Is global warming the answer?
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a status message about a tree in front of her home that was chopped down to make way for yet another building. A whole ecosystem gone, she mourned. Where will all the creatures that lived there go?
Then, in almost quick succession, I passed by a slum that had just been ‘cleared’, read a book about a hill in Bombay that had vanished, which made me think about the (very low) hills around me that are vanishing before my very eyes, then on Sunday, I read a most fascinating news feature in HT about the environment and development, and this week, I learned that the Western Ghats have been given World Heritage status and also saw pictures and read a story in Mumbai Mirror about a leopard wandering about a row house in a building complex in Goregaon.
Existence has never seemed so complicated.
I’m sure there’s always been a war of the species. It’s just that it’s never seemed so lopsided as it does now. Especially now, because we’re aware of the consequences of cutting down trees, flattening hills, filling in lakes and changing the courses of rivers, but the sheer need to exist makes us continue to do that. The need to exist and also greed.
It’s hard for me to find anything black and white in the argument between environment and ‘development’. I am a homeowner, I have a flat in a building in an area that once was hills and jungle. Leopards and snakes abounded. And all kinds of birds.
I chose to stay in this area, even though it was poorly served by public transport (and continues to be poorly served by public transport) for one because it was cheap (partly thanks to the poor public transport) and for two because I knew I could never afford a sea-facing flat, but here I could afford something just as wonderful – a hill-facing flat with jungles yet! Imagine getting that in a city!
As years passed and I watched this area grow from a place where auto drivers refused to go to at night for fear of ‘loins’- i.e., leopards (on one occasion, the one and only bus to the station couldn’t run because a leopard had chosen to deliver her cubs beneath its chassis), to a place which seems to be one long endless traffic jam, I got increasingly strident about the evils of development. While I appreciated the fact that life was getting easier and more convenient by the year in terms of transport, fancy things to buy and eat, branches of banks and so on, I also noticed that it was getting more cramped, less beautiful and worst of all, hotter and muggier. When the hills and trees existed, the temperature in my part of Bombay was a good five degrees lower than any other part of Bombay I know. I never needed to use an air-conditioner even in the worst pre-monsoon mugginess. Now I toss and turn at night, still heroically without an air-conditioner, asking myself bitterly why I want to save the world, so full of greedy, rapacious, nasty, violent people, at all. Serve us all right if we do get wiped out by global warming, I think angrily. We bleeping well deserve it.
But it’s easy for me to think this way – I have a house! I don’t have to search desperately for a flat I can afford in this city, so I can afford to get angry about construction and development. Every time I read of another area of and around the city being freed for development and I want to march into Mantralaya and shout at all those horrible politicians and hit them, at the back of my mind I know I wouldn’t be living where I am if one of those horrible politicians hadn’t opened up this area of Bombay for development. I would be the world’s worst hypocrite if I didn’t remember that.
In a scenario like this, when people need homes, someone’s greed fulfils many other people’s need. How can this possibly be fixed? Where’s that point on the scale where everything balances? Is there a point of balance at all?
All these things have been running through my head since my friend posted that message about the tree.
I don’t know what we can do.
Maybe global warming is the best solution. We may be wiped out. But the earth will survive.