By Md Khasimul Asif:
“Once, on both sides of the Atlantic, fish such as salmon, eels, and, shad were abundant and played an important role in society, feeding millions and providing a livelihood for tens of thousands. But as these fish have steadily dwindled, humans have lost sight of their significance, with each generation accepting a diminished environment as the new norm.” Â – an excerpt from a report by John Waldman.
Waldman adds that every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new normal. Scientists call this phenomenon “shifting baselines” or “inter-generational amnesia”.
In the recent past , there are commendable climate change initiatives that have been taken up to educate people about the environmental hazards. However, the literate masses are usually left out, for we assume that they are environmentally conscious. Urban crowd has been the major exploiter of natural resources only to leave them at a non replenishable stage. But before we conclude that there is not enough awareness about environmental hazards, let us see what the aware masses are up to.
When we gather at International summits on environmental awareness or climate change what are we supposed to notice? (apart from networking for personal benefits and enjoying the sponsored trips by posting exciting stuff on facebook for few likes from your peer group!) Have we ever analysed how the diverse species matter to humans and environmental well being? We live in a paradoxical age of discovery and mass extinction of species. We welcome the newly discovered species only to forget the demise of extinct ones. We also thrill to the possibility of finding the slightest microbial hint of life in outer space, when billions of dollars are spentÂ a year, largely for that purpose. Ironically, do we even spend a penny to save the species on our own planet? Have we ever thought what the ecosystem has lost due to the extinct species? For instance,Â ProchlorococcusÂ is an ocean-dwelling genus of cyanobacteria and among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Why should we care? Because it produces about 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe – and yet until an MIT microbiologist named Sally Chisholm discovered it in 1986,Â ProchlorococcusÂ was unknown. We need to understand in short that our lives depend on species most of us have never heard of – species we otherwise tend to shrug off as obscure, trivial, even undesirable.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with the human mind. We become used to the most desolate of environments, and feel it is inevitable that every species has to come to an end just as the dinosaurs had to, because to save, to work through towards solutions requires effort , sacrifice and sharing. We’re not so good with these things. We conveniently accept Darwin’s famous line — ‘Survival of the fittest’ and convince ourselvesÂ that a few species have to be sacrificed, if human race has to ‘progress’. Well, the fact is that we have never understood the finer points about how we, humans as the superior race has played a pivotal role in diminishing the environment. We need to understand that with time our technological advancements are harming the environment contrary to the original purpose. Let us stop being hypocrites — When you are an environmental activist, implement the conservation steps yourself first, the rest will follow you, and work towards conserving the endangered species. Let us divert some of the funds that we waste on expensive conferences for awareness and research to find life in outer spaceÂ to preserve the endangered species of earth.