Disasters: Nature’s way of calling out for help?
There are approximately 8.7 million species of animals and plants on Earth today. This only planet with a habitable environment, lush green forests, and life-giving water resources is now turning into a gas chamber where it is becoming practically impossible for people to live long and healthy lives. Our everyday activities contribute majorly to this condition. Natural and manmade disasters are caused by our pursuits, knowingly or unknowingly. This article illustrates how nature reacts to our interests in the form of disasters and how these disasters help in restoring their original form. On this nature conservation day, let's join hands to save our planet for future generations.
'We have not inherited this earth from our ancestors; we have borrowed it from our children,' said Lester Brown, a world-renowned environmental analyst, and author. An individual's role in the world is subtly outlined in the statement. However, currently our society is overusing its resources, which leads to disasters like famine, droughts, and earthquakes, followed by climate change and deadly diseases.
The essay illustrates how human activities lead to the destruction of nature resulting in disasters. It also explains the emergence of novel coronavirus due to climate changes.
All human activities have an impact on the environment, whether they are positive or negative. Among the most destructive effects are disasters. The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) verifies this study with its report stating an increase in disasters caused by human activities from 100 to 300 per year, while the number of natural geological disasters has remained the same in the last 20 years. (Nita, 2021)
Deforestation, urbanization, dam constructions, farming activities, and excessive fracking for oil and natural gas are a few of the activities responsible for casualties like heavy rainfalls, extended summers, snowmelts, soil destruction, water contamination, global warming, and pollution of all kinds. Earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, floods, droughts, climate change, and many others result from these unusual repercussions. The infamous Uttarakhand floods of 2013 caused nearly 5748 people their lives and almost 4550 villages were affected. Several factors contributed to the havoc, such as the fragile nature of the Himalayan range and the poor soil firmness caused by the construction of roads and expanded hydropower projects. The destruction was further enhanced by continuous cutting for hotels and restaurants required to accommodate increased tourism. Since floods and heavy rains damaged most of the hotels, roads, and tourist spots, nature was restored to its original state. It taught us to understand nature’s true potential since nature's way of restoring itself can be treacherous for them. The problem, however, remains unsolved.
A disaster not only affects the lives of the animals but also initiates changes in the ecosystem, thus spawning new species or eradicating old ones. Globally, we are battling a deadly virus that has disrupted our lives to a great extent.
There is no doubt that the virus spread from the city of Wuhan, but a more surprising fact has been revealed by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Germany and University of Cambridge's department of zoology, in the United Kingdom that relates to its initiation. China's rapid development has made it one of the most polluted countries in the world. In the southern province of Yunnan, pollution has resulted in a significant rise in temperature due to the emission of greenhouse gases. A rise in temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide has affected the natural habitat, turning it from tropical shrubland to tropical savannah. In response to the new friendly environment for bats, up to 40 new species emerged. Coronavirus is a bat-borne disease. As bat populations and species rose , the human transmission of the disease has become easier. Due to the venomous nature of these new species, the Covid-19 outbreak became fatal and contagious. Within a few months of being discovered, the virus spread worldwide and was declared a pandemic by the WHO. (Preidt, 2021)
Global lockdowns caused enormous socio-economic destruction, but as it's said each cloud has a silver lining. Similarly, lockdowns led to a golden period for the environment. Climate studies have shown a massive drop in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the world's most polluted cities. Decrease in the combustion of fossil fuels and reductions in usage of vehicles lead to an increase in air quality and oxygen levels. It was a result of a decrease in concentrations of lethal gases such as GHGs, NO2, PM2.5, PM10, and CO. Though temporary, clearer skies, better water quality, and flourishing fauna and flora were observed as positive effects. Several sightings of wild birds flocking to beaches in Peru and wild deer camped on housing estates in London were reported. There were also sightings of dolphins in Venice, Italy, almost after sixty years. In the lockdown, residents of Jalandhar were able to see the Himalayan range for the first time in 30 years. In coastal areas of Odisha, endangered species of turtles, Olive Ridley laid 60 million eggs. During the months of lockdown, fishes were breeding, and the fall in fishing activities helped to cultivate new species as well as maintaining existing species. Many other natural processes that returned to life during Covid-19 went unobserved due to difficulty of commutation during that time. (Mubarak, 2020)
What is the ecosystem trying to convey?
Floods in Uttarakhand and the Covid-19 pandemic are examples of nature responding to exploitation. Excess of anything can be risky, even if we think it seems to be for human development. Floods and droughts occur in areas where forests and natural vegetation have been destroyed or damaged by agricultural activities, urbanization and construction. This isn't the first time we have been exposed to a disease carried by animals and birds. Other examples include tuberculosis, flu, and E-bola. Among the major causes of this disease spread is the illegal and legal wildlife trade that continues to occur globally. Global warming and climate change have affected the genetic structure of many animals and plants, while pollution has caused their migration routes to be altered, leading to the extinction of some species.
It is high time that we consider environmental issues with gravity to avoid more such catastrophes that are far more destructive than wars. One million species are threatened with extinction, and timely checks of our activities can help to save them. Protecting tropical land along with afforestation will not only help flora and fauna but also in slowing climate change. The time has come for us to realize our relationship with nature and serve it to sustain our lives. We cannot restore nature to its original form because of overpopulation and over-exploitation, but the least we can do is play our role efficiently. Despite government initiatives to conserve wildlife and vegetation, most of them have failed due to either government ignorance or lack of public support. World leaders are meeting from time to time to guide roadmaps to the natural conversation and investing huge amounts for the same. Despite this, little progress is being made. We can act as responsible citizens by using public transportation, recycling and reusing products, saying no to fast fashion, switching to technology-efficient energy, end poaching, and moving to a paperless economy, and most importantly by spreading awareness about the same. Money spent on conserving nature after we destroy it ourselves could be used for better alternatives like education and healthcare. Nature has always provided us with everything, and now it's our turn to do the same for her.
Life has only been discovered on Earth so far and each of the species plays a role in the ecosystem. However, overpopulation and overexploitation of resources has disrupted the preexisting life cycle of many animals. As a result, nature is now taking the help of disasters to restore itself. A majority of them are caused by our acts, resulting in the loss of lives, money, and infrastructure. Covid-19, the current pandemic, is a result of the same. The effect of natural disasters outweighs the effects of man-made ones. This demonstrates how much damage we have caused to the environment. The need of the hour is to take action to combat the situation and save our invaluable ecosystems so that the earth continues to thrive. In the absence of required actions, humanity will come to an end, not from war but diseases more dangerous than Covid-19. Let's commit this year to take at least one step towards saving our environment and making it a better place to live.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, and climate change are caused by human activity.
Climate change is responsible for the emergence of the Covid-19 virus in China.
Lockdown had positive effects on our environment.
The importance of nature conservation in preventing further disasters.