Nature’s second nature

Here is a confession, coming ironically after I-Day: I just became an Englishman! Am I not if I am going to talk about the weather in all seriousness as the E-men do first thing in the morning or whenever two of them happen to meet? Well, in any case, weather is a perfect filler when there is nothing else to write about and one does not have to belong to England for that.

That said, the situation up above and all around us is pretty serious. I mean, it is not pretty but rather serious. And it merits discussion, not just as a conversation-filler but a full-blown obsession. Climate’s erratic, rather eccentric, behaviour, blowing hot and blowing cold at will, is now an undisputed fact. Raging forest fires in Russia, unusually hot summers in Europe, landslips in China, flash floods in Leh, near total inundation of a good (bad?) part of Pakistan, unseasonal rains all over: really nature’s ugly signature is writ everywhere just this past month. For humanity, beholden by nature’s beauty and pampered by its bounty all along, it is no good news that everyone under the sky is marked. It looks all the elements have formed a grand alliance to oust their tormentors in godspeed!

The general consensus in the scientific community as well as official circles is that we have collectively and consistently ignored nature’s warnings and are now paying with global warming. But humans being humans, stuck on a suicidal spiral of ‘feed, need and greed’, consensus does not automatically lead to corrective action. There is enough data to prove that post-industrial revolution, the rampant use of fossil fuels to spur ‘development’ has caused huge emissions of greenhouse gases that heat up the atmosphere and cause climate change. By this line of thought it would appear that natural disasters are actually man-made! But, there are an equal number of skeptics armed with equally convincing data who debunk the industrial revolution theory and claim that climate has been changing, often drastically, all through evolution. To them, the ‘global warming, climate change charade’ is yet another business ploy to peddle costly, ‘clean & green’ technologies to a guilty, gullible populace!

But the latter are losing the argument, not least because the proponents of climate change are convincing. For, polemics apart, global warming or not, we can feel the heat rising in our bones adequately enough to give us the chill. And as plainly obvious is also the fact that every one of us, thanks to our lifestyles, are leaving a larger carbon footprint today than we did yesterday. On a collective and continuous count, that makes for a truly catastrophic stampede on tender nature. Our per-capita gas emission, that is excluding those via the, shall we say, biologically approved channels, is truly mind boggling. For instance, surely, God or for that matter, even Francis Day, as some sundry runners, walkers and talkers tend to believe, did not launch Madras with all this foul air packed in. But today, Chennai’s climate confounds its citizens as well as the even-otherwise-clueless Met-men. May did roast, but come June it was suddenly springtime, seeming like a kind of mid-summer day-dream! As July dawned, it was almost October monsoon albeit a bit too soon: Daily showers, despite conspiring with the ubiquitous potholes, kept us cool too. Only for us to lose that cool in August which is presently giving the impression that May may be back. We know not what, Come September. Or if October & November have already emptied themselves. But clearly, our city’s climate calendar has been torn asunder!

It is not that Chennaiites have singularly caused this climate change over Chennai. And that precisely is the reigning enlightenment now. I mean, not about Chennai’s climate, but the interconnectivity of atmospheric activities across distant geographical regions. Climate experts now believe that the fury of Russian fires and Pak floods actually stem from the same source. Let me present some expert quote to make that wisdom clear though I have not understood it myself. ‘These disasters though different and varying in distances could have been both the result of a large area of high pressure, known as blocking high, centred over Western Russia. Such pressure true to its name alters the jet stream, a corridor of fast moving air at high altitudes.The altered jet stream which is like a highway for the movement of storms can therefore influence weather patterns through great distances’. Got it? Blessed really you are.

Indeed, heat waves and heavy rains are likely to co-exist or alternate without notice as never before. Climate scientists conclude that ‘this is what one should expect in a warming world’ which needless to say, is our own making! But then trust nature to tip and trip all such human brainwaves. The more you fathom, the more you realise its mysteries are inscrutable. Not just the vagaries of the weather, but nature hides all its sinister secrets quite safely. Remember the Tsunami monster that concealed itself from human eyes so well and revealed its size and unravelled its ferocity only on hitting the shores? Even now, scientists are only groping in generalities and learned guesses. But guesses all the same that await confirmation through belated, often, useless hindsight!

But getting back to the interconnectivity part vis-a-vis climate, are we surprised at all? Take for instance the political climate. Don’t we often witness in politics this natural link of the party of the first part catching a cold whenever the party of the second part sneezes? Or in business, particularly stock markets, wherein even small upheavals someplace else cause terrible storms here? Or take the security climate: Is it not a fact that whenever a mad, medieval mullah, holed up in some Afghan cave or safe house in Pak, gets all fired up over the rising quantum of infidels across the border, blasts of hot, toxic air engulf the malls, markets, hotels or railways here? Nevertheless, let us add to this kitty of wisdom one more leaf: The next time we light a kerosene stove or switch on an LPG cylinder, we might actually be causing or at least, contributing in part, to a sudden cloud burst in distant London!

And we would have spoiled a perfectly fine day that an unsuspecting Englishman would have ventured into without his umbrella!

e-mail the writer at [email protected]

Jawahar T R