STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

The sunset in Bali is renowned around the globe. There is a lot of glamour and romance attached to it. It attracts visitors from all over. I am in Bali with the family for a vacation. I witnessed the sunset standing in ankle deep water on the beach with the breeze musically blowing on my face and body. It was so soothing and peaceful with my partner, Rakhshanda standing next to me.

Bali is a fascinating destination for those who want to interact with nature and enjoy worldly delights. I love nature and am attracted to it as an incurable romantic. I could feel the sand shifting under my feet as the waves grew bigger with sun going down. You can get deeply absorbed just watching the waves hit the shore. Watching a wave build up is a fascinating sight as you see it roll in and recede from the beach.

I had just finished feasting with the family at my favorite seaside restaurant. I eat there every time I visit Bali. You can pick your choice of live fish from their tanks. They cook it for you while you enjoy your seat along Java Sea. It is one of the best tasting fish that I have experienced in my travels.

It took me down the memory lane. It was the mid eighties when I visited Bali for the first time. It was a jewel in the process of being discovered. With its pristine beaches and clear and friendly waters, you could navigate the entire town in thirty minutes. In over thirty years its size has exploded multiple times. It can take two or three hours to get around this bustling city. But that is the case with most resorts all over the developing world, where developments are influence based and unplanned.

Since beginning December I have covered a lot of ground from the freezing cold of Edmonton and Toronto to the unusually chilly winter in Lahore. Then I traveled onwards to 30 plus degrees in Colombo, Jakarta and now to Bali. I have seen lush green forests, flew over deserts, mountains, fertile plains and large rivers. The Creator has endowed the mankind such a beautiful and a varied world. But what are we, as humans, doing to it?

Keeping the thirty year time frame in mind, the world population has pretty much doubled. We are polluting the atmosphere at unsustainable levels. Ice is melting in the North and South poles. The weather is seeing new extremes in heat and cold. The frequency and severity of typhoons, tsunamis and hurricanes is increasing manifolds. Forest and bush fires are flaring up from California to Australia ruining thousands of households and tens of thousands of forested acres.

I am not an alarmist; those who know me will vouch for that. I am a realist. We all can see what is going on around us. What I have stated above are pure facts. It is how you interpret them that really matters. These are just the outward signs and symptoms of a deep seated disease. Humans are consumed by mindless greed, ignorance and lack of realization of consequences of our actions.

The first quarter of the 21st Century has clearly charted out the course of events that will happen by 2050. I can see many you will shrug it off thinking “I may not be around”. Hence my title. If you care for your kids, I want to jolt you to wake up and take responsibility. We have entered a one way street. There is no pulling back if we don’t change our course. We are headed to doomsday and a painful elimination.

Leading the path of destruction is the corporate greed. Profit being their sole motivation, immediate gains, unmindful of the consequences, is a devastating tragedy. Global leaders need to take responsibility for their criminal negligence of permitting this travesty to occur. A culture of consumption has been nurtured since world war two. It is misinterpreted as affluence. Earth’s resources are finite. Be it fresh water, clean air, trees supplying oxygen and ability to grow food. There has to be a limit to this cruel destruction.

Human emotions have to awaken and be sensitized to dangers we face. The rate at which the water levels are rising will drown coastal areas around the globe. Unseasonal floods and rain will cause widespread devastation. The final nail in the coffin is climate change. With rising temperatures coupled with droughts, crops will fail. Untimely rains will have the same consequence.

Population growth is eating up valuable agricultural land. It is uncontrolled amongst those who can least afford it, the developing or underdeveloped countries. Pakistan is one of the worst examples. The population here will double in the next 30 years. We just don’t have enough water, food, infrastructure and resources to sustain it. Please don’t involve Allah. He has nothing to do with it; it is us humans who are responsible.

I grew up in Lahore where summer temperatures were in high thirties or low forties. Now it is in high forties. Another ten degrees and the Quranic description of the doomsday will become real. Sun at a spear’s length is symbolic; let us not make it real.

From a political analyst have I become an environmentalist? I don’t believe so. They are both intertwined. If our leaders don’t act now to conserve water, save and grow forests, control pollution, prevent waste, educate their people to conserve, this well maybe the last century of human existence. I truly hope I am wrong!

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