Is anyone there to rescue us? And more importantly, is there some one to guide us on how not to get trapped again?Aboard a flight from Seychelles to Dubai, I looked down as the plane was descending. The hills of Seychelles’ crowded and huddled with thick, tall and diverse flora were seen being slowly replaced by the expanse of the beige desert. In just four hours of time, I felt that I was celebrating both the green festival of the forest and the deadly dance of the desert! The blue waves of oceans were slowly turning into hazy waves of sand.
But these two vastly different places had one need in common. They badly needed air conditioning for human beings as part of their modern life style and to make their living comfortable and efficient. Those who do not have air conditioning eagerly aspired for one. In Seychelles, the sultry and searing weather was intensely agonizing even at the highest point of its hills, i.e. 905 meters above the sea level. In Dubai the desert is hot, parched and strangely gasping even near the sea level.
“Air conditioning of course gives comforts not only for the rich, but also for the sick in the hospitals and workers on the shop floors and offices. Air conditioning makes one productive and makes one’s life worth living. It helps in focusing once attention and study more” said vice chancellor of the University in Seychelles , sitting in the hotel on the top of one of those volcanic hill-tops. I was there as a diplomat of United Nations Environment Programme in the capital city-Victoria in Seychelles for the meeting of the national ozone focal points from more than 20 African countries in the region. The mandate of the meeting was to facilitate the policy development and policy setting to eliminate ozone depleting sentences like Chloroflurocarbons ( CFCs) and Hydrochloroflurocarbons ( HCFCs) mainly used in those countries as refrigerants in the domestic refrigerators and room air conditioners. The refrigerant HCFC depletes the ozone layer and contributes to climate change. Hence we have to replace HCFC 22, and not air conditioning. The substitutes for HCFC already exist, one of them is hydrocarbon but it can be used only in small air conditioners due to their fire hazards which increase as the size of the air conditioner increases and the amount of hydrocarbons go up too.
A Zimbabwean journalist attending the meeting interviewed me and asked, “Don’t you think that human beings are really caught between development and need to care for the ecosystems? We need air conditioning, but its use leads to grave consequences like depletion of the protective layer of ozone?” I used the UN language that I learned over the last 19 years and responded , “But let us be optimistic. We need development and it should be sustainable!” I knew that the answer to such questions cannot be that easy. The challenges are enormous. But use of ‘sustainable development’ comes so handy some times. I could not have said to that journalist from Africa, ‘ we all should have remained in the caves to keep ecosystems intact.’
The plane landed at Dubai international airport and I stepped out of the aircraft’s air conditioning to the airport’s air conditioning. I settled in the Arabic lounge over a cup of Indian tea, pondering over the question of the African journalist – it kept nagging me.
I opened my iPad and started surfing the internet before checking the office emails, the addiction as passionate as air conditioning. I came across the news: Boy trapped behind AC unit. It said: “A toddler was rescued by his neighbors after he fell from a balcony and became wedged between a wall and the building’s air-conditioning unit. The terrifying incident happened in Beijing, China as the anonymous three-year-old boy was reportedly left home alone by his parents. ”
I remembered the African journalist again and thought of sending him this message as response to his question:
“We human beings are all toddlers unable to understand the reality and pace and direction of the development that we are taking. We are left alone, by God, at our only home called the Earth, and we are trapped between walls of our ignorance, dilemma of development, anxiety of the ecosystems and addiction for the modern living including air conditioning systems that symbolize our greed! We have to wait for the God to come and rescue us”
Is anyone there to rescue us? And more importantly, is there some one to us how not to get trapped again? END
By Rajendra Shende