Pakistan’s March Towards Climate Action

On September 20th 2019, the biggest global climate strikes the world has ever seen so far took place. Happening on the eve of the UN Climate Summit in New York on 23 September, marches were held in more than 150 countries, with protesters calling on governments and businesses to end their inaction on climate change. On that day, a historic development took place in Pakistan itself as the country held its first ever climate strike, with protesters marching in several cities and towns. In Islamabad, a large crowd marched from the Press Club to the Parade Ground and presented demands to the Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul.

I joined the March in Islamabad and saw that the participants were mostly youth who showed a lot of enthusiasm for the cause. They eagerly signed the online petition I launched to urge the government of Pakistan to declare a climate change emergency by logging onto (https://www.change.org/p/petition-to-ministry-of-climate-change-for-enforcing-climate-change-emergency). One of the participants I met had earlier attended an awareness-raising session with me on income generation through eco-tourism in Pakistan’s salubrious areas.

In the Pakistan Climate March, a few political personalities attended. I personally didn’t see any except a lady who introduced herself as PTI senior member Nadia Khattak. She was filming young marchers and asking them what their message to Imran Khan was. Several gave their message, but one point they made in general was that Imran Khan has shown much interest in fighting problems like corruption but has not paid enough attention to Pakistan’s biggest problem of all, climate change.

This is an important point to consider. Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan mission aims to overcome the problems that have been holding us back for so long. Environmental degradation is a serious threat to the country, with Pakistan classified as one of the world’s top ten most vulnerable countries to climate change. Therefore, it has to be taken into account if we are to make a better Pakistan. Also, we must consider that creating a Naya Pakistan means equipping the nation with the means to tackle the challenges of the future. Climate change is a threat that is materializing extremely slowly and puts Pakistan’s very future in jeopardy. It is vital that we pursue policy to overcome climate change before the calamity becomes unavoidable.

Something else we have to realize is that while Imran Khan’s greater focus on corruption than climate change may seem like a skewing of priorities, the first goal actually aids the other. Pakistan will need extensive state action to tackle climate change, but widespread corruption hampers the proper functioning of the state. Certainly, corruption stands in the way of environmental causes. Corrupt officials take resources away from the hefty efforts needed for protecting the environment and in the perpetual conflict between profit-making and environmental preservation, they will always be in favor of profit-making. Corruption means the serious neglect of environmental regulation and the go-ahead to industries to pollute. What this means is that if Imran Khan succeeds in his mission to rid Pakistan of corruption, the country will be better able to fight for the environment. Moral cleansing “Naya Pakistan” and building ‘Clean Green Pakistan’ go hand in hand.

In fact, climate change goes hand in hand with a very wide range of other issues, putting it far from being the distinct and isolated problem that we often seem to treat it as. Take three issues that are of high significance to Pakistan, poverty, illiteracy, and war, and look at their relevance to the occurrence of climate change and the struggle to mitigate it. Rural poverty compels communities to harvest what little timber they can from their forest covers without acquiring means to reforest their land, removing a critical carbon sink. The people cannot be engaged in the effort to fight climate change without education. War makes the emission of greenhouse gases skyrocket. Pretty much everything in our lives determines our vulnerability and capacity to adapt to climate change.

It is clear that the distinction between climate change and “other” issues is entirely an artificial one. Climate change is a universal issue because the climate is a universal influence on the world we live in. The two are, in fact, interwoven into every mesh. Every aspect of the world is determined by the climate and every aspect of the world influences climate. This means that climate change will impact everything and everything will play a role in how climate change occurs. The proper path for Pakistan, indeed for all nations, is to find out how to incorporate all other issues with the climate issue and to learn how to bring everything together in fighting climate change. That is MY message to Imran Khan.

It is a message the whole world needs to heed. We cannot fight climate change without discovering the proper way to do it. That is an area in which the climate change movement appears to not be paying enough attention to. This is exemplified by the recent climate strikes involving school-skipping by a lot of youth climate activists. Youth should not just be pushing harder on the rulers to take action. They should also be getting knowledge in what needs to be done to fight climate change.

Young activist Greta Thunberg, the inspiration behind the climate strikes, has been urging politicians to “listen to the scientists.” Yet, it seems what she mostly means is that they should listen to what the scientists say about how global warming is occurring. What about listening to what scientists say about how to fight climate change? The basic idea of the climate strikes appears to be that because we know that climate change is happening, all we must do now is put pressure on the authorities to start taking action against it, as if we already have all the right solutions in plan.

Perhaps the reason why politicians aren’t taking action is because they don’t know enough about what action to take. Neither does anybody else when it comes to practical and effective climate remedies. Instead of just protesting and lobbying, the climate change movement must also put the people’s energy into thinking and researching and discovering potential solutions to climate change.

Regardless, what climate strikers have done around the world is outstanding. They have essentially succeeded in making the world pay attention to climate change and be concerned about it. It is a good beginning. The marches held in Pakistan are a promising sign for our nation. Pakistan Climate March has been a citizen-led initiative, with students spontaneously and enthusiastically coming out to answer the call spread by Climate Action Now. Majority of the marchers were very young people still in school and university. It shows that Pakistan’s next generation is eager to tackle the climate crisis.

Still, some people speak of ways the event could have been better. They say, for example, that there should have been even more youth attending, because of how the next generation will have to deal with climate change. But the PTI member Nadia Khattak gave a different view on the Climate March. Noting how most of the participants were young, she said that people are generally concerned about the environment when they are age 13-25, but their concern wears off afterwards as their own lives take center stage. It is the working professionals, she emphasized, who are most capable of taking action on climate change and regretted that not many were present at the march.

My take is that maybe working professionals don’t need to be out marching because they are working. We must bear in mind that protesting is not everything. When you are marching in a climate demonstration, you are calling on others to do the actual work needed to mitigate climate change, but it is distinct from that work. It doesn’t matter if the working people are not involved in climate strikes as long as they are busy in other ways tackling the issue. But the young people and students also have obligations besides marching. They need to be studying the subject of climate change and preparing for tackling the issue throughout their lives. I hope our students don’t get into the habit of skipping school over and over again to protest climate change. There is a lot we can do in school to contribute to saving the world from climate change.

In fact, we should increase coverage of climate change and related topics in our curriculum. Pakistan’s education system devotes too little time to environmental issues. Not only do we have to change that, but our coverage of climate change should be organized in such a manner as to enable students to comprehensively understand it and be good at thinking up solutions for solving climate change. My main advice is that we should not treat climate change as a distinct subject to be taught separately. Rather, all other subjects should be taught in school in such a way as to emphasize whatever relevance they have to climate change.

In physics and chemistry class, we can learn how the greenhouse effect works and how the burning of fossil fuels happens. In technology and engineering class, we can learn a lot more about the machines that burn fossil fuels and how we can design the industry and technology that powers civilization to be more environmentally-friendly. In earth sciences, of course, we can learn directly about the climate and how it is changing. In biology class, we can learn about how life on Earth interacts with the climate and how it will be affected by, and affect, climate change, which will also give us insights into how to manage the biosphere to enable it to fight climate change. In economics class, we can learn about how the world economy enables the human activities that are changing the climate and about how we can change the way the economy is structured to make it more sustainable for the environment. The list goes on and on.

We must keep the lessons of the climate strikes of 20 September in mind as we plan for what we need to do next. Thanks to the historic Climate March held in our nation, Pakistan now has its own fully-fledged climate movement. If we succeed in pushing climate change to the forefront of the nation’s attention, there are many ways Pakistan can play its part in fighting climate change. We contribute only a tiny percentage of global CO2 emissions while at the same time being one of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. This means that making Pakistan more carbon-neutral will by itself not help very much. But we can fight for the climate change cause on the international stage, pushing other countries to work together and do more on climate change. We must always remember that we are one player in the larger scheme of things and humanity can solve climate change if all the countries of the world engage in collective action.

Pakistanis can also contribute immensely to the field of knowledge regarding climate change. The question of what the future holds in store and what we can do about it is still largely unanswered, so it is we, the people, who need to dig for answers. Pakistan’s youth and professionals can get involved in finding solutions to the climate change crisis only by empowering themselves with research and inquiry. Just know that the scope of the knowledge we are dealing with is vast. To study climate change is to study the entire world and the way it works. We also have to look in every possible direction for climate solutions. We better start now, because there is a lot we have to do to push forward the new and fast-growing frontier of knowledge about both the reality of climate change and what we can do about it.

The climate strikes of September 20th were unprecedented, but as we wake up to the climate change crisis, it is only the beginning of what is bound to be a very long and difficult road ahead for humanity. Climate change is a huge problem, one that puts the future of civilization and the planet in jeopardy, and the world needs to give everything it has to solving the problem. It is vital that Pakistan involves itself in this fight and fully devotes its resources and energy, regardless of how much it has available, to making it possible for its people and all of humanity to continue having a future. Whatever we deal with on a daily basis, climate change is Pakistan’s number one national issue. We now just have to deal with it as such.

Author’s bio;

Writer is director at Pakistan’s People-Led Disaster Management and author of upcoming book on Pakistan’s multi-hazard risk analysis.

OCTOBER 8, 2019: MIRPUR QUAKE DEMONSTRATES OUR LEVEL OF RESILIENCE

Today is 8 October, National Resilience Day in Pakistan. It is a day dedicated to promoting the disaster risk management in Pakistan and improving our collective capability to protect ourselves by competent handling of crises that occur. Inaugurated in 2015 originally as National Disaster Awareness Day, October 8 as the National Resilience Day marks the anniversary of what can be considered the worst ever natural disaster in Pakistan’s history, the Kashmir earthquake of 2005. It killed more than 80,000 people and left millions to face brutal suffering through the winter. The calamity also affected the entire nation. Pakistan was experiencing economic growth in the years up till that time, but the earthquake put a halt to it and Pakistan’s economic prospects took a hit. As a result, Pakistan was woken up to the vital need to safeguard itself against natural disasters. After October 8, 2005, we found that the nation’s disaster management capabilities were deficient and we resolved to change that.

Yet, we have not managed to come very far in this regard, as showcased by our response to disasters that have struck since. Imran Khan pledges to change this with his vision of a “Naya Pakistan”. He has only been in office for a year and there is no indication of fast progress yet. Making the nation capable of handling crises that arise from time to time should be one of his top priorities.

