic and political impacts that are aggravating lives and livelihoods globally.
Against this backdrop was held the UN COP27 conference on the climate change crisis COP27 at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. Some extracts from the Statement by the Secretary-General Antony Gueterres at the conclusion of COP27 point to the harsh realities we face:
‘Climate chaos is a crisis of biblical proportions.
The signs are everywhere. Instead of a burning bush, we face a burning planet.
From the beginning, this conference has been driven by two overriding themes: justice and ambition.
Justice for those on the frontlines who did so little to cause the crisis.
Ambition to keep the 1.5-degree limit alive and pull humanity back from the climate cliff.
This COP has taken an important step towards justice …I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period.
Let’s be clear.
Our planet is still in the emergency room.
We need to drastically reduce emissions now – and this is an issue this COP did not address.
COP27 concludes with much homework and little time… to end the suicidal war on nature that is fueling the climate crisis, driving species to extinction and destroying ecosystems.
We can and must win this battle for our lives.’
‘…win this battle for our lives’ – this is the crux of the issue: the survival of mankind.
But what will happen if we destroy ourselves, that is, if mankind is wiped off the surface of the Earth? Here I am tempted to quote a remark by a famous British experimental pharmacologist (someone who does experiments to discover and study new drugs) of the last century, Sir John Gaddum, to wit that ‘if all the drugs of the British Pharmacopaiea were to be dumped into the seas, it would be so much worse for the fishes and so much better for humans.’
A bit extreme, I would think, because many drugs have saved millions – but it the abuse of drugs that has caused harm, and continues to do so as we all are seeing, on a larger and larger scale. But the point is taken that human activity can do harm – precisely the realization of UN the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which established years ago on the basis of solid evidence that it is the sum total of human activities that is damaging living and other ecosystems and causing the rise in temperature responsible for climate change.
So to the question of the aftermath of mankind’s destruction: the Earth will heal itself (too bad for mankind, so much better for the Earth…), thank you very much.
It is not the Earth that needs us: it is we who need the Earth to survive. After all, the universe contains billions of planets bereft of life that are going around.
There are two kinds of mindset that are engaged in the world: the one is driven by greed and lust for money, power and material wealth, with the ambition to exert exclusive control over territory,resources, and to impose ideologies. This leads to conflicts and wars, with death and destruction – and the counter response only increases the extent of the damage done.
On the other hand, are those who are doing work that will be beneficial to people – enlightened teachers, scientists, those engaged in the healing professions, others devising ways to improve physical living conditions especially of those who are vulnerable, and so on and so forth.
Which mindset predominates is what will determine the future of mankind, and each country has to take the call on which one it will choose. But a country is a mere geographical space – it is the people, especially the leaders who have the leverage, make the choice(s) for their people.
When we look around at different countries, we can clearly make out which way the wind is blowing, the constructive one or the destructive one.
The Earth is a given; we humans spread over it to build the world – which we are now damaging and destroying by our excesses. Because left to itself in its natural state the Earth can take care of that is heal itself, it is the world that we have superimposed on it that needs healing, so that we can survive as a species. But this starts with caring for our ecosystem – which depends on our mindset –, the environment which sustains us, i.e., the Earth.
And it can happen only when we are willing to share instead of grab all for ourselves, when we shed enmity and nourish friendship. It was a call made eons ago, in the oldest extant writings of mankind, the Vedas which were ‘revealed’ to the rishis or sages of ancient India. In an apt prayer for climate whose second stanza reads as follows:
May the Heaven grant us peace, and the Atmosphere.
May the Earth grant us peace, and the Waters.
May the plants and the great forest trees give us
May the Devas grant us peace.
May Brahman grant us peace.
May the entire universe grant us peace.
May that supreme peace come to us.
May that peace dwell in me.
And ends with –
Take this firm resolve:
May all beings look at me with the eyes of a friend.
May I look at all beings with the eyes of a friend.
May we all look at each other with the eyes of a friend.
(Shukla Yajur Veda 36.12–15, 17–18- Translation by David Frawley)
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 9 December 2022
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