By Khushi Mishra:
Walking through the corridors of F.R.I, Dehradun as a 12-year-old, I remember having endless fun with my friends after the school bell would ring. I recall waiting for my school bus or ‘shaktiman’ to drop us home which was about an hour from my school. After getting down from the massive army vehicle, there was still some walking left until I finally got home. Alongside the footpath, off the main road, leading to our homes, were the mulberry trees. My friends and I would pluck mulberry, eating and enjoying ourselves until we finally reached home. It would be three-o’clock by the time I would get back home.
Barely staying at home for an hour or two, all the kids in the neighbourhood including myself would gather in our summer clothes, heading out of our house on cycles. From pithoo to Badminton to hide and seek, cycling and swimming in the hot summer weeks, we would endlessly play around, smeared in sweat, mud and joy.
As I reminisce about my summer breaks, I am reminded of the times when my mother had to send my elder sibling to drag me back home. Other kids in the neighbourhood were no less than me.
Fast forward 15 years later, while sitting on my cushy couch at home in New Delhi, I do not enjoy the same privilege of running around in the afternoon. I don’t see that liveliness in the evening, instead, a deadly silence wherein everyone is indoors. Today, I think twice before planning to go out with friends.
A sheer amount of air pollution has taken a toll on everybody; I see no kids at 5 p.m playing in the park as I peek from my balcony. It is not something strange to me when I feel the wrath of scorching sun and blanket of heatwaves and dust storms engulfing me from all sides. It is now easy to digest the fact that kids don’t come out of their homes as a result.
The climate has increasingly become hostile. There are people who might challenge me saying “kids these days are glued to their phones all the time”, however, they disregard the fact that the weather these days does not allow them to explore anything out of their homes till it is suitable enough. When the mercury hits 46 degrees in the afternoon and no less than 41 in the night, it’s time we stop blaming the smartphones and look around the menace that we have created. It can get mundane sitting at home at a stretch for hours, I can only imagine the plight of 10-year-old left with no option.
We are experiencing a climate emergency and it is essential for us to contain the aggregate world temperature within 1.5 degrees. Now, why on earth is it so important to maintain it within 1.5 degrees? This year alone, several parts of the world battered the extreme weather events in some form or the other; be it heat waves or drought in Europe and China, forest fires in the US, dust storms and unprecedented rainfall in parts of India, including historically high rainfall in Kerala and high precipitation in Japan and other island nations. This is the status of extreme climatic changes when we only managed to achieve a 1-degree rise in aggregate world temperature. We have already hit a 1-degree mark and it has penalised us with the loss of lives.
Globally, environment enthusiasts and scientists are exploring the depths of the warming temperatures. With fishes of the Atlantic travelling across the ocean from the south pole to invade the arctic, the ecosystem is constantly changing. This migration of the southern fishes of Antarctica to the north pole in the arctic disrupts the native arctic food chain and is also shrinking its habitat. As the ocean temperature is on a rise, the Atlantic fishes are heading north to escape the warming temperature of the Atlantic in hope for a much cooler ocean in the arctic. These southern fishes are not mere invaders but climate refugees instead.
Researchers across the world have estimated that the rate at which the ocean is warming has only doubled in the past decade. The sea ice is melting drastically with each day passing by. As the world temperature rises, so does the sea level as a result of melting snow. It is expected to push millions back to poverty again and might bring with it instability in the most erratic times.
Back in the days, we would wait for the monsoons to get over, now we beg for the monsoons to arrive. What an irony!
Khushi Mishra is an intern at Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group. Her core areas of interest include researching and depicting the same graphically.