It is not just about being prepared for the risk of disaster and responding to disasters when they occur, it is also recovering after disaster. One of the most glaring shortfalls in Pakistan disaster management is the slowness and inadequacy of the recovery from the great 2005 earthquake in the northern areas, especially AJK. Even today, 14 years since the earthquake struck, recovery is still not considered complete. In a nutshell, the promises that governments have made to the quake affectees go unfulfilled, mostly in infrastructure. Some of it is not rebuilt fully and a lot of what was rebuilt is not as good as what was before the earthquake.

The lack of reconstruction is particularly stark when it comes to schooling. More than 2,800 schools were destroyed by the quake but only a few hundred have been rebuilt. Hospitals are another weakly restored area. While main highways are of international standard, many side roads and sewerage lines that were rebuilt are dilapidated. People rendered homeless by the quake have found it a huge challenge to get housed again. The government gave little compensation to rebuild houses and millions of rupees have been spent on building new government buildings that are not fully functional yet. New buildings in many areas have yet to be rebuilt.

The government’s management of the reconstruction and rehabilitation has shown poor results. Apparently, it began when the civilian government of Asif Ali Zardari came in, which was corrupt and did not do things as well as the previous military government. Even after he left office, things have not been easy. The Prime Minister of AJK has said today that the job is 90 percent finished, which is quite low for a passage of 14 years. The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) is in charge of overseeing the rebuilding of the quake-hit region. It speaks of lack of funds.

To showcase our national resilience capacity on National Resilience Day, we have an opportunity in the recent Mirpur earthquake. It struck the southern part of AJK on September 24 and was followed by many aftershocks. Now that two weeks have passed since, we will evaluate the response to the crisis created by the earthquake, as well as how much the impact of the earthquake was mitigated by reforms supposed to have been put in place since the 2005 earthquake. In the time ahead, Pakistan will of course be able to work on the recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation and see how it goes.

It was a small earthquake, only magnitude 5.8 but with a very shallow focus. The death toll is now put at 40 people. However, information about the other kinds of effects are not very consistent. Some of our recent reports say that around 500 people are injured and others say as many as 800. The number of buildings destroyed, or “severely damaged”, however you want to put it, varies from 1,000 to 4,000. The government has just said it has completed survey of 95 percent of the earthquake damage. What we are sure is that damage is severe around the district of Mirpur. The quake may have affected a small area, but that area appears to be absolutely devastated.

Bringing things back to normal, including by repairing the massive damage incurred to buildings and roads, is going to take a long time. The emergency situation created by the earthquake lasted for many days, in which countless were in need of medical treatment, shelter from the rain and night, and essentials such as water. The crisis should have largely abated by now.

Indeed, some sources, including the president of AJK today, say that the rescue and relief operations for the quake victims have now concluded and all efforts have transitioned into the rehabilitation phase. Some normalcy has returned to the area. Schools were closed in the disaster zone for several days but they have now just been reopened. Of course, while some of the students returned to their old school buildings, others have to carry out their studies in tents. A very large number of people, probably hundreds of thousands, also have to live in tents because their homes were destroyed or rendered unsafe. The authorities say they have delivered thousands of tents to the area. Water delivery systems are largely yet to be restored. That means many quake affectees will still have to rely on water being delivered to them as aid.

Aftershocks have been part of the disaster. The biggest one, a magnitude 4.7 on 26 September, reportedly injured 67 people. The worst of them are likely over, but even just a few days ago, on 6 October, a small tremor in Mirpur caused the collapse of a two-story building, killing one person and leaving two others injured. These casualties were avoidable, because of knowledge of present danger. People could have stayed away from unsafe buildings. The building which collapsed two days ago, for example, was reportedly damaged in the September 24 quake. Why were there still people living there? Difficulty in identifying unsafe buildings and in finding people new shelter plays the main role in the further tragedies occurring post main quake. More aftershocks may yet occur.

People are ambiguous as to how the official response to the earthquake is to be judged. The people had to go through a lot of hardship and wait quite some time for enough aid to arrive. The government says that action was speedy and well-coordinated between all the different aid agencies. Of course, as usual, the Pakistani military led the charge and hosted speedy response, delivering much in the way of aid.

All in all, however, the response to the earthquake by the government may not be considered exemplary. The fact is that the September 24 earthquake is minor in intensity and extent and struck an area that is rather well-developed and easily accessible. Mirpur is not very far from Islamabad, after all, unlike the epicenter of the huge 2005 earthquake disaster which was in northern Kashmir. It was not really a huge challenge.

Compensation that will enable victims to get their live back on track has to be delivered or earmarked. The Information Miniter, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan (the one who gaffed while feeling the quake) said that 200,000 rupees were given as compensation for fully damaged houses, which numbered 1,000, and 50,000 rupees were given for partially damaged houses that numbered 3,500. These packages are considered by many to be inadequate. Many people, for instance, need to tear down their homes and have new and resilient ones built. Such a project can cost a lot more.

Money is going to be a major issue as Pakistan undertakes recovery from this quake, much like the 2005 quake. Many of Mirpur’s businesses and industries have been destroyed. Many vehicles have been destroyed. The roads opened up and swallowed them. In a place like Mirpur, the people will not have much to come by for themselves. State of Pakistan also seems to have trouble getting enough money for them. Imran Khan says he will go after all the corrupt officials, which means the latter will spend a lot of the money they stole on lawyers now. Can they cough up some for Mirpur?

Thankfully, Mirpur diaspora in Britain is a sizable number. Perhaps it can be mobilized to send money back to rebuild earthquake damaged lives.

Getting the area back to normal aside, we have an urgent priority of sheltering the earthquake affectees through the winter. Winter can get brutal in Kashmir. The tents that scores of people are huddled in will not do. New and firmer structures will have to be built and this will require major undertaking.

The recent Mirpur earthquake exhibited stark indicators that lessons from 2005 have not been implemented properly. For one thing, the government was supposed to enforce building codes so that the people of the northern areas would have buildings that could stand up to eve major earthquake. Secondly, not just buildings but road construction techniques in mountainous areas also had to factor in earthquake resilience. But in Mirpur, we had buildings fall by the wayside and roads split even though last month’s quake was comparatively mild. Pakistan’s engineering expertise will have to deploy techniques for making all mountainous roads earthquake resilient, there is more economic reason now that we are preparing our northern areas for income through tourism.

Now, a big aspect of Pakistan embarking on a quest for seismic-resistant infrastructure after the 2005 earthquake is that some of the work was already done for them by that very earthquake. Normally, you need to tear down the buildings that are already there, expending money and making occupants sacrifice their shelter, and then build new buildings in their place. If a catastrophic earthquake already struck, you just have to clear the rubble and start rebuilding, so recovery of the quake-affected areas offered ample opportunity for implementing building codes. But Mirpur and the rest of southern Azad Kashmir actually were not very badly affected in 2005. The earthquake affected mainly the northern parts of Kashmir and Khyber-Paktunkwha, so Mirpur kept most of its buildings intact. These include all the buildings that can’t be relied upon to remain intact in the event of a quake.

In general, while abiding by building codes was high on Pakistan’s agenda after 2005, efforts bore little fruit. Raja Arsalan Nusrat, the chief executive officer of the charity Muslim Hands, says that “Had building codes been implemented properly, public losses [from the Mirpur earthquake] could have been much lower”. If a puny 5.8 earthquake could cause such devastation, imagine what would happen if another mighty earthquake like the one of 2005 happened. The whole point of our National Resilience Day is that we must strive to make sure that a repeat of that earthquake will not result in a repeat of disaster of similar magnitude. Mirpur is just another reminder of how we are still far away from realizing this dream.

Managing the Mirpur Earthquake

An abridged version of this blog post appears in Pakistan Observer as the Op-Ed titled Mirpur Relief Ordeal (https://pakobserver.net/index.php/2019/10/01/mirpur-relief-ordeal/)

A small part of Pakistan’s northern areas continues to cope with the devastation wrought by a shallow 5.8 earthquake centered near the city of Mirpur, a few miles north of Jhelum, in Azad Kashmir. In the past several days, rescue workers have been digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings, looking for survivors. Many people have been rendered shelterless by the quake. Hospitals have been overburdened. Many seriously injured people are still being treated. The authorities and aid agencies continue to struggle to reach affected areas over damaged transportation routes. Many aftershocks posed further threat.

All this time, reports have been rather unclear and contradictory about the state of the disaster zone, which encompasses mainly Mirpur and Jhelum districts. The final official death toll is 40. Reports of injuries have varied but agree that around 700 people were injured. Many reports now say it was 746. As for the damage, government reports said that less five hundred houses suffered major damage in the earthquake. But NGOs who visited the area said that 1,600 houses were destroyed and 7,000 others were damaged. It also seems that authorities have yet to assess the full scope of the disaster.

Recurrent aftershocks have continued to terrorize people. On Thursday, a magnitude 4.7 struck the area around Mirpur at a depth of ten kilometers, practically causing a second calamity. According to officials, 67 people were injured by this quake. The number of homeless also increased. Fortunately, it seems nobody was killed.

Still, this is a serious situation. The large number of wounded from the small tremor could have been entirely avoided. The earthquake of 24 September was a sudden disaster, striking out of nowhere and catching people by surprise. But afterwards, people were surrounded by damaged structures and knew that aftershocks are going to happen. The people who were injured yesterday would all have been fine had they not been around those structures that gave way. Reasons for why they were there could be the inability to identify hazardous buildings, to communicate to the people in the disaster area, and to get people into proper shelters.

Shelter is a vital need, especially since the seismic activity has coincided with a time of bad weather and the onslaught of severe winter. I witnessed huge rainshowers in Islamabad for a few days, which is worrying, because if the rain also occurred in Azad Kashmir, it would be very bad for the earthquake-affected area. Plus, as it is nearly the beginning of October, it must be very cold in Kashmir. As I learned on the news, heavy rain has indeed been occurring in the quake-struck area. This is creating miserable conditions for the scores of people who have no shelter and must spend the night outside.

Except for a few areas in which most buildings were destroyed, there is plenty of shelter for people but availing them is dangerous because of the building damage and the aftershocks. Even now, aftershocks are still occurring at a robust rate. Any moment, another one could add to the casualty rate. Remember that even if buildings themselves do not come down, when they are affected by earthquakes, small pieces of debris can detach from the ceilings and walls and fall on people. They can be heavy enough to break people’s backs if dropped on the head, so even the thickest helmet cannot protect them. All sorts of other severe injuries can happen if they fall on people in a lying-down position. It is possible that in a building damaged by the Mirpur earthquake, an individual piece of debris could drop at any moment anywhere.

