JEEWAN RAMLUGUN

The tell-tale portents of an inevitable ecosystem collapse and civilization as we know it, have become compelling. The supporting science is there. Even hardboiled realists, like business and industry leaders are concerned. Parts of the world are being submerged due to rising sea levels, as they have never been before. Severe flooding caused by inordinate rainfalls have become desperately worrying. Fires have been raging to unprecedentedly devastating effects. There have been responses and measures taken at national and supranational levels to mitigate the climate problem, now no longer a change issue but one of crisis. Cutting harmful emissions into the atmosphere has become paramount, an uncompromising priority. Some commitments are categorical and ambitious, some perceived as being too little, too late; some perceived as mere policy noisemaking, as public relations stunts, or politically correct tokenism.

What is undeniable is that there are cross-border mobilisation of opinions and actions set in train to combat the climate crisis threats, in the immediate term, and to stave off worst future case scenarios. The last things anyone wants to see happening are global economic failures and the collapse of the financial system, both from inaction and action: not doing anything or enough on the climate threat front, or doing too much, too soon, with inimical socio-economic consequences. This is not to mention the immeasurable, unfolding challenges posed by the coronavirus.

If we go by the tenets and precepts of administrative or management sciences, do we take the incremental route, effecting progressive changes by slow and steady measures? This would be furiously frustrating to climate crisis activists. Instead, do we take the radical route, a root and branch approach? The latter will be viewed with alarm by business and industry or by those with too much stake in things as they are, or still by others who cannot contemplate or adjust to a drastically different way of life.

And needless to say, merely muddling through is not an option as things stand, judging by the reality checks that stare us in the face.

Heathrow Airport

However things are with the climate issue and however they will be played out at the practical level and on the ground, fears, anxieties, and bewilderment on an irrational or panic-stricken scale would be the last eventuality we want to see happening. And yet, particularly among some young people, as has been evident, climate crisis anxiety is real and likely to accentuate, necessitating counselling help or other psychological support. So there is an invidious situation to ponder on, when openly and pervasively debating the climate issue.

For every ‘Greta’, there will be a ‘Naomi’, one clear voice for the climate crisis case, and one running counter to it. So the waters are being continually muddied, to the extent that the voices of reason are at risk of being drowned out. The voices in the metropolitan thoroughfares, or in the mainstream, may become voices in the wilderness, marginalised and ultimately muted. Either on a ‘pro’ or ‘con’ side, open discourses must be kept alive. Science is both consensus (of rational opinion over the widest possible field), or dissensus (refutability to the point of paradigm shifts). In arguing for a particular measure, the usual caveat against wholesale radical action is, not to throw the proverbial baby with the bathwater. And so the reasonable poking of holes even in unshakeable case-making is a desideratum. Action and reaction are inextricably linked.

We have recently witnessed the case of the planned expansion of Heathrow Airport being ruled against by the Court of Appeal, because its environmental impact had not been factored into the project. This underlines the fact that environmental impact assessments are becoming an integral component of large-scale infrastructural changes or other significant design modifications or major new builds.

Facts on a rational-legal plane have persuasive force. But, are facts or evidence on their own sufficient to convince human beings about a particular phenomenon or reality? When it comes to the climate issue, the facts on global warming, to an alarming extent at that, are incontrovertible. But the naysayers and deniers are in their multitudes, many scientists included.

It has been dawning on us that moving minds has to be done in tandem with moving hearts, also souls. And that is where the power of poetry, the arts and music come into their own, creating an exalted awareness of beauty, heightening sensitivity to the human condition or predicament, and aesthetically blending emotion with reason to sense things in their true and holistic perspectives.

Let us see

J.R.

The dregs, silts, and lees

that turbidly swirl

muddying the waters

must first settle

to gain a clear view.

We then can peer through

the detritus

to glimpse the impediments.

When we get blindsided

without knowing it,

become hopelessly blinkered

and struggle in the twilight

of uncertainty,

we reimagine reality.