Climate Change

The phenomenon of rising temperatures of the Earth resulting in change of climate, seasons, rainfall patterns etc. is called Global warming. Global warming and its effects are together referred to as Climate Change. While these changes have been seen before but the rate of change has increased rapidly from the middle of the 20th century. Findings from different recognized scientific organizations support these claims. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “human influence on climate has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century”. The emission of greenhouse gases as a result of human activities have been one of the largest causes for this. Fossil fuels, Chloro-fluro carbons (CFCs), deforestation, rise in different forms of pollution are all behind this.

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Temperature change is also accompanied by loss of snow cover, melting permafrost, frequent natural disasters like cyclones. Land surfaces heat more quickly which have resulted in heat waves, forest fires, increase in desert area. These temperature changes are the highest in the Arctic region. Changes in environmental conditions have led to extinction of several wildlife species in forests, coral reefs etc. Rising carbon dioxide emissions lead to rising sea levels, ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. These changes bring in frequent droughts, extreme weather conditions affecting the equilibrium and natural balance.

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Almost all countries have come together for climate change under the umbrella of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The convention aims to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. It has instructed policy makers that there is much greater risk to human and natural systems if the warming goes above 1.5 °C compared to pre-industrial levels. Under the Paris Agreement, nations have made climate pledges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but even after following those, global warming would still reach about 2.8 °C by 2100. To prevent this from happening and limit the warming to 1.5 °C, methane emissions need to decrease to near-zero levels and carbon dioxide emissions should reach net-zero by the year 2050.

Governments should act immediately and policies should be constructed to reduce fossil fuel emissions, increase reforestation, forest prevention, use of low carbon energy technologies, food preservation. All societies should work together towards dealing with future global warming problems in a scientific way. Development of more resistant crops, better disaster management should also be considered.

Several international movements have taken place like Fridays For Future where school students take time off from school to aware people and demand climate change action from governments. They demand action from political leaders of the world for the fossil fuel industry to convert to renewable energy and take immediate measures for climate change. This movement was publicised after Greta Thunberg started a protest outside the Swedish parliament with a poster saying “School strike for climate”. She is an environmental activist who has spoken at several internationally recognised platforms. She started her journey as an activist from the time when she had convinced her parents to change their lifestyle for reducing their carbon footprint. She is known for her straight forward manner of speaking at public platforms and criticizing world leaders for their failure to address climate change. She has participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (2018) and UN Climate Action Summit (2019). She has also got several awards and made it into the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (2019). Though her popularity at such a young age has made her a target of critics, but she continues to work and struggle towards