As many people languish in the open air and are being rained upon, there has to be a way to get people into safe shelter. One way is to identify buildings that have a lot of room and are guaranteed to remain undamaged because they are sturdy and suffered no damage already. Even if there are only a few such buildings, the people of the affected area can concentrate in them. We can have a lot of people living together in a small space for a short period of time, even dozens of people huddled in a small room, until the aftershock risk is no more or better shelter has been delivered. The whole women’s Purdah issue may be one obstacle, but otherwise, in times of crisis, people have to do what they would not do on a regular basis.

Government reports have claimed that engineers are being sent to assess the safety of buildings. Hopefully, they are doing a good job, because the earthquake-affected people rely on them for ascertaining which buildings are safe to go into. But otherwise, there are ways for the people to make themselves safe.

Buildings are meant to protect you from the outside, but if they fall down or break into pieces, they become a danger to you. People can place small structures in their houses which will shield them from falling rubble. Then, they can sleep under the small, makeshift roof and otherwise spend their indoors time. Surely, such structures would have protected the 67 people from being injured in the biggest aftershock.

Relief goods, including shelter like tents, are being delivered across Azad Kashmir but the people cannot just rely on them. They have the ability to be safe and make their situation better using what they already have with them, as long as they know what to do and can organize themselves. So if the authorities cannot get the tents in on time, they should find a way to get safe and adequate shelter for themselves. They may be able to continue living in hazardous buildings if they make innovative arrangement. The people in the earthquake zone can decide for themselves what to do by observing their circumstances.

It is always best that people are thoroughly versed in the disaster risks they live under and what to do. But if a disaster strikes and they lack the necessary knowledge, communication with them becomes vital. We should disseminate information to the people of the earthquake-affected zone about what they can do to help themselves and others. Connectivity in the area has been greatly hampered by the effects of the earthquake, with not only the movement of people and things being blocked but means of telecommunication being down, such as cell towers. But the movement of information is not that difficult. For example, public announcement systems from a mosque minaret can be used and if a minaret is down, loud speakers from tree tops can function just as well. Fliers can be dropped from aircraft. The good thing about information is that it can be delivered in an economical manner. The packaging of the relief goods being distributed to the area can have instructions written on them about what people should do and what they should watch out for.

Besides shelter, people are also in great need of potable water. The earthquake damaged the water systems in the area it struck, mixing water with dirt, so the people need to have clean water delivered to them. Some of them, reportedly, have been drinking from unsafe water sources. Delivering water to them is a challenge because of the damage to the transportation routes. Perhaps use could be made of the rain that is currently happening in the region? People would be able to get clean, potable water if they manage to collect rainwater. People in such situation do not only need water for drinking but for medical use also. It is okay for people to drink water that has relatively high level of dirtiness, because the digestive system is made to withstand contamination. But water that is for washing out wounds or washing medical equipment has to be very clean.

The inability to move people and goods around is possibly the main issue that the affected area struck now faces. Images from the disaster zone show roads sustaining massive damage. Some are torn wide apart and have cracks big enough for vehicles to fall into. Many roads have been damaged and destroyed, as have a few bridges. The Pakistan Army is diligently taking up the task of restoring road networks. This type of work is something armies are well suited to. War and military operations usually require the need for extensive transportation over terrain which was not developed for it and terrain which saw destruction of transportation networks. Army personnel therefore have to be good at repairing paths and constructing makeshift paths in a very short period of time. These skills are essential in responding to an earthquake. The same is true for a wide variety of other military skills.

Soldiers and army engineers heading to the affected area will produce enormous results, but much further benefit could be obtained if the local people themselves got involved in the huge amount of work needed for the earthquake relief. Local communities represent a lot of manpower, manpower equivalent to the amount of help needed. It is best that the people affected by the quake be organized in an effective manner, called CBDRM, Community-Based Disaster Risk Management, and use their local resources to manage the aftermath of the quake. CBDRM usually requires preparation to be ready for any disaster that may strike. Implementing it spontaneously when a disaster has already struck will be difficult, but let us try it right now in Mirpur.

Concerning the roads, there are some educational videos detailing how to construct makeshift transportation routes. One is a documentary that was made by the US Army during World War 2 and is now a YouTube video called How It’s Made: WW2 Military Roads, found on the YouTube Channel DocumentaryTube. Its description of soldiers building temporary routes from raw materials found around them may, if watched now, serve us even in relief of the earthquake-affected area around Mirpur.

In an odd twist of fate, the calamity in Mirpur is a crisis not only for Pakistan but also for Britain. A lot of people from Mirpur migrated to Britain and many later returned. That means that a lot of people in Britain have ties to Mirpur and a lot of people in Mirpur have dual British-Pakistani nationality. This should create an incentive for Britain to get involved in the earthquake response. We should ask the British government to do so. Also, the concept of CBDRM can even be extended across national lines. Remittances have developed Mirpur a lot over the decades and now, in this time of crisis, expats should spring into action and get involved in sending aid to the relief operations.

When a sudden crisis like this breaks out, people are best able to respond if they are ready for this beforehand and already know what actions they are supposed to take. Innovation is something that usually takes time. But when necessity demands it, we must always try and see if it is something that can be done on the spot. Right now, as the crisis is ongoing, people should develop new approaches and put them into action as they see fit based upon the circumstances.

After the massive 2005 earthquake calamity in Kashmir, Pakistan was supposed to improve its disaster risk reduction capacity. The endeavour is ongoing process. The Many complain that the government could have done more. PPLDM was founded to promote innovative, people-led disaster risk management.

Speedy communication is vital. All those who are reading this should share it and spread its advice. The people of Mirpur and Jhelum need help right now. Guidance has to be given to them, the emergency responders, and all who can play a part.
Media coverage of the crisis is one of the areas which we need to improve upon. Comprehensive news is hard to find. Unless people know all about the situation in the earthquake zone, how can they come up with the right ideas? We need more reporters heading to Mirpur and Jhelum and thoroughly documenting the situation on the ground. Access to telecommunication must also be given to the people within the disaster zone as it will help them know what to do. Transparency of news regarding disaster is the first step in disaster management. Glossing over is criminal and should be treated as such by not only national but also international law.

As Pakistan engages in disaster relief, let us not forget the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, who were likely in the path of the earthquake but whose current situation cannot even be ascertained because of the blackout imposed on their homeland. It is time for Imran Khan and other powers that be to speak up about this and bring the issue to international attention.

When all of this is over, let us make our management of the earthquake in Azad Kashmir the test of how we are to determine the course of Pakistan’s future disaster management. In the run up to our National Resilience Day that falls on October 8, Mirpur earthquake relief can be showcased as a model of how far we have come since the massive earthquake struck Kashmir on October 8, 2005.

Earthquake Strikes Kashmir Again

A strong earthquake has just struck Pakistan. According to USGS, its epicenter is near Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, a region where earthquakes are very common, and was a 5.8 on the Richter scale and had a very shallow focus of only 10 kilometers deep. The quake has reportedly caused a lot of damage there and has been felt across a very wide area, including most of Punjab and Khyber-Paktunkwha, as well as some parts of India. Reports coming in show that walls and ceilings of several buildings have collapsed and many roads are destroyed. Electricity and cell services have been knocked out. It is too early to assess the damage completely but earlier reports put the toll at 10 dead and 100 wounded, and by 7:30 p.m some say 19 dead and 300 wounded.

The authorities in Pakistan are carrying out urgent rescue and relief operations in the affected areas. Their job is likely to be very challenging. We must not forget that dangers may still persist. Besides the fact that wounded people are in a race against time to be treated, NDMA warns that aftershocks could persist for another twenty-four hours. These aftershocks are going to be smaller than the main earthquake but they could cause serious damage to structures that are already damaged. It is possible that more buildings could collapse in the coming hours or days. We must make sure that more people do not fall victim if such is the case. People are safe from building collapses by not being in the buildings, but it is impracticable for people to spend day and night outside. Hazardous buildings must be identified as soon as possible.

Also, the epicenter of the earthquake is reportedly close to Mangla Dam. Tarbela Dam, which is an earth-filled dam, is also reportedly in the seismic zone. Is there a possibility that these dams have been damaged by the earthquake? If so, then it creates the risk of outburst flood, which could result in a huge disaster. It is very unlikely, because the earthquake was so small, but we must keep close eye on the dams. Besides, anything could happen as a result of an earthquake. What if a major landslide from the hills around Mangla Dam occurs and creates a great tsunami in the reservoir which damages the dam?

People in the earthquake-affected areas will face the challenge of having vital provisions delivered to them. Food, water, and medicine are likely to be in short supply in many areas and have to be delivered. Because of the mountainous terrain in much of the disaster zone and the road damage, this is likely to be difficult. Landslides, rockslides, and avalanches could also have occurred as a result of the earthquake or will occur. If they occur, they are likely to wreak havoc on transportation routes and could also be a direct danger to people.

Most urgent priority is rescuing people from collapsed buildings and other perils and giving medical treatment to wounded people. Damage to roads will be a serious obstacle to both tasks. There should be extensive support coming by way of the air. As usual, Pakistan military has gotten involved and is delivering speedy rescue and relief.

In a situation like this, it is very common for people to crowd around sites of fallen rubble where people may be trapped. The big load of manpower may be very helpful, but crowds of people may engage in harmful behavior. For example, they may make a lot of noise that makes it hard to hear sounds coming from within the rubble. If they collect onto damaged structures, they may cause it to disintegrate further. An earthquake is an immediate calamity and one that occurs in Pakistan’s northern areas will likely not see delivery of help coming immediately. Therefore, relief from the local people themselves, including non-professionals, will be important. But even if they strive to give help, we must make sure they give the right kind of help and not do anything counterproductive.

As for the danger of further structural collapse, it might be best for people to take shelter outside of their homes. Perhaps they can congregate in certain buildings which are very sturdy and show no damage. If people have to be in their homes or in any building which could conceivably collapse, they should take measures to keep themselves safe from the falling debris or rubble. They can stay near the exits so they can rush outside in a moment’s notice. They can place large objects in the house and stay next to it so that falling ceilings or walls may be kept slanted over them, leaving a void below for people to be in. They can maybe build their own shelter inside the house, like creating two piles of furniture and putting one big piece of furniture, like a bed, over them, so people can be in the space below. Then, they can be protected from falling debris.

These are on-the-spot ideas. Best course of action is for the people in the affected area to observe the damage that has happened and assess what kind of further damage could happen and how to safeguard against them.

