We are living in a world where many are still circumspect about the scientific forecasts on climate change. Their view is that the forecasts are still uncertain and the debate around it is louder than it deserves to be. In short, the warning-bells are simply false alarms. Add to this a huge chunk of our population who are simply unaware of the changes occurring in our environment and natural resources due to the impact of climate change, many of the parents of children who will grow up on this earth in the years to come; and one can understand why building awareness and acceptance of the impact of climate change is all the more imminent.
While the latest UN-IPCC scientific report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC was particularly worrying, let us, as a layman, observe the general happenings around us. The timing and frequency of rains have been shifting in recent years. Take the monsoon rains across South Asia since the last decade as an example. A region which is still predominantly rain-dependent for its agriculture, erratic rain patterns are causing massive swings in the final output of key crops, thus impacting its supply and ultimately the price consumers like us pay. Frequent incidents of floods in our cities due to reducing wetlands floods, erratic freshwater supply to our homes due to drying up of key rivers and lakes and lung-related ailments as a result of breathing polluted air are just some more examples.
Apart from direct impacts like these, there are indirect impacts too. For instance, the distress that erratic rainfall and cyclonic patterns cause to our rural agrarian community is leading to higher rates of rural to urban migration of people, causing significant pressure on our cities’ civic resources and a social challenge due to a large inflow of unemployed youth. Another indirect impact is that the severe pollution and reduction of our natural capital is leading to the disappearance of several flora and fauna around us, all of whom play a crucial role in the natural ecosystem. Take the case of beneficial insects and birds who play a vital role as pollinators and predators to pests in our farms. How many do we see left today?
All in all, one can either live in denial of this issue or else convert this into a multi-billion business opportunity to give people new solutions to tackle the challenge. Both options may not be really feasible in developing countries of South Asia. The first option is not feasible for obvious reasons. The second reason is also a challenge because most high-tech solutions are expensive and hence, out of the purchasing power of a mass chunk of our population. And our region has a large population and is relatively poor, at the end of the day!
We need breakthrough solutions that are both low-cost, hence can be implemented by masses, and have long-term benefits, so that we are not forced to invest in new plans every year. Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India, offers such a solution on one of our key needs: food. Its Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) policy aims to cover all the farmers of the state by 2025. ZBNF farming practices involve using natural inputs as bio-inoculants instead of chemical fertilizers. Chemical inputs in our farms are seen to have caused significant damage to our natural resources over the last fifty years, from ruining the soil-health to reduced absorption of rainwater. The natural inputs used in ZBNF farming are available within the villages and at a far lower cost than the expensive fertilizers and pesticides of the chemical industry.
Moreover, the natural farming system creates better quality crops, which has long-term benefits for the health of the consumers, unlike food from chemical-based farms which often have chemical residue. Thus, the lower medical and paediatrician bills is an indirect benefit in itself! Low-cost and long-term beneficial solutions like these can help us combat the impacts of global warming and climate change better, especially in the South Asian community.
In conclusion, it may already be too late to say that we should desire to leave behind a better planet for our next generation, but there is still time to say that we should desire to leave behind a slightly less ruined planet for our next generation. The time to build our awareness and acceptance of this pressing issue, and then act upon it, is now!
The above article was originally published in SAARC Biz Annual Issue of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry