Most of you reading this might still not have probably recovered from the ‘Christmas feels’ (Belated Christmas wishes!), after all December is the month of festivites – when every person scrambles for their last chance of the year at redeeming themselves.
The calendar tells me today is December 26, 2016. As I begin to write this, well past 10 pm, I cannot help but wonder how many of the 7.4 billion that I share this Earth with, share my thoughts. And trust me, if I were telling you this over a cup of coffee, I would be doing my best to read your face. I would be scanning it to check if the date rang a bell. I would be scouring for an iota of fear that I see in myself when I look in the mirror. Because the date still sends a shiver down my spine.
It was at about 00:56 hrs on the 26th of December, back in 2004, when one of the worst earthquakes ever recorded hit the Sumatra islands. It became catalyst to the deadly tsunami that took hundreds of innocent lives and left thousands of others in despair.
As the news hit me on that black day, I was gutted. I had just returned from the oh-so pristine Andaman and Nicobar islands and I hadn’t gotten enough of its often underrated beauty. Anyone who has visited the islands will agree with me when I say that it is the Eldorado of nature’s creations (let’s not forget those breath taking coral reefs). So when my parents told me that the place and its ocean floor will not be the same, it broke me.
And 12 years hence, I am as gutted as I was on that day knowing that these fragile ecosystems; the coral reefs and other exquisite natural bounties on this planet are on the verge of dying. The only hope remains in the few that care to be vocal about it. It bothers me that 12 years hence, nobody cares about the damage and its repurcussions, about the dads that never came home from work and the moms that never finished cooking supper About the pets that lost their master and the babies that cried uncontrollably that night. About the dreams crushed and the hopes lost. Or maybe not.
Even after Chennai (in India) spent two consecutive Decembers battling (and failing) the floods, and facing the wrath of the nature, it certainly doesn’t seem like it will be the last. If we haven’t learned from Chile and Sumatra I wonder if we ever will.
How easily we seem to have forgotten everything? And why did those of us who remembered choose to stay silent? It amazes me how it got so easily reduced to a mere dinner table conversation. My father at the Christmas dinner asked me, “was it yesterday or is it tomorrow?” and I replied, “it is tomorrow or tonight” (loosely). I thought to myself how we might see a small (unsensational and ignored) piece on the news tomorrow or how National Geographic would air those killer waves episode ‘tomorrow’ in their prime time slot. And to my annoyance I didn’t see any; I didn’t see anything on social media either. Maybe demonetisation is all that we are bothered about now. For a moment all I could think was: “you wouldn’t care unless you saw the place and fell in love with it, and know what has been lost; unless your father told you how bad it was when he volunteered for the relief program because you remember everyone packing all they could to take it those camps; unless you couldn’t eat out that night because Modi decided he didn’t like the 1000 rupee note; unless it stopped you from collecting your cash-on-delivery package arriving from Flipkart the next day; unless you loved the Earth as much as it loved you back.”
But sharing the thought with my dear friend, I realised I wasn’t alone. Over the years we have seen it all – the countries of the United Nations pledging to cut carbon emissions, to save energy campaigns, to introducing sustainable engineering in our curriculum, to Jack telling the world how important it is to save this planet and to prevent the melting of the very iceberg that killed his love story, in his Oscar speech.
I remember this one specific part from ‘Before the Flood’ (documentary hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio; must watch) wherein the man visits India. He asks his co-host why India isn’t pushing harder to switch to solar power and to which the latter loosely said, “We are a poor country, Leo. We still rely on cow dung and if we could do something we would end poverty first.” The answer amused me, I don’t mean to undermine how big an issue poverty is and how it is deterring the country from becoming a superpower. However, in the same breath, I wonder how a thousands of crores worth statue helps tackle the issue, which atleast in the opinion of some, is of more importance than protecting the planet. We might be a country that is currently developing and not financially very stable, but the flora, fauna and the culture we have is rich, that is to say the least. If hundreds of species of trees were uprooted in Chennai this December in a tiny display of fury by nature, I wonder how poor we will end up being if we have to witness even a mere demo of ‘after the flood’.
All this talk about making Mars our home, finding water and searching the possibilities for life, hints to me that we have come to realise that we have done irrevocable and irreversible damage to our beloved Earth that loves us unconditionally. And now, after all these years of abuse, we are too lazy to fix it. Or maybe our scientists have realised it’s too late. As Leonardo DiCaprio said at the Paris Climate Summit, “I am terrified of what i have seen…. A massive change is required right now. … You are the last, best hope of Earth.”
Leonardo DiCaprio was terrified by what he saw and I cannot but be terrified by the very thought of returning to places that once upon a time took my breath away.