Since this is an earthquake centered on Azad Kashmir and has reached as wide as northern India, it is reasonable to assume Indian-occupied Kashmir has been affected. Search on the Internet revealed no news about that region. That is a distressing indicator of the blackout which India has imposed on the people there. We have no idea what is going on there, but the suffering of the Kashmiri people due to Modi’s policies has likely been exacerbated by the natural disaster. Medicine is in short supply and hospitals are filled with people injured in violence perpetrated by the state. In these circumstances, Impact of the earthquake can only exacerbate matters further.

As the earthquake is so recent and communication with the affected area is rather difficult, assessment of what has happened may not be complete or finalized yet. But we know it does not seem to be any ordinary earthquake. Felt reports, which are eyewitness observations of an earthquake sent to a concerned agency, are useful for determining the characteristics of the earthquake. I will give my own observation here. I was sitting in an office building with Zeenia Satti, PPLDM’s CEO, sometime after 4 PM and I noticed my chair started to shake. It was a very mild shaking. It was unmistakable but seemed somewhat breezy. There was no sound coming from anywhere. The two of us alarmed the rest of the room and everybody got up to leave the room, but we hesitated in getting out. I thought earthquake was over and sat down on my chair again, but the same shaking persisted. I was surprised. Islamabad rarely sees significant tremors, but this one was both unusually big and unusually long. An earthquake like this must have been very intense in its source area in Kashmir.

We hope that the casualties are minor, that affected people receive adequate help as soon as possible, and that the affected area recovers quickly. Earthquakes can be of any size and strike at any moment. It is vital that people be prepared if there are known fault lines in their region. Such preparation is needed in Pakistan and we should realize that we cannot wait at all in implementing earthquake-ready measures. A repeat of the great 2005 Kashmir earthquake could very well happen again. In fact, what if today’s earthquake was just a foreshock? Hopefully, it is not, but it must serve as a wake-up call for the nation to become earthquake resilient.

Indian Occupied Kashmir merits special international attention now. OCHA should head for IOK.

Apollo 11: What the First Men on the Moon Mean to us

Fifty years ago, an epic voyage was undertaken which will be etched in human memory forever as one of the most pivotal events in history. It was Apollo 11, the 1969 mission to send the first human beings to land on the Moon and return back. The successful completion of the mission amazed the entire world and captured the hearts and imagination of people everywhere. It still continues to do so, as in 2019 the world observes the half-centenary of the first Moon landing with great enthusiasm.

Three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins, were on board the Apollo 11 spacecraft, which blasted off on top of a powerful Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969, the fiftieth anniversary of which has been accompanied by a lunar eclipse. It was on July 20, after four days of hurtling through space, that the lunar module Eagle, which separated from the main craft, touched down on the surface of the Moon, and out of it stepped Neil Armstrong, to be the first man to set foot on the lunar landscape, followed shortly afterwards by Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins remained in orbit around the Moon in the command module Columbia, waiting to rejoin his fellow astronauts 21 hours later. Hence, that day has gone down in history as one so important as to be a turning point for humanity. We thus spent 20 July, 2019, the anniversary of the very moon landing itself, with the commemoration the event is due.

On July 24, after 9 days of their unprecedented voyage far out into space, the Apollo 11 astronauts finally returned to their home planet Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean, and received acclaim far and wide from their fellow human beings. July 24 is therefore now the conclusion of our half-centenary commemorations as well.

The Apollo 11 landing, which would be followed in the next few years by more moon landings, was part of America’s Apollo space program, an ambitious project under NASA to compete with the Soviet Union in the Space Race to put the first man on the Moon. America first pledged to aim for that goal in 1961 under its new, young President John F. Kennedy and it succeeded just eight years later. It was a victory for America, a moment that gained the country immense prestige on the world stage. But it was also much more than that. The first moon landing meant something profound for people everywhere, a victory for the entire world in a way. Once the Apollo mission was completed, it became clear that it was not just an American achievement, it was not just an achievement of Western civilization, it was an achievement of humanity and one that we can consider the greatest ever.

It is not surprising, therefore, that even with the passing of half a century, it still grips our imagination and inspires us. The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 is being spent not only with celebration of the epic voyage but with extensive reflections and discussions revolving around it.

We are now in a time when there is a renewed push for space travel in countries around the world. Humanity continues to harbor the ambition to travel into space and to go further, where none have gone before. For current and future generations of space enthusiasts, Apollo 11 remains a pivotal event. It is the most important milestone in space travel. The 60s, the golden age of space exploration, saw many milestones, such as Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, and Apollo 8, the first crew to orbit the Moon. But the landing of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon was the first time ever that human beings landed on another world besides Earth.

As we remember that unprecedented feat, there are a lot of questions for us to ponder. Why did America strive to send men to the Moon? What did it accomplish? What is the legacy of Apollo? People have debated these questions since the Space Race began. Now, in the fiftieth year since that Race concluded, it is worth our while to focus again on the meaning of the landing of men on the Moon and to realize how it is important.

On the face of it, going to the Moon offered little in the way of practical significance. Yet, the regard that most people hold it in is enormous. The Apollo 11 moon landing is one of the biggest events of our historical memory and we, in fact, consider it to be without equal in a way. It was a big deal for the entire world when it happened and the importance people attach to it has only grown over the decades. It may be because the first moon landing was not just a milestone for the human race, a new height of achievement. It could be considered also as the moment that the very human race itself transformed.

The human race has always been supposed to exist by certain principles. One of them is that it only inhabits Planet Earth. For as long as we existed, we were bound to the surface of the Earth by its gravitational force, only able to gaze at the vast expanses of space and its innumerable worlds beyond. On July 20, 1969, that changed. We could tread on one of ‘those’ other worlds and the way was now clear for us. The moon landing signaled that there was no limit to where we could ultimately go.

It is not just the whole endeavor. It is not just that day. It is the very moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. Before, no human being had ever stood on any object not on the Earth or from it, any object existing naturally in outer space. And then Armstrong stepped down from the ladder and his left foot touched lunar soil. Humanity then became a race existing beyond just one world and that mattered in every which way. This is why Neil Armstrong’s first words while stepping onto the Moon were “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

It sent the whole of humanity a message that there was nothing out of bounds for us, no milestone we could not reach. For Americans, their country’s position as the leader in human progress was consolidated, but for everyone, it was clear that there was no limit to the progress that could be made. And what else do human beings have the desire to progress in more than travel and exploration? Learning and discovering is another innate human desire and Apollo also offered its fair share of that. Also, we were drawn to Apollo because no other endeavor had been so difficult and so vast in scale and, at the same time, so novel. Finally, the Apollo moon landing offered a picture of the shape of things to come. It cleared a path for us to continue to push forward into the unknown and we still intend to tread that path.

At the same time, beneath the marvels of both outer space and man’s endeavor to travel into it, there are hard realities that we have to grapple with. The first landing on the Moon itself only changed the world in spirit but not in any concrete way. As a result, there have existed doubts that it is worth the honor we give to it. The cost of the Apollo space program was enormous and that combined with the lack of practical benefit to be derived from reaching the Moon meant that the whole venture was controversial in many ways. Back then, there were many who considered it to be a diversion of resources that could be used for bettering people’s lives and solving serious problems down on Earth. They thought of it as a distraction and a burden on the world, especially for America and its people. Such concerns contributed to the decline of America’s travels into deep space after 1972. Decades later, we have mostly forgotten about those issues surrounding the extensive space program that existed before then, but these are questions that space exploration still poses.

To make sense of this, we have to understand the context in which the world’s focus on going into space, 1957-1972, too place. America was heavily involved in its space program throughout a decade in which it had many other issues to deal with. With widespread protests, unrest, and tensions occurring continuously across the country over the Civil Rights movement, inequality, poverty, the counter-culture, and the Vietnam War, the sixties were a difficult decade for America. The entire Space Race also came in the midst of a difficult century for the world, as the 1900s, from beginning to end, were a time when war, violence, conflict, upheaval, tensions, and oppression raged unbridled across the globe. The race to the Moon took place in the aftermath of the very worst of this, the Second World War, and while the world was at risk of a third world war that could wipe out humanity.

Such was the reality down on Earth while men were pushing into outer space. Against this backdrop, space exploration had complex meaning. It could be considered a diversion from certain problems but also served as a solution to others, the main issues of the century in fact. By focusing on a competition to master space travel, the participants of the Cold War were led away from their urge for violence and confrontation. The Space Race represented a new path for the world after the carnage of WW2, a path in which achievement could drive history instead of conflict. The Apollo space program could be seen as a respite from the issues and squabbles people were faced with on Earth. It represented the purity of humanity’s efforts to advance and further its collective boundaries.

There were also many other real benefits of the rush into space, benefits that continue today. By going to the Moon, mankind’s scientific knowledge was expanded. We got to know a lot more not only about the Moon itself but the entire solar system and its history, since the Moon, being an essentially unchanging world, serves as a record of its neighborhood. The main contribution of Apollo, of course, was in technology. In order to land men on the Moon, tremendous technological advancements had to be made in a very wide variety of important fields. Electronics had to be revolutionized with the development of better telecommunication and better computer technology, with a particular view towards the creation of micro-electronics. So, too, were there improvements in rocketry, in material engineering, and even in food safety. Finally, Apollo harbors broad responsibility for all the satellites which surround Earth today and are put to a wide variety of important uses. All in all, the push into space accelerated the advance of human prowess enormously and it is this which has changed the world.

There are also a lot of very valuable lessons the Apollo space program has for us and much that it can inspire us with. It showed how much human beings could achieve if they all put their minds to it and engaged in collective effort. The moon landing was achieved against all odds. The effort to accomplish it began little more than half a century since the horse and buggy vanished from the roads and when America’s spaceflight capabilities were in their infancy. On top of that, America during most of the space program was preoccupied with the Vietnam War, exerting much of its effort towards that end. It seemed unlikely that the nation could fulfill President Kennedy’s goal of sending a man to the Moon and back before the end of the decade before anyone else.

Yet, in just eight years, that goal was achieved in its entirety. It was because despite all the disputes and squabbles that were going on, the people of America and several other countries which contributed were mostly united and they were determined to make the first moon landing possible. There have been few other projects in which so many were so eager to be involved. Think of how much else humanity could achieve if such an attitude was applied to everything. In the wake of the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo, let us continue to be motivated by this lesson. The endeavor to land the first man on the Moon should serve as an example to all of us.

Once the first moon landing was achieved, the number of people united behind it only skyrocketed. Michael Collins may not have landed on the Moon but he has a lot to tell us about it. He recalled that after coming back to Earth and taking a tour of the world, he was surprised to find the reaction he received from people was not along the lines of “Congratulations, your country did it” but instead, “We did it”. Across national borders, the moon landing was looked upon as an accomplishment for all people and this shows how much potential all of humanity has in being united for a common purpose.

The ventures into space in the second half of the twentieth century had a big impact on humanity’s collective consciousness in many ways. Through the sheer magnitude of the achievements of spacefaring, it made them think of the human race as being capable of anything and as having opened up a future of boundless possibilities. But heading out into space for the first time changed our thinking forever in another way, one that is the most unexpected result of the space programs.

It was supposed to be all about space. We had always been an earthbound species and now our endeavor was to change that and reach for what lay beyond Earth. Going to the Moon and elsewhere was our sole motivation. But in the process of doing so, our very own planet entered into the focus. Not only were we exploring outer space and uncovering what lay beyond, but we ended up rediscovering Earth as well.

By going into space for the first time, human beings were able to see the Earth from afar and hence as a whole. The first astronauts sent into orbit were the first to view Earth’s splendor as they set eyes on its blue surface shining brightly in the light of the Sun. Astronauts later sent farther into space were able to see Earth in its full, circular majesty. They were also to share that sight with all those back on Earth thanks to the cameras they brought onboard. The crew of Apollo 8, the first to orbit around the Moon in December 1968, took a photo of the Earth rising over the surface of the Moon, half-covered, known as Earthrise. As the crew of Apollo 17 left for the moon for the last time, they took the first full picture of the Earth, given the name Blue Marble.

Seeing the Earth in full view caused a profound shift in our thinking. The impact the sight had on the astronauts themselves was huge and there was an impact also of the images on the world. Being able to see our world from this new perspective was of course interesting. It was also breathtaking. We have been able to gaze at the heavens since time immemorial, finding the sights in outer space to be majestic. But when we got ourselves into space, we found nothing, not the Moon or the Sun or anything else, to be as beautiful as our planet, a mixture of blue, white, and brown shining brightly in the sunlight. As Mike Collins recalled of the Apollo 11 voyage to the Moon, “The first time we saw the Moon up close, it was a magnificent spectacle. It was huge. The Sun was coming around it, cascading and making a golden halo, and filled our entire window. As impressive as the view was of this alien Moon seen up close, it was nothing compared to the sight of the tiny Earth. The Earth was the main show. The Earth was it.”

In the end, it seems that the Earth itself, as a planet on its own out there in space, became the focal point of our explorations of space. Furthermore, the biggest result of looking at Earth from a far was that it forever changed how people look at the world they live in.

Before, as we lived on the Earth, it always seemed endless, like a universe in itself. But with the advent of space exploration, by seeing it against the background of space, we were able to see how limited our world is. It was a small oasis, providing us with everything we need for our existence, in the endless desert of space. As a result, we began to appreciate the world more and be more conscious of its fragility. We began to think of the entire world as being one. Now, more than ever, we wanted to take care of it.

The Earth photos made plainer the destruction and futility of war, already evident to us for some time now. Pacifist attitudes were encouraged. So too was humanitarianism across borders. People had a greater desire to help other people wherever they were in the world and international charities took the images as potent symbols. And people also had instilled in them the desire to take care of the Earth itself. Earthrise and Blue Marble provided kinder for the newly-born environmental movement. People had just started to notice how we were wreaking havoc on natural environments everywhere and seeing the Earth as a whole drove home the point that what we were destroying was everything that we had. Inspired in part by the release of Earthrise, the first Earth Day was inaugurated little more than a year later.

What no doubt contributed to this awareness was how exploring outer space was by itself a quest that yielded little actual benefit for humanity. Our desire to go into space is fueled in part by how marvelous it is to us. The cosmos is of a grand scale and the wonders that exist in it are endless and awe-inspiring. At the same time, it is completely inhospitable to us human beings. This was a point made in the Apollo 11 mission itself. As is well known, Neil Armstrong’s first words as he stepped onto the surface of the Moon were, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. When it was Buzz Aldrin’s turn to take his first step, his first words upon seeing the landscape around him was “Magnificent desolation”.

Armstrong’s first words are what all of us take to heart. But Aldrin’s first words also carry an important meaning for us, a meaning that in fact may be actually of more significance to humanity, if only we choose to realize it. The Moon was a magnificent place to reach but it was also desolate, completely lifeless and completely still. The same went for the rest of outer space, made up of vast, empty voids dotted with sparse objects that, as far as we can see, are either desolate or hellish (also hard to reach). The cosmos around Earth has little to provide us with. Only the Earth has everything. Outer space is incredibly vast, endless in fact, but also barren, while Earth is bountiful, filled with all we need, but is also very, very minute.

So outer space has always captivated us and our desire to reach for the stars has been strong. But in doing so, our attention was quickly drawn to our home planet. We would never take it for granted again and the situation it is in became clearer. The same explosive growth of civilization which has enabled mankind to extend its reach into outer space so quickly also has rendered the Earth vulnerable to our actions. The importance of taking care of the world was driven home to us and that is perhaps the biggest gift the pioneering space programs of the twentieth century have given us.

So by all means, we should continue to travel into space. We should continue to imagine and to push forward towards the countless possibilities for us that lie out there. And we should at the same time do all we can to maintain the well-being of the planet from which we take off. We need to be responsible in how we live on it and we need to take care of it using the same ingenuity, prowess, willpower, and teamwork that Apollo proved that humanity is capable of.

Our home planet must also be kept in our gaze and our fascination. In fact, it should be our main interest. Outer space is magnificent in terms of its sheer scale. Grand spectacles are offered up by its endless expanse. The Earth is equally magnificent in its intricacy. Packed into the small space that is our planet is an endless variety of wonders. There is enormous complexity and diversity in everything that is on it and that makes up our world and much of what is on it is amazing in form. Our world is also not fully revealed to us and we continue to explore it.

Just the fact that most of the ocean floor is uncharted while the surfaces of the Moon, Mars, and Venus are almost fully mapped is testament to this. Earth is a world of spectacles just as the cosmos is and is one that is for our survival and our prosperity. So we should continue to keep one, far-reaching eye towards the cosmos and all its planets, stars, nebulas, and galaxies and another, more intimate eye, on the Earth and its oceans, atmosphere, terrain, landscapes, and, most of all, incredible diversity of life.

Life is what makes Earth unique in the universe that we know and it is the most wondrous part of our planet. Not only is the variety of life almost unlimited but so is the complexity of all living things. Nowhere in the entire universe are there more marvels to explore than in life on Earth. Yet, it is also among what is most threatened on our Earth. Due to human activity, the health of wild ecosystems is being destroyed and countless species are being driven to extinction. When a species goes extinct, it is gone permanently. That should be the most painful reality that looking at Earth makes us realize. As Earth is all that we have in the cold abyss of the universe, every time a species on it goes extinct, it reduces what is there with us forever. It is a loss for the way the world is supposed to be and also a loss for humanity, directly, as any species is more likely than not to be of use. Imagine what the world would be like now if chickens and cattle became extinct before they could be domesticated. All of us tend not to give the recognition to the enormity of this reality that we need to, but looking at our vibrant blue planet standing in contrast to the blackness of space will give us that awareness.

There is so much meaning to be found in Apollo 11, the first voyage to the Moon, as we commemorate the passing of half a century since. Today is the anniversary of the final day of the voyage, when the first men on the Moon finally return to Earth, their home world, after 9 days in space on history’s greatest voyage. After all the jubilation of their historic trip to the Moon, in the end, that may have been the part of the voyage that meant the most to them. To be back home on their planet full of life and full of the hospitability humanity has always known, after so long in the magnificent desolation of space, to once again feel something as mundane as the Earth’s gravity which holds everything together, is enough to make them appreciate the Earth’s worth more than anything else. While only very few can be able to share that experience, all of us should learn what it can teach us.

Our fifty-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission ends here. We spent it not only looking back at the past and at the groundbreaking achievements of people back then but also looking forward towards the future. It is the future of space travel, of course, guided by Apollo’s legacy. As human civilization continues to march forward and as we make progress in human capability at accelerating speeds, we will be able to push farther and farther out into space and how far we will go and where we will ultimately end up, no one knows. But at the same time, as human civilization grows with no end in sight, the weight it places on planet Earth grows and the difficult realities it creates continue onwards. How that will ultimately end up, also no one knows. We have to keep this in mind as we look towards the future of space travel and we need progress in our attitudes towards each other and towards the world.

Let Neil Armstrong, Buzz Alrin, Michael Collins, and the 400,000 other people who worked on Apollo 11 serve as the source of inspiration to us in this regard as we honor them for their heroic achievement. Our remembrance does not end here and likely never will, for they will serve as an inspiration to the world always. But we serve them no justice unless we ensure that there will forever be a world in which their legacy lives on, a world that future space travellers can always continue to look back and know there is a home to return to. There is going to be a lot we will have to do, but just as humanity in the 1960s determined to reach the Moon and succeeded, so too can humanity now unite and determine to protect and preserve the Earth for all future generations and so too can we succeed. In the end, perhaps the simplest lesson that can guide us is that, beneath the wondrous realm of space, our blue planet Earth is far from endless, but the diversity of everything on it is endless.

And all of that, we need to protect and cherish forever.

The Climate Emergency is Real. So must be Our Response.

In a historic move, the United Kingdom on May 1 declared a national climate emergency, the first nation ever to do so. This comes in the heels of weeks of large-scale protests by climate change activists in the UK spearheaded by the organization Extinction Rebellion, as well as the worldwide “school strike for climate” led by Swedish teenager Greta Thurnberg. At the same time, hundreds of local governments in the United Kingdom and around the world have been declaring climate emergencies. After the entire UK did so, another nation soon followed suit. On May 9, Ireland became the second nation in the world to declare a climate emergency. The emergency declarations are also being referred to as “climate change and environment emergencies” or “climate change and biodiversity emergencies”.

These new developments come when the tempo on the climate change issue is rising. In 2015, most countries in the world signed the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive climate treaty, pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But when Donald Trump became President of the United States, he opposed belief in climate change and declared he would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Democratic Party and the many Democrats running for the 2020 race have since put climate change at the top of their agenda. Newcomer (D) Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pushing the Green New Deal, a comprehensive action plan for the United States to combat climate change. Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has proposed her $2 trillion green manufacturing program, while Democratic front runner for nomination as Presidential candidate Joe Biden has unveiled his own plan to pour $1.7 trillion into achieving 100% clean energy by 2050. Spurring the climate change movement is a special report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued on October 8, 2018, which stated that the world only has 12 years to take action to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels.

