Two weeks ago the northeastern part of the Mediterranean island of Majorca was hit by a freak storm. Within a matter of hours the area was hit by so much rainfall that dry streams were soon flooded and a five-meter high wave swept away cars, bridges and buildings. Twelve people died.
Such a catastrophe hits the world headlines for a day or two and then is forgotten. In this case it happened only a 40-minute drive from my home on the island. It was a stark reminder that climate change is real. It is happening and it is affecting all of us.
Behind the news of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing civil wars in Latin America and the Middle East is the story of agricultural devastation as a result of unprecedented drought.
Unfortunately the debate on climate change has become so partisan and emotional that even sound science is losing the argument.
When I was working as a journalist for an international news agency, I attended the first series of conferences of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) nearly two decades ago. In one of the workshops climate scientists were showing slides of predicted extreme weather patterns by the year 2030. Freak storms, floods and massive hurricanes would become the norm, they argued. The sad truth is that they were wrong. These weather patterns are already happening twelve years ahead of time.
Nobody in the year 1996 could predict that the fast growing-economies of China and India and the unprecedented destruction of rain forests would fast-track carbon dioxide emissions. In the year 2013 they surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere for the first time. Now get this: For ten thousands of years the level was stable at around 280 ppm. The level only started increasing at the turn of the last century as the industrial revolution gained pace. This is not a natural cycle. What we are seeing is human-induced climate change. It is part of the bigger picture of our human impact on the planet.
I was born in Paulpietersburg, South Africa . This is how much the temperature has risen in the small town during my lifetime:
Humanity seems to move to the edge at the brink of a new evolutionary cycle. We were there before during the Cold War when the superpowers were very close to annihilating most of humanity in a nuclear war. It is my firm belief that on at least three occasions missiles were not launched because of divine intervention. The crisis had to happen to make us aware of the madness of the ideological walls in our minds.
If the world had not come together in signing the Montreal Protocol in 1987 banning substances that deplete the world’s protective ozone layer, we would be in a dire state today.
Hope springs that we will manage it this time around as well. It is a close call. We have no time to lose. It is up to our generation to preserve our planet for the generations ahead. On a deeper level environmental consciousness is all about self-awareness and self-love – without the shadow of ego and narcissism.
We are treating our bodies in the same way that we are treating our planet. Mindfulness to self is how we exercise, cope with stress, and the choice of foods we eat. It magnifies to the world around. We seem to know very little about ourselves. Its time for a real game changer.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant