Glaciers are melting, the Amazon is burning, and half of India is underwater. So, what’s new?
I apologise for being so blunt. Actually, I don’t.
Greta Thunberg is here, and she has destroyed the United Nations Council. Sorry, I pretended to be diplomatic like United Nations, but I guess it’s difficult for me not to show my agreement with such impeccable logic. Greta has inspired many of us couch potatoes to come out of the closet and speak against the billion dollars’ bet against the environment.
Who’s winning, you ask? Nature isn’t for sure. We are doing everything we can to control the damage done to the ever-giving environment and the destructive footprint our generation has had on it. Several initiatives like Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Climate Initiatives Platform, and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have been undertaken in an effort to reverse or at least manage the deadly effects of environmental change and global warming.
I present to you ladies and gentlemen Exhibit A. According to an ILO (International Labor Organisation) report, it is predicted that among many others, global warming will have yet another profound effect on our lives. The sudden onslaught of heat stress due to the change in weather patterns brought on by global warming is estimated to lead to global productivity losses equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs by the year 2030. I’m gonna let that sink in for a moment.
So new estimates are in, and ILO has published a 98-page report which in detail discusses the unchecked change in global warming by 2030 will inevitably lead to an increase in average global temperature by 1.5 degrees Celsius. That might not seem much, but the more I talk, the more it’s gonna make sense.
As the temperature increases, the optimal working hours will dwindle, and with it, workplace efficiency. A decrease in optimal working hours means that people either won’t work in the unfavorable working conditions and hence decrease their work hours (first world problems) or continue working in the adverse conditions, leading to a severe decrease in productivity. We can, of course, call them crybabies just like we call mother nature -this is sarcasm here, don’t kill me- but there is something serious going on here which we need to understand lest we might lose the remaining hope in humanity and its future.
According to ILO -not me-, optimal working hours in a day constitute the ones in which the human body is the most productive given its surroundings, the climate, and, most importantly, the temperature or precipitation conditions. As global warming becomes more intense, the temperatures will move to more extreme forms, making summer hotter and winters colder. People won’t be able to work efficiently in the days and won’t be able to sleep at night. Rising temperatures, extreme weather swings, and untimely precipitation will result in a record low productivity in terms of workplace efficiency. And the growing climate instability will result in some unprecedented workplace problems.
I still remember the hot and humid summer days when my grandfather, a farmer in Himachal Pradesh, would go into the wheat fields early in the morning at 4 am to care for the crops. He would return before midday and then go back to the fields after the sun went down. Those days won’t come back, for it can only get worse.
It is no surprise that the worst affected sectors affected by this sudden onslaught of temperature fluctuations would be agriculture and construction, the ones where the ground level and low-level workers work in the open. Other sectors like environmental goods and services refuse collection, emergency, transport, tourism, sports, etc. are certainly not out of the danger zone and will be similarly affected. Moreover, the poorest of us all, as usual, will face the worst of the consequences of all the damage we have done to the environment.
And sadly, for people sitting in their AC rooms while reading this article, these dire changes apply to the whole world. Sure, the worse of the impact, will be focused on third world countries -God, I hate that word- and developing nations such as the African continent and South Asia, but the effects will manifest worldwide gradually affecting the entire globe starting all the way from the polar ends and reaching the equator. So, if you think the Equator is hot now, try visiting it in 10 years.
Catherine Saget, Chief of Unit in the ILO’s Research department and one of the main authors of the report commented that, “The impact of heat stress on labor productivity is a serious consequence of climate change, which adds to other adverse impacts such as changing rain patterns, rising sea levels and loss of biodiversity.”
Now, the report calls out nationwide and at some point in the future, global initiatives and policies which can systematically combat the damage brought upon by humans on the environment. But we know how our governments tend to favor the people with the big wads of money, and environmental policies actually benefit the ones making them, right? So, what can we as corporate entities and, most importantly, as average citizens do about this? Let me give you an example to restore your faith in humanity.
In September 2019, Marriott International, a multinational hospitality company, announced that it would stop giving out complimentary plastic toiletries by 2021. Marriott is known for its worldwide five-star hotel chain and certainly not its frugality. What then, you might think, might be the reason behind such a big step with widespread aftereffects? Well, joining a long line of environment-friendly companies who are thinking of the future, Marriott is doing this to lessen its impact on the environment. According to Marriott’s estimates, the use of small complimentary toiletries leads to the production of about half a billion plastic bottles annually, which invariably end up in a landfill somewhere. They will be replacing the small bottles with bigger and sturdier counterparts, which will run for a more extended period and hence decrease the hotel chain’s environmental footprint.
This decision will no doubt have a massive impact on Marriott’s brand value, which has been addressed deeply by the company, especially its CEO Arne Sorenson. Still, Marriott is standing firm by its decision, inspite of immense backlash. So, the next time you go to a fancy hotel, try to not throw that small bottle of shampoo or conditioner after first use and aim to completely use it. Reuse the bottle if possible, and while you’re doing that, try to replace paper and plastic cups in your daily life with long-running and sturdier counterparts like bone china, glass, or steel.
An observation that I made in my daily life is that every piece of leftover food, water, cola, or ice cream that we leave in the small plastic containers or shut inside the plastic bag gets thrown into a landfill somewhere without any proper treatment. This means that due to the nonreactive and non-biodegradable nature of plastic, the raw materials like seeds, fruit, vegetables, and most importantly, water gets stuck inside the plastic bag. That water will only re-enter the atmosphere and the ecosystem after thousands of years when that plastic decays. Till then, we’re not only putting mother nature into a hot oven, slowly frying it but also ridding itself of the aquatic shield that can protect it.
Alternatives are in place, and the urgency to save the planet is undeniable. However, we, as a society, still stand on the precipice of denial. Whether it is resistance to change or more deep-rooted issues in our society’s mindset is something we can debate. Till then, please think of every small way you can decrease your impact on the environment. She keeps us alive and so keep her alive.