The last year has also seen climate action spreading from the grassroots. 15 year old Greta Thurnberg was one of the first to act. In August 2018, she began to skip school to protest against climate change outside the Swedish Parliament. Following her example, students all over the West started doing so, resulting in the School Strike for Climate. This was followed by the newly-formed group Extinction Rebellion launching a campaign of mass civil disobedience in Britain, causing widespread disruption in the country in April. Their campaign led UK’s main opposition Labour Party to call for a declaration of climate emergency, which Parliament agreed to on May 1.

This announcement can be considered a big step forward. It seems the efforts of the protesters have already borne fruit. But the historic move by the UK parliament is largely symbolic. The declaration only calls for the country to consider climate change an emergency, but no proposals for what has to be done about it have followed yet. This stands in contrast to most other declarations of emergency by the UK government over things like natural disasters or terror threats. So if the action is only on paper, we cannot be sure that real change is going to come as a result. But the decision to declare climate change an emergency is still a radical one without precedent. It could pave the way for real changes in the world’s approach to climate change.

Climate change is clearly not the usual sort of emergency. When we have a natural disaster, like a hurricane making landfall, or a terror attack leading the country to be on high alert, the problems on hand are immediate and require immediate action. But modern man made global climate change is a long-term problem. Its consequences are going to play out very, very gradually. This explains why the UK climate emergency declaration carries no policy proposals with it. We can take our time to find and implement solutions. Question then arises; is the terminology being used here appropriate?

Climate change is a very serious problem but the word “emergency” invokes urgency, a situation in which something bad is imminent. It can be considered synonymous with “crisis”. When a nation declares an emergency, it is usually over a crisis happening right there and then. Climate change enhances many short-term risks like natural hazards, but by itself, it doesn’t look like it has become critical yet. Our concerns are mostly about what climate change is going to bring in the future. The effects of climate change are likely to be very, very bad for the world, but their manifestation will take a while.

The gradual nature of the issue is probably what is preventing people from being concerned about climate change enough to take action right now. While unmitigated climate change, by all reasonable expectations, will ultimately bring catastrophe to the world, Can it really be called an urgent crisis right now?

The answer is yes.

Both the UK and Ireland’s emergency declarations are not over the effects of climate change. They are over the causes. Global warming is happening because of human activities but it does not happen alongside those activities. The emission of greenhouse gases does not immediately change the climate, nor does the climate get back to normalcy when the emissions are halted. Our actions carry long-term consequences for the climate. The climate change catastrophes of the future will be caused, in large part, by what we are doing now, not just what we will be doing in future. Also, climate change mitigation is a very difficult endeavor. The sooner we start on it, the more we can get it done. To understand this better, we need to look at how it is that human activity is changing the climate.

Planet Earth bathes in the light coming from the Sun, which carries a great amount of energy. When this sunlight, which passes through air, reaches the Earth’s surface, some 30 percent of it is reflected but the rest is absorbed. When sunlight is absorbed, its energy is turned into heat, so the Earth warms up. The heat does not remain in the Earth for long, however, because it all eventually turns into infrared radiation (heat rays) that escapes back into outer space. In this way, the Earth cools itself to counteract the warmth coming from the Sun.

Like sunlight, the Earth’s gaseous atmosphere allows infrared radiation to pass through, but not all of it. Different gases in the atmosphere can, to varying degrees, absorb infrared radiation and therefore the heat given off by the Earth while at the same time letting sunlight pass by. The heat the gas molecules absorb then is passed into the surrounding air. As a result, the atmosphere warms up and heat is retained by planet Earth for some time instead of immediately dissipating into space, elevating the world’s temperature. This is known as the greenhouse effect. Oxygen and nitrogen, the gases that make up most of the atmosphere, have negligible ability to absorb infrared. Water vapor does so to a small extent. Carbon dioxide is a strong absorber of infrared and methane is extremely strong. These greenhouse gases are naturally present in the atmosphere and prevent the world from freezing over, keeping the climate the way it is.

But human activity is increasing the greenhouse effect by releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide (CO2). The energy that powers civilization comes mostly from the burning of carbon fuels, especially fossil fuels, which results in the production of CO2 as a waste product. The amount of fossil fuels available for energy production is huge, since they all have been produced by burial of organic matter throughout Earth’s history. We are also releasing a lot of methane through many ways such as agriculture and drilling. As a result, the atmosphere is getting warmer and the climate is changing, which will radically alter the Earth’s entire natural environment. The consequences for humanity and life on Earth will be drastic.

Greenhouse gas emissions have a long-term effect. Many other environmental problems like air and water pollution tend to be short-term. For example, when industrial waste is being poured into rivers, the resulting pollution sets in rapidly and continues only as long as the dumping of waste continues. If regulations are implemented to stop industries from doing this, the river becomes clean after a short time. That is not the case with the ways we are changing the chemical make-up of the earth’s atmosphere.

Firstly, it takes a long time for newly-emitted greenhouse gases to heat up the atmosphere. Most of the carbon dioxide we have put into the atmosphere was put there very recently and according to scientists, it will take that CO2 decades to fully heat up the Earth. Everything takes time. However, heat travels through a planet’s atmosphere very rapidly. The reason why it takes the climate of Earth so long to respond to changes in Earth’s energy balance is due to 70 percent of our planet being covered in oceans. The oceans have a lot of mass and water is an extremely potent absorber of heat. When the greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are raised, the extra heat that they absorb is quickly sucked up by the ocean. This continues for some time until the oceans are at their full capacity and the newcomer greenhouse gases can finally give off all the heat they absorb to the atmosphere.

Scientists estimate that this time lag for the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere is somewhere around 40 years. That means that all the CO2 people emitted by the 1970s must be achieving their full effect only now and that the CO2 we have already emitted so far are going to continue raising the Earth’s temperature for a long time afterwards.

Secondly, greenhouse gases tend to stay in the atmosphere for a long time. Methane usually lasts a few decades. Carbon dioxide tends to last centuries. There are some ways through which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, especially through absorption by trees, but this happen very slowly, especially now that human beings are causing widespread deforestation. So the CO2 we have emitted will stay for a long time, which means that even if we stop our climate-changing activities right now, the damage we have caused already will be playing itself out for a very long time.

The goal of today’s climate change movement is to prevent ourselves from causing even more lasting harm. That is the message the youth movement, which sees itself as representing future generations, is sending. It is the people of tomorrow who will suffer from what we are doing today. It is the momentum in climate change that we have to watch out for, much like the momentum in a moving train which makes it take a long time to come to a stop after the engineer presses on the brakes.

An analogy for the climate emergency can be stated in these terms. Suppose there is a train going at 70 miles per hour when the engineer sees that a giant boulder rolled down from a hill and was resting on the tracks a few miles ahead. If the train crashes with the boulder, there will be a great accident. Now, if the engineer hits the brakes, it will take the train minutes to stop, during which time it would have continued traveling for miles. That means that the engineer has to step on the brakes right at the moment he sees the boulder. He can’t just wait for the train to be about to hit the boulder and say “Okay, now we have an emergency and I have to respond”. The emergency begins as soon as the boulder is spotted. It is the same with climate change. We apply brakes now or we will crash into the boulder.

So this is the situation to which the world is waking up. But there is also something else for the world to be worried about, a very, very grave possibility.

In our future climate prospects, there is a scenario with terrifying implications. So far, climate change seems to be something which is being directly caused by human beings. How much it happens correlates with how much we are doing it. It is like if there is a group of large statues and a man is trying to topple them all. He grabs hold of one statue and pushes it with all its might, tipping it over. Then he has to repeat the process for all the other statues. When he is in the process of doing it, you can save the statues that remain by stepping in and stopping the man. But imagine if all the statues were aligned closely together in a row. Then the man just has to walk to the statue at one end of the row and push upon it in the direction of the other statues to cause a domino effect. Once he starts the domino effect, the pace of the movement thus caused is greater than your pace to try and stop it.

Horrifyingly, science suggests that this is the path that climate change could end up going down. If greenhouse gas emissions by human activity go far enough, we could unleash a domino effect with potentially cataclysmic consequences for the world. It is a scenario known as the runaway greenhouse effect.

This is how it may happen. As stated before, the atmosphere already has always contained a quantity of greenhouse gases, placed there by natural sources. Scientists fear that if the climate warms up through human activities, it will prompt the Earth itself to release natural greenhouse gases to warm itself up even more and that enhanced warming will generate greater natural greenhouse emissions which will increase the warming, and so on. This sort of process is known as a positive feedback cycle. But just what are the indications that this could happen? There are many factors that could power a runaway greenhouse effect, but we will look at the main ones.

First of all, like many gases, CO2 can dissolve in water (that is where the frizz in your soda comes from), as a result of which, a large quantity of CO2 is in the oceans. But the warmer water is, the less it is able to carry dissolved gases, so if the oceans warm because of climate change, dissolved CO2 will escape. Second, when climate change happens at the rapid pace we are causing, many of the world’s forests will not be able to handle it and trees will die off in great numbers and then decompose to produce lots of greenhouse gases, especially CO2 and methane. Third, carbon dioxide and methane are produced by biological activity, specifically by organisms consuming organic material and giving off these gases as waste products. The colder temperatures are, the slower that biological activity (especially by microbes) can happen. In the world’s upper latitudes, there is a huge amount of organic matter buried in the soil, which microbes can barely digest, and also locked away in ice itself. When the world warms, energized microbes and melting ice will also be releasing greenhouse gases.

But we are not sure how much. Scientists don’t exactly know how much greenhouse gas the Earth will be releasing and they don’t know which gas will be released in what quantity. If the Arctic permafrost releases only carbon dioxide, it will cause a small amount of warming slowly. But if the Arctic manages to produce a lot of methane, warming will come in intense and fast. Decomposing organic matter produces carbon dioxide in the presence of oxygen and methane in the absence of oxygen, which are known as anaerobic conditions. We don’t know how anaerobic things will be as the world warms up. All we can say is that methane is a really big danger for us.

So far, things are bad enough. But there is one scenario concerned here that could really bring catastrophe to our future. The positive climate feedback will warm up the world further than human activity is directly doing but there is a chance it could become strong enough to make global warming self-perpetuating. Scientists speculate that if the globe is warmed by human activity to a high enough degree, the Earth’s greenhouse emissions will rise so much that the warming they cause alone will be enough to continue the cycle, so nature will take the reins and by itself, cause the Earth’s temperature to increase, without the need for human input. Thus is the domino effect.

