“The greatest threat to our Planet is the belief that someone else will save it… the last great exploration on Earth is to survive on Earth.”- Robert Swan

URVASHI BABAJEE

Summer embraces Mauritius at the end of October and stays on until April by next year. However, this year our eyes have been stretching on to find the rays of sun and have begun to bring out thoughts of an unexplored summer. People are unable to understand what’s really happening because there is no certain season as it keeps on changing frequently. In fact, our world is facing a tragic process. The Nature Conservancy of 2018 has shown that there has been “an intensification of cyclones, droughts and floods that have been witnessed worldwide”. Although, people agree with the brutal impact of climate change and are finding different ways to confront it, yet they remain victims of extreme weather events.

On the same point of view, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report has also outlined that “hundreds of millions of lives are at stake” due to heat waves, wildfires, melting snow and ice, sea level rise, coral reef bleaching, soil and beach erosion, droughts and flash floods which all lead to the depletion of various species as well as producing huge negative impacts on the economies and livelihoods. Indeed, the driving force behind the natural causes is humans and if the situation persists, we would be expected to face the green genocide.

Awareness of the threat

To keep ourselves safe, we wonder whether we would be able to avoid this apocalyptic time? In Ban Ki-moon’s (Secretary-General of the U.N Climate Change Science Compendium 2009) own words: “The science has become more irrevocable than ever: Climate change is happening. The evidence is all around us. And unless we act, we will see catastrophic consequences including rising sea levels, droughts and famine, and the loss of up to a third of the world’s plant and animal species”. He is totally right as being the recent case of “around 350 koalas had been killed in Eastern Australia Coast and more than 2.5 million acres have already been burned” due to bush fire and as has been predicted by the World Wildlife Fund that “koalas could be extinct by 2050” simply because of forest clearing and human expansion. At present, many scientists hold global warming responsible for the extinction of many species. If we dig into numbers, global emissions for 2019 are predicted to hit “36.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂)” which is another all-time record.

As such, it is crucial to tackle this daunting issue and to find mechanisms that can work immediately. For instance, what can corporations and governments do? What can citizens do? It’s easy to talk and debate about the subject, but on many times actions have been so small and raising such questions could be seen as a difficult challenge. It is more critical for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Mauritius to adapt to social, economic and environmental challenges as it can be a victim of the rising sea level in the Indian Ocean (SIDS, 2011).

Added to this, we cannot ignore the effects of rising temperatures on the ecosystem of Mauritius especially in the hot summer days and nights. At the same time, it has also witnessed unpredictable variations in rainfall patterns and flash floods for the past few years. It is worthy to recall the spectacular tragic flash flood of March 2013, when Port-Louis had been submerged by water as a result of less than an hour of rainfall and had made eleven victims.

In short, mankind is paying a hefty price for his mistakes because it is following the steps of Karma. Hence, it would require a long-term engagement to reflect on a more optimistic view to avoid a greater risk if we still want to save our Planet.

“The greatest threat to our Planet is the belief that someone else will save it… the last great exploration on Earth is to survive on Earth.”- Robert Swan

Economic Growth versus
Dependence on Natural Resources

The battle to control natural resources is considered as one of the biggest questions of our present and for our future. In many countries, people have exploited resources of the Earth’s ecosystem. When we talk about natural resources, in the context of developing countries, it is mainly to see how they have managed to outgrow their dependence by diversifying their economic activities but equally to find ways to reduce their dependence on these resources. Otherwise, we would invade with destructive consequences, which ultimately might cause a problem for the financial sector. Increasing economic growth seems perfect but at the same time, dealing with resource scarcity, climate change and having a satisfactory balance with nature along with equitable social progress are seen as big objectives especially for developing countries to emerge sustainably.

If you think about it, there is a real choice with a variety of strategies to re-create our ecosystem. It’s certainly true if we do not use any natural resources and keep the stock constant over time, there would not be any exhaustible resources. But this seems impossible and hard for countries to adopt because the ideology of the market is to maximise profits. Here, let us refer to theories to help us understand better. In 1997, Hanley et al have stated that there are two functions of the natural environment: (i) Resource Supplier; the harvest rate should not be greater than the natural regeneration rate for renewable resources and (ii) Waste Assimilator; to keep the flow to the environment at or below the assimilative efficiency or capacity of the environment. Based on these two functions, as already mentioned, the idea is to keep the resource stock constant over time.

Conversely, most of the time our economic activities are threatened with the way that people extract, process and dispose of the vast flow of the resources. Let us take the inception of the mono-crop sugar economy as the sector’s contribution to GDP in Mauritius has shrunk from “17.8% to 1.2% in 2012” and had to find ways to manage, adapt and shift to economic circumstances. Today, the main drivers remain the tourist industry, financial intermediation and the real estate sector.

In an attempt, the government and authorities have reconsidered their lines of action to tourism and are focusing on green tourism to preserve the natural beauty of the country. But it’s not yet clear how big their actions are. To put that in perspective, hotels are being built in blocks and concrete by foreign and South African-born developers despite several protests by activists. What about the Mauritian government’s policy of encouraging such a large-scale development? What is the government trying to do? What about our declining natural resources? What about our forests or ocean which include diversity of species? When we have a closer look at our lands, most have been converted to estate properties. They are destroying very fast by putting us in a vulnerable situation.

One of the striking things about the subject is the narrowness of how states do not have the so-called ‘technical solutions’ for the transformative shift in behaviour and human values. As a direct consequence, very few states are thinking for the long term because there has been an increase in investment in technology, ultimately making them less concerned about sustainable growth. For instance, different countries have different views of their own rapid growth which make them put higher priority on poverty reduction as compared to safeguarding the environment. It is high time for us to think, re-think and to make amends.

How to adopt a serious approach quickly?

(a) We have few arable lands which are left for farming and they could be used for sustainable and smart agriculture. Grants and subsidies could encourage agricultural planters and enterprises to invest more in smart schemes, for instance rainwater harvesting schemes, compost and bio-pesticides schemes. Why not try the rainwater harvesting and compost at home? Are we really recycling waste at home? Small actions like that could contribute enormously. Give it a try by using bio products.
(b) Society must decide how best to use its capital stock today and must also reflect how much it would need to save for tomorrow. Without the well-being of a population, no future generation would be promised. So, let us respect our natural capital. Aren’t they gifts of nature?
(c) How far are we willing to conserve our ecosystem? We need more actions from people to commit themselves towards achieving the SDGs and to implement the “Vision 2030”. What to do? Let us mobilise and exercise it now as a collective unit. It presents a real challenge for Mauritians to have a greater access to environmental adaptation works.
(d) Diminish our amount of pollutants dumped onto land, into the ocean and the atmosphere. We can still focus on a better environmental performance. We need powerful measures and laws to constantly check whether manufacturing industries are respecting the discharge and emission regulations.
(e) A general report should be presented to the public annually and also sees to it that it ensures accountability and transparency. The Ministry of Environment must set up programs to educate people at a very young age so that they can be better leaders of tomorrow. Community outreach programs must also be more frequent in order to enforce a sustainable society before it gets too late to act.
(f) More commitment is needed than just signing treaties or agreements with the Kyoto Protocol, the UNFCCC or the Paris Agreement because we cannot continue to exploit the Earth and the more we have global warming, the cost would be higher.