“If a frog is suddenly placed into boiling water, it will jump out. However, if the frog is put in into lukewarm water and brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive that it is slowly being cooked to death” – Sound familiar?
Our ecosystem is currently experiencing the harshest ecological disruption we have ever witnessed. Raging forest fires are destroying natural habitats; catastrophic floods are causing outbreaks of waterborne diseases; and devastating droughts are debilitating the lives of farmers. Some parts of the world, however, are suffering with this more than others. Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world most susceptible to the changing climatic conditions and it has been implementing resilient strategies to prepare for disasters since 2009.
On a recent field trip with UNICEF, I had the distressing opportunity of getting a glimpse of how western global consumerism has sacrificed the livelihood of the children of Bangladesh. At a remote primary school on the outskirts of Khulna district, a group of children demonstrated their drills in case of a natural disaster. What’s more, is that the school was not just a shelter for children but also for the entire village. Is a safe and habitable environment not the basic right of a child? How did we let it get to this? In Bangladesh, it has been estimated that almost 19.4 million children have been exposed to the impact of this crisis, with over five million of them being under the age of five.
Storm surges and an alarming rise in sea levels in regions such as the Bay of Bengal are resulting in contamination of water and crops. One of the issues related to the intrusion of saline water into groundwater sources has been linked to an increase in preeclampsia and gestational hypertension in pregnancies. Water is our most precious resource and is essential for life with no other suitable substitute. Without it we cannot survive. How is it that we expect our youth to thrive on a planet where clean water will eventually become hard to come by?
Intense droughts are another by-product of the climate crisis that are becoming more frequent in the north-west region of Bangladesh. The resulting decline in agriculture production affects income and livelihoods of farmers whilst creating a surge in food prices which in turn causes the poorest families to go hungry. Children will thus suffer from malnourishment affecting their growth and development. Droughts will also lead to the displacement of families and can result in civil unrest; an example of this is Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria. It experienced its deepest droughts on record that caused a displacement of 1.5 million people leading up to the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011. This could very well be the reality of certain districts in Bangladesh as well as other parts of the world. The Sahel region is already witnessing detrimental conflicts as Lake Chad continues to shrink. As the population is pushed deeper into poverty, early child marriages will increase which traps girls and families in a cycle of poverty, compromising their education and preventing them from living empowered lives.
Let’s face reality – the effects of this global emergency will mean different things and impact us all differently. Those living in poverty WILL and ARE suffering more as a result. The climate crisis is jeopardising humanities fundamental rights and it is without doubt that it is affecting the future of our youth. It also threatens to undermine law and democracy as we know it. We are running the risk of undoing any socioeconomic development progress that we have made over the decades in new economies.
Although the discussion around this topic is changing amongst policy makers and is being amplified by journalists and activists, we are not doing enough to keep global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 °C. We are failing as we witness the catastrophes and natural disasters demolish the livelihood of individuals in places such as the Bahamas, Mozambique and Sudan.
So, to governments that are closing their borders and building walls – it is not only imminent that you stand at the forefront of this battle, but your moral obligation, for the success of your country’s economy has been at the expense of developing communities. To the campaigning politicians that are promoting extreme left or right movements, we cannot afford to waste time by pointing the finger; us against them, them against us; societies need multi-lateralism to prevent global chaos as opposed to encouragement of segregational demeaning values.
And to you – the individual – We are at the brink of a global apartheid unless we begin to change. Do not be ‘the frog in the boiling water’. Stay enlightened, talk to your peers, raise awareness and be conscious of your decisions for there is always an outcome that impacts somebody else…whether that is a positive or negative impact, is up to you.