When the threshold that starts the domino effect, known as the tipping point, is reached, global warming will be impossible to stop. Human beings will have kicked a self-perpetuating process into motion and if this happens, profound results may follow. The face of the planet might be radically altered and humanity will be in extreme peril. We are not certain if the runaway greenhouse effect is going to happen, how bad it could be, and we are far from sure when the tipping point could be. But we have good reason to believe that if climate change ever reaches runaway stage, its ultimate result could be apocalyptic. If we don’t halt our greenhouse emissions in time, the world could end up experiencing the collapse of human civilization and even a mass extinction.

Climate change, therefore, is clearly the world’s biggest emergency. To fight global warming, we need global alarming. The climate emergency announced by Britain may be what can kick-start the spread of alarm in everybody. Before action comes the motivation to act.

The big question is, what sort of action do we need?

A largely unanswered question! We are still trying to figure whether it falls in the category of how global warming can be stopped, or how it can be reversed, or how we can cope with it. The first two types of solution involve tackling the problem at its source and that sort of thing is what we will be dealing with here in this working paper. Generally, finding solutions to big problems like global warming involves thoroughly studying the problem itself but also going beyond the problem in search for anything that can be of use to us.

There already are a range of options for tackling climate change. The climate protesters are not only pushing the world to pay more attention to climate change but are also calling for it to adopt plans of action already developed. Mostly, they revolve around the fact that we must curb human activities emitting greenhouse gases. Problem is; will to do this is lacking. Taking action against climate change right now carries with it great burdens, so much so that a large number of people outright reject most proposals and even deny climate change itself.

Taking a look at the recent events, when Britain declared a climate emergency, it fulfilled the first of three demands by Extinction Rebellion. Those three demands are:

1. “Tell the Truth: Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.”
2. “Act Now: Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.”
3. “Beyond Politics: Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”

The first demand, of course, is the easy part. The second demand is a rather ambitious goal. The third demand is a sort of generalized plan to act upon. Now, Britain has taken the first step, but what comes after that is really the challenge. At the Paris Climate Accord, the agreement was that if the world warms to 2 degrees Celsius above natural temperature levels, what they define as “pre-industrial levels”, which is before 1800, then the results will be disastrous for the world, but things might be okay if warming is limited to below 1.5 degree Celsius, which is half a degree away because the world has already warmed one degree since 1800. So according to the terms of the treaty, the world has to absolutely keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and ideally keep it below 1.5 degrees.

One or two degrees Celsius may not sound like much, since it is mundane for the weather to warm up that much in any given area. Everywhere in the world, the air regularly cools or rises by several degrees Celsius over the course of day and night. But weather is not the same as climate. Weather is a short-term affair, responsible for short-term changes, while warming of the climate means changes in the total average temperature in the world over time and that leads to enormous environmental changes. All over the world, people will be exposed to weather patterns they are not used to and because the climate makes the world, the world around them will change.

The report the IPCC released last October assesses our prospects and what we can do. Looking at current trends in greenhouse gas emissions, it estimates that by 2030, enough gases would be emitted to eventually warm the Earth to more than 1.5 degrees. The only way to prevent 1.5 degrees of warming is for the world to limit net-greenhouse gas emissions (how much greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere compared to how much they are removed) to 45 percent of now by 2030 and phase it out altogether by 2050. So according to the report, the world only has 12 years to act to avoid catastrophe.

Misinterpretations of the report are floating around, such as people thinking it says the world will warm up by 1.5 degrees in 2030. Some are saying the world is going to end in twelve years. Firstly, the world is not going to end (whatever that means) from 1.5 degrees and, secondly, 2030 is just the date by which it will be impossible to stop 1.5 degrees of warming from happening later. The momentum in climate that has been already explained is in play here.

We really should give some consideration to how we define terms like emergency, urgent, and crisis. There is a difference between a bad thing happening, and inability to stop it from happening, but the two reinforce each other in practice. If the time is about to come when something bad will become unavoidable, it is just like if the time is about to come when something bad is going to happen. Take, for example, how we define the word “refugee”. We take it to mean people who are forced to travel elsewhere because of adverse circumstances in their homeland. “Refugee” correlates with “emergency” in this way. People tend to be called migrants, though, when they are merely escaping from the distant risk of something happening, or are relocating because something bad is going to happen at some point in the future at the very place they live now.

So if a volcano erupts and people are running away from the lava and ashes, they are called refugees while if scientists predict a volcano is going to erupt in a few years and people are moving away in anticipation of a disaster, they are not. But let us imagine that there is a remote valley next to a volcano in a mountain range and the people of the valley, usually living in isolation, have only one bridge to allow them to get out of the valley. Now, the volcano starts showing signs of being active and people predict it will erupt at some point in near future. But then, something else also starts happening. The bridge starts to show signs of wear and tear and it becomes apparent that it is on the verge of collapsing. If it collapses, people will be trapped in the valley and will be doomed when the volcano erupts. So engineers are frantically working to save the bridge and as many people as possible are crossing the bridge and fleeing to the outside world. There is no volcanic eruption in sight, but shouldn’t we consider the struggle with the bridge a crisis or an emergency and the people fleeing as refugees?

If our story of the valley was real, there may not actually be many bridge refugees and the frantic emergency response to the crumbling bridge, because people are likely to go into frantic mode only when the volcano starts rumbling. It is human nature to panic at the sight of danger. Also, by leaving the valley, people would be making a great sacrifice. Same is the situation for climate change. Climate change may be a problem of the long-term, but the recent IPCC report drives home how short-term part of it is and makes it clear-cut that we need to respond now.

How can we do so?

Right now, the climate change issue is mostly a political issue. The recent climate protests across the world certainly focus on that one dimension. They all are calling for the governments and leaders of the world to take action and implement policies to tackle climate change. That makes sense because authorities are supposed to be in charge of human societies and so it should be up to them to stop those societies from doing something like emitting greenhouse gases, as well as generally carry out large-scale globalized projects.

We don’t only have to turn to leaders in order to fight the climate change battle. We can directly engage with the masses themselves. To make people exist in ways that are better for the planet, climate change campaigners can reach out to everybody and inspire them, organize them, and provide them with the tools that they need to alter life styles.

We can also pursue innovations and technical developments to help us do away with greenhouse gas buildup. Scientists and inventors can work to create new techniques for society to mitigate climate change while still functioning the way it has always.

But even with all this, politicians and governments can come in handy. They can fund, organize, and enable all endeavors in this direction.

As for actually combating climate change, our strategies for doing so consist almost entirely of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That is what everything hinges upon, but because the world runs on activities that emit greenhouse gases, all current ideas of curbing those emissions enough to save the world will require great sacrifice on the part of modern civilization as a whole. That is what the quagmire centers around.

All the enthusiasm and vigor the climate movement is showing be as it may, everyone still needs a plan. One comprehensive set of solutions being floated around for climate change is the Green New Deal. It is actually the name given to ideas about fighting climate change by carrying out a socioeconomic restructuring of society in ways similar to the New Deal that America was doing in the 1930s to fight the Great Depression. A particular Green New Deal plan has been developed and is being promoted by the Democratic Party of the USA, championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez, at 29 years of age the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, is a rising star in American politics, part of youth rising phenomena. A self-described Democratic Socialist, her biggest concerns are both economic inequality and environmental issues, both of which are addressed by her Deal. AOC declared, after the IPCC report of October 2018, that the world has 12 years to save itself and called climate change “Our generation’s World War 2”.

It is very interesting of her to use the moniker of WW2 for climate change while calling her policy proposals the “Green New Deal”. America participated in both the actual WW2 and the New Deal under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. AOC seems to be paying homage to that turbulent time in American history in her approach to the current challenge of climate change, which is quite appropriate, because there is much from that era that can be copied for the battle against climate change. In particular, a lot of what the developed world right now is being pushed to do in order to stop climate change and protect the environment was already done in the Second World War by America and the other nations waging total war.

The big problem with reducing greenhouse gas emissions is that actions to that effect will either be very expensive or very sacrificial. But putting in money and effort and giving up on the luxuries of life were what the governments and people of the developed countries involved in World War 2 passed through with flying colors. Particularly noteworthy was the example of the United States, one of the main belligerents of the war and now one of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change. When America entered into war after the Pearl Harbor attack, the nation carried out a radical transformation of its economy and society that in many ways was an extension of the New Deal.

We will look point by point at how the various actions undertaken on America’s home-front correspond with what could be done today to help the environment.

They say that to get the world to meet the targets set in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, there has to be a complete overhaul of the industries, infrastructure, and economies of the developed world. Not only is the prospect highly undesirable for many, it also appears to be next to impossible to carry out in short periods of time, like by 2030. But that is where the participants of WW2 excelled. Examples include the Soviet Union moving all its industries east of the Urals and Germany moving its industries to rural areas. In America, there was a vast expansion in industrial production, including the industrialization of the West Coast, which resulted in the economic prosperity of the region today.

Much of this was possible because federal control over the American economy skyrocketed. It influenced almost every aspect of the economy, with the government taking over many industries, fixing prices, wages, and production quotas. Now people are considering government intervention as a useful tool to fight global warming. That sort of thing may be disliked by many but the example of WW2 shows that it is necessary and readily accepted in emergency situations.

And emergency is what we are in.

Most of the talk about protecting the environment and stopping climate change says that people have to considerably cut back on consumption. This is where most of the sacrifice is and where most of the unpopularity regarding environmental action rests. But Americans eagerly did this in WW2 with there being widespread rationing of most goods. People conserved almost everything, cut down on most of what they bought, and gave up much of what they owned to make effort to meet the emergency of war.

The word “recycling” did not exist back then, but that is what every American did in the war. Just about every piece of garbage was retrieved and turned back into something useful for the war effort.

The burden war placed on food production, including the diversion of transportation for troops and war supplies, spurred the people to get involved with agriculture themselves and practice it on a small-scale, with much of the population growing produce in any available space, including their backyards. These were known as “victory gardens”. They serve as a good model for policies on making food production today more environment and climate-friendly.

Transportation is one of the biggest culprits of global warming. Society runs on transportation and the energy usage that fuels it results in the production of carbon dioxide. Ordinary people are being implored to change their lifestyle choices to limit their personal CO2 emissions. One way is through carpooling. If people only drove around in cars together with as many other people as they can, there would be fewer cars on the road while people would still be getting to where they want. It can be difficult to always arrange this, but to save precious fuel for the war effort, carpooling was one of the patriotic duties of Americans during WW2. One popular slogan was; “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler”.

