With the mercury rising alarmingly in many parts of the country and hundreds in the north succumbing to the heat wave, we are slowly awaking to the phenomenon of ‘global warming’.
Environmentalists have been warning the world of this climate change that is rapidly overtaking us for quite some time now.
The perennial snows in the north and south poles and on the peaks of the Himalayas are melting too quickly to be ignored any longer; the habitats of several birds and animals in these regions are endangered and these precious species may soon become extinct.
If the snow continues to melt at the present rate, the level of ocean waters will rise to such an extent that several islands with large populations will be submerged and many coastal cities, like Mumbai, will be flooded with sea-water, making normal life virtually impossible.
The main cause of global warming is the increasing emission of ‘greenhouse gases’, like carbon dioxide and methane, due to human activity: burning of coal and oil to produce large quantities of electricity, vehicular traffic, and a host of industries.
These gases act like the glass roofs of greenhouses where plant saplings are grown – they trap some of the heat waves of sunlight and prevent them from escaping into outer space.
As a result, as in greenhouses or even in motor vehicles with glass panels during the day, the temperature of the atmosphere covering the earth keeps rising.
Besides, large tracts of forest-lands are being cleared for hasty development and millions of trees are being ruthlessly cut down for quick profits, leading to rapid expansion of deserts.
Science tells us that trees have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the presence of sunlight and convert it into oxygen, thus reducing the quantity of harmful gases.
At the Rio de Janeiro Conference on ‘Climate Change’, a few years ago, more than a 100 countries (excepting the U.S. and a few others) signed a protocol to reduce emission of greenhouse gases drastically in order to save our beautiful planet earth – like which there is no other planet in the universe.
However, this resolution is not being implemented by most countries and is deliberately rejected by countries like the U.S., which is the biggest producer of greenhouse gases.
The reason for refusing to see the writing on the wall about an impending catastrophe is that people in most countries, especially the affluent ones, are unwilling to change their lifestyles to reduce unnecessary consumption of energy in various forms.
All of us can certainly manage to live very comfortable and much healthier lives with lesser consumption of electric power, fewer vehicles and a lesser number of superfluous luxury goods.
Builders and planners in towns and cities can easily take steps to save forests and plant more trees.
Each of us also could do much in this regard by adopting a simpler lifestyle, traveling by cycles instead of cars, using public transport instead of private air-conditioned cars, growing more trees and saving the greenery around us, opting for natural foods instead of fast-foods, and cutting down on lavish celebrations which seem to be on the rise everywhere. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The earth can provide enough for our needs but not enough for our greed.”
Given that simplicity is the hallmark of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, isn’t it up to us Christians to give the lead in adopting a simpler lifestyle to improve the quality of our own lives and save the still-healthy God-given environment we enjoy for future generations?
Vacation time is ideal to take a few steps in this direction so necessary for our own survival on planet earth.
Fr. Joseph M. Dias, S. J.
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