5 December, 2007 - We have been hearing
about climate change and global warming for a number of years as the
more sensitive sections of the global community try to alert the rest
of the world. That voice is still feeble, especially with globalisation
manifesting itself as a powerful economic force. Meanwhile the planet
is being rapidly consumed.
As the United Nations released the Human Development report this week, with the theme “fighting climate change”, we find that the issue is not as broad and vague as we might have believed. Nor is it just floods in Bangladesh. There are specific problems that affect the region and some that directly affect Bhutan.
The report predicts that the Himalayan glaciers will dry by 2035. While this may not be accurate down to the calendar year, it is a foreboding prediction even if we give or take a few years or decades. What happens, for example, to the energy of our rivers that we are converting into hydropower.
If the global predictions are true, our lakes could be dry soon after the Punatsangchu project is completed. And that may put an end to the brilliant concept of this clean ecologically friendly energy.
The global community is meeting in Bali next week to discuss climate change. There will be much lobbying and exchanges, but it will be unrealistic to expect that people in the industrialised countries that are causing global warming will quickly change their life styles. We should be prepared to nurse our sense of helplessness into the foreseeable future.
But there are steps that Bhutan can take to preserve our own environment or at least stop emulating the unsustainable lifestyle that is the current trend. Gross National Happiness, if it means anything to us, requires that we take the reasoned development path.
For example, with the onset of winter, most of the valleys in the northern half of the country and some in the south greatly increased air pollution from cars and bukharis. The smog is getting thicker every year. Yet we have not taken a single step to reverse the trend. The road and loan policies are geared to buy more cars and the high consumption of fuel wood has not reduced.
We have talked about alternative fuels, public transport to reduce private cars, efficient technologies, and ecological management for years. We have not gone very far in terms of concrete action. Not only do we now need a Dzongkha word for traffic jam, the trees around most inhabited areas are being stripped of their branches.
And solutions are restricted to the ideas that are exchanged at government meetings.
Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap
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