COVID19 is not the first pandemic that is shaking the world. Out of major 15 pandemics in human recorded history, 5 pandemics have caused the most blow to ‘industrious and industrialized’ humanity in the 20th and 21st centuries. As per one estimate, the Spanish Flue of 1918 caused 500 million deaths and spread across the planet including the Arctic and in Pacific island countries.
Though started in the 19th century the third wave of bubonic plague spread to all inhabited continents, and ultimately led to more than 12 million deaths in India and China, and that pandemic was considered active until the 20th century (1960), when worldwide casualties dropped to 200 per year.
Asian flu in 1957-58 killed 1.2 million, AIDs of 1981 killed 35 million so far and the pandemic is still on. H1N1 of 2009-2010 killed half a million. What makes COVID19 of 2020 stand-out, however, is the suddenness and speed of the spread of this pandemic that so far killed nearly 10 million people. When modern society is boasting of predictive artificial intelligence, it was unable to predict the arrival of a more intelligent new CORONA virus and not able to stop it even with the switch-off circuit of the Internet of Things! It has caught the world unprepared even in the midst of its boasting claims of preparedness with the deadliest weapons for the war against any enemy. It exposed the fragility of global prowess to deal with the disease.
Climate change is also not the first environmental crisis that the world is facing. Droughts, dustbowls, lead-poisoning, locust-swarm attacks, post-war impacts, ozone layer depletion are some of those environmental crises that had been encountered by our planet. What makes climate crisis unique is the way its science has evolved in the most striking manner and the way the most powerful leaders are in denial mode. Climate Change has now has become a global crisis, much before COVID19. Climate change now affects the very survival of mankind. It is not just pandemic. It is ‘planetdemics’. Not only humans but all living and non-living would be seriously affected!
More than 60 percent of earth’s air, water, land, forest, and bio-diversity are all threatened and has damaged in irreversible ways. Climate Change is transforming the way we think about our own and national security. Societies
are fighting over land, water, and other natural resources. Soon climate-crisis would spread all over the planet on a scale that dwarfs all the conflicts of the past. Global peace is under attack.
Are we going through a pilot-experience of the human sufferings in the form of COVID19, just before the full-scale ‘outbreak’ of the climate crisis? Is this a learning exercise for humans? Are we learning to run away from rising seas, melting ice, degraded land, polluted air, and dwindling food production? The larger question is: where do we run? We do not have the planet B.
Fortunately, we have the way out i.e. start walking, no, start sprinting, towards sustainability. In fact, sustainability is not a choice, it is a necessity for global peace and responsibility of each world-citizen.
Listen to Rajendra Shende, an IIT Alumni, who led the global efforts to save the Ozone Layer in UNEP and was the coordinating lead author for the special report on linkages between Ozone Layer and Climate Change.
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