Ray of hope in climate dystopia?


KARACHI: Miles away from the bustle of busy concrete jungle that Karachi has cropped up to be, there lies a swathe of forest in the outer stretch of Malir District where environmentalists and civil society activists huddled on Sunday evening to deliberate the ‘climate crisis’ – at least that’s how Tofiq Pasha Mooraj, the horticulturist who hosted the session, puts it.

Things have gotten out of hands now, wailed the owner of Pasha Farms that spread over 6.5 acres and are suffused with a variety of plants, trees and birds that perch on them in a picturesque ecosystem, as he drew a dystopian picture of what lies ahead in terms of the climate situation which has hurt Pakistan in the worst of ways globally.

“In a decade or less we won’t be here,” he said pointing to his white beard, but added, “I must tell you we have new generation consisting of millions of youth who know now more than I could in my lifetime.”

“This gives me hope and hence we are all here.”

Pasha rightly claims credit for having ushered vigorously people’s attention to the calamity which he says has gone out of bounds.

When asked what he specifically advocates for when voicing opinion on the general environment protection cause, he says it is difficult to limit oneself to one thing while one can do so many things in a lifetime.

Climate environmentalists
Tofiq Pasha in the middle sporting blue poloshirt

“I usually avoid having an opinion on technical items that are out of my scope of the field because I’ll be making a complete fool out of myself.”

“In a war you have to fight at many fronts and you can’t deny the front you can reinforce, just because you think it’s new… especially, knowing you can do something.”

But he said in a reassuring way that we are not here to win each and every battle.

“The war goes on and we have to go on fighting it without letting both setbacks and small wins slow us.”

He said one of his purposes in life is to launch a coordinated and concerted effort for the environmental cause and have experts in each department doing what they can for the greater good.

This year’s World Environment Day, observed June 5, served as the launch of the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, calling for urgent action to revive damaged ecosystems. It was hosted by Pakistan under the premier Imran Khan.

Reuters reported in its exclusive interview that under Khan, Pakistan has undertaken a number of restoration projects, including a 10 billion tree-planting drive. This week Khan planted the billionth tree in that drive.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a report released on Friday that over the last five years Pakistan had experienced an environmental turnaround after years of decline in its natural capital, but added more needed to be done.

If not much, the takeaway in the discussion has been that there’s still hope in resisting the carnage inflicted upon next generations but the resolve to really change things will only bear fruit if we see them as ‘personal problems’.

Poverty-Environment Nexus

Maleeha Habib, another environmentalist, says you can’t just hold meetings in closed spaces and have parties without really serving the purpose.

“You need to see these problems as your personal problems and feel what the direct victims of these crises really experience at the hands of wrong, climate-hurting decisions people make.”

Habib has worked behind the curtains mostly for a number of ecosystem restoration programs, and she stresses it’s the most poor-income class, with limited or no means for survival, that’s the most vulnerable and worst-affected by climate changes.

Maleeha Habib
Maleeha Habib, left to Pasha, pursues her Harvard degree in Global Development Practice and has been an environmentalist

 

“They rely on the ecosystem directly. With heat raging they cannot afford air-conditioning and similarly with biting cold they don’t have shelters or heating. Rains inundate their settlements and drought deprives them of potable water.”

An integrated system where poor are facilitated in their sustenance against their services rendered to the state in a number of enterpises is what she suggests to be the way out, aside from efforts to control the damage suffered by the ecosystem in general.

“The state should employ them and to recompense their services provide a decent roof above their heads and decent education to their children so they are saved from a host of risks they’re exposed to at present.”

It’s a poverty-environment nexus and only a holistic approach can really unravel the conundrum, she claims.

READ ALSO: Boris Johnson hails PM Imran Khan’s 10 Billion Trees programme

Her suggestions go on to support the premier’s understanding in his cited Reuters interview wherein he said, “Remember: hungry people do not really care for the environment.”

Bureaucracy

Bureaucratic red tape was, too, discussed at length in the sitting today and a civil society activist Naeem Sadiq said there ought to be ways to reach out to the government other than Public Interest Litigation -something he does quite often ‘relentlessly’.

“Yes PIL is one avenue and I can list numerous verdicts that weren’t even heeded,” Sadiq stressed.

“There should be a policy that governments could hear us out and take timely actions to help save the ecosystem without having to always go to the courts… Like four- to five avenues before resorting to legal battles.”

The evening tea-sitting ended on a note that just like the UNEP marked its beginning of the decade of restoring the climate, the people present here would, too, redouble their efforts and contributions in a concerted way. But that’s just like all such sessions conclude.

However, it will be interesting to see how this resolve, fueled not by government funds but only by individuals’ zeal for saving the world, unfolds.

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