In the 1940s, stopping Hitler and the other aggressors from spreading their rule over other countries was imperative in order to save the world from a dark future. Now we have to again save the world from a dark future, one of environmental catastrophe. When we ride alone, we ride towards the destruction of the natural world that we need for surviving. People back in 1941 were eager to give all they had, without complaining, to save their world. The same is possible with regards to climate change. People have the collective will to save the world once again.

Climate change is a very long-term emergency but the deadline rooted in the Paris Accord and set by the IPCC report last October is only a short while away. So, effectively, climate science has given us one decade in which to take the action we need. It is in this window of time that we can take radical measures known to us, affording us the time to search for other measures to fight climate change. Whatever those solutions might turn out to be, the strategy necessary for most emergency responses is take drastic action right now for a short while and let it give way to easier measures over time.

It is PPLDM’s urgent and heart-felt message to the world and its people. We have yet to shine light on how exactly we can solve the global climate crisis but we are fully aware that there is a crisis and we urgently need to do something right now. So, in whichever way we can, let us cut back on carbon emissions for the time being.

History shows that people can be mobilized for change and can make effort on a vast scale if necessity demands it, even if it is an emergency that has no short-term relevance for them, as World War 2 was for America since the country was so far away from where the invasions were taking place. Climate change is another global emergency that people have to mobilize for. It’s just that it is a very different kind of emergency, an unorthodox kind of emergency. We need to make people aware of this emergency and instill in them the motivation to combat it.

Collective awareness of the problem we are facing is where the big obstacle lies, though. It is an innate part of human nature to be easily responsive to aggression by other human beings, which was the fuel for the massive sacrifices in the world wars. But it is hard for people to be cognizant when their personal lifestyle choices are resulting in the build-up of invisible gases in the sky which slowly change weather patterns all over the world and turns nature into enemy. The spread of public awareness is a critical part of the climate change struggle and, by itself, it is a huge challenge.

There are many ways we will need to go about it. Comprehensive scientific literacy has to be imparted to everybody. Ordinary people must be knowledgeable about the highly complex subject of the global climate and everything that influences and is influence by it. We must instill in people a deeper familiarity with the natural world. Nature is the foundation of our lives in every way but most of us tend to ignore it because it is so far apart from us and, until now, we have always taken it for granted. But it is time for us all to get to know the entire planet more, what is in it, and how it works. Then the reality of global climate change will be closer to home to all. People must become better acquainted with the ways the world is already suffering from climate change and with the ways that it will in future.

Climate change is primarily a problem of the future. We cannot have certainty as to the precise details until that future arrives, but climate change right now puts the entire future of the world and of humanity in peril. So everybody must have the future impressed upon them. People must be roused from their slumber of living in the present and become more cognizant of the devastation that global warming will inflict on the world. Their connection with this reality is their future generations.

Through innovations in education and awareness-raising campaigns, we have to teach people of the predictions science has produced for how the world will be affected by climate change and people must know what these forecasts mean for their families and their societies. Every single person just has to look around and realize that the way the world is now and has been all this while allowed human beings to live a viable existence, and that it will soon disappear and give way to very hard and dangerous times for everybody.

A mix of public awareness and public guidance will give humanity the capability to avert catastrophic global climate change. The entire world has to be engaged in a universal struggle in which the stakes are high for everybody.

Scientists already have a mostly complete awareness of climate change and how it is happening (as far as they know), but, as stated before, are somewhat in the dark regarding the future course of climate change. Solutions to climate change are constantly being developed all the time. It is so far just a budding field. A big problem is that the solutions we already have developed are very difficult to pursue, such as giving up on energy consumption or overhauling the infrastructure and economy of nations. One way to get around this is to continue exploring and inventing ideas in the hope that we may find solutions that are easier or feasible.

The possibilities of all that we can do are endless. We have got everything from cutting down on the eating of beef to using renewable or nuclear power for energy to filling the oceans with iron to boosting the growth of phytoplankton that remove CO2 from the air. Who knows what ideas we could come up with later?

The climate makes the entire world we live in and it is the entire world that makes the climate. Pretty much everything on Earth, and quite a lot outside of Earth, influences the climate in some way and pretty much everything on Earth in influenced in some way by the climate. To find answers to our climate questions, what is going on and what we can do about it, we need to thoroughly investigate the way the world is and the way it works. The different academic fields we have to study are numerous. We need to immerse ourselves in the economic, political, social, technological, biological, microbial, mycological, botanical, zoological, geologic, hydrologic, and meteorological. All these subjects have relevance to the phenomenon of climate change and solutions can be found in all of them. So if people have to gain the knowledge for tackling climate change, they will have to study all these subjects and also scour through the basic fields that describe how the world generally works, physics, chemistry, and mathematics.

With the dire need for knowledge regarding climate change and its dissemination among common people, it is sort of ironic that the youth climate protests involve skipping school in order to demonstrate on the streets. One of their slogans is “What point is there studying for a future that doesn’t exist” but we will need to study in order to make sure that future exists. Our approach to the crisis of climate change must be knowledge-based, intellectual, and as inquisitive as possible.

The global crisis of biodiversity

Human impacts on nature vary in how long they last and how reversible they are. The more irreversible environmental harm is, the more important it is to stop it from occurring. Even if all human activities harmful to nature stopped now, their effects would go on for a long time. For example, it may take nature centuries to remove plastic pollution and lower carbon dioxide levels after we stopped using plastic and fossil fuels entirely.

When it comes to permanent harm to the planet, one impact of human activity stands out, i.e., extinction – the main result of anthropogenic impact on the environment. Many living species have been driven to extinction while many, including much of the large types, are at risk of extinction. Barring speculative advances in biotechnology, once a species goes, its loss is permanent.

But just what is the impact of extinction? Each and every species plays a role in the ecosystem. Living organisms form links in a net, and if a link is cut, the net becomes less effective in holding the eco system. When a species is lost, things usually become worse for other species.

For example, if the African bush elephant is driven to extinction by poachers, the African savannah will never be the same again because elephants play a big role in savannah ecosystem. They spread seeds and remove trees and shrubs to allow grass to thrive, which is food for smaller animals. The Asian and the Congo elephant cannot replace them as they are not as big and prefer to live in forests.

The big point of this article is not the damage that happens, but whether it can be reversed. Suppose the bush elephant only goes extinct in the wild but survives in zoos and circuses. Once thepoaching threat is brought down by improved law enforcement and decreased demand for ivory, bush elephants can be reintroduced into nature. The ecological damage can be reversed. This cannot happen if the last of African bush elephants on the planet die.

We will now look at what extinction means for civilization, for the humans that are causing extinction in the first place. The biosphere is one of humanity’s most valuable resources and many living things already are used in the shape of crops and livestock we raise. Their existence is sustained by us so they are not in danger. But there are many wild organisms harvested for usage. They are often at risk of extinction due to that because unlike in agriculture, we take but do not give back to them. There might be many possible uses in the biosphere which we do not know of yet. While agriculture is our main resource, every single living thing on Earth, every plant, animal, fungus, microbe, even virus, could conceivably be of use to us.

Take the same bush elephant. Unlike its Asian cousin, it is not amenable to training. But if we find a way to do so, it might be useful, being larger than the elephants from Asia and capable of more work. The Asian elephant has shown how valuable a resource elephants are. They are like giant working machines, strong, versatile, running on fuel that is found all around us. High intelligence is among their distinct traits, along with trunks that can lift 770 pounds. The most remarkable feature about them, perhaps, is the built-in safety compliance. Reportedly, in India once, an elephant was made to pick up logs and insert them into holes in preparation for a ceremony. The elephant did it dutifully but refused to fill in at one particular hole and stood holding the log in its trunk. The elephant rider went forward to take a look and saw that a dog was sleeping in the hole.

Asian elephants are domesticated and in no danger of going extinct, but to retain the possibility of being able to tame African elephant, we will have to keep the species alive. Elephants may come in handy if there is a widespread catastrophe causing disuse of machinery, or if technological collapse occurs from fossil fuels running out in the future. Humanity’s knowledge of the use of each species is evolving. Loss of species means ending the source of knowledge and its potential benefit forever.

Food is a major use of living things. Only those living things that are under cultivation present a reliable food supply for us. As world’s population swells, it may be important to expand the number of living things we rear. It could hold the key to ending hunger and alleviating poverty. But first, we have to make sure our footprint does not cause extinction of species.

Medicine is another major use. Medicine is all about the right chemicals and there is a huge variety of chemicals produced in the biosphere. Medicine has been harvested from wild species since time immemorial. We are now discovering new medicinal compounds as our exploration of the biosphere accelerates. Cancer drugs are being discovered in the ocean and antibiotics are being found in the Arctic. We never know what new medicine we may find in living things in the wild, as this knowledge frontier is open. If an organism with unique medicinal value goes extinct, we deprive human beings of a source that can save lives.

A lot of lives may already have been doomed in our ignorance, and more will, unless we take action. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate. It is estimated that dozens of species go extinct each day. In fact, many species may be going extinct without us even knowing they existed in the first place. For example, tropical rainforests are rich in bio-diversity and little-explored places. All the time, we are finding new species in these wild places. But rainforests are also being logged at a massive scale and unknown species may be vanishing along with the forest cover.

Biodiversity is the term referring to the variety of life on Earth and we are decreasing that variety every which way. There are three kinds of biodiversity, ecosystem diversity, which concerns relationships between species, species diversity, which concerns the existence of species, and genetic diversity, which is the variety of genetic material in existence, including the number of genes within a species. Just like every species may have an importance, so does every gene, so the latter two kinds of biodiversity is what we must protest most carefully. If ecosystem diversity is disrupted, it can be reversed. Imran Khan’s tree campaign is about reversing disruption. But extinction is irreversible and must be guarded against.

Preventing bad things from happening is a universal imperative. Preventing bad that is irreversible should be a priority. Extinction is an imperceptible and severe ecological crisis. Awareness of this crisis is necessary to prevent extinction. We need to discover the importance of each endangered species to ascribe priority to saving the most important ones.

We need to re-evaluate the charitable donations we make. We prefer giving to those who help the deprived of the world. Keeping in mind humanity’s future, we should also support organizations involved in conservation, scientific research, and bio-prospecting, which is the search for drugs and valuable products from living organisms.

This is an urgent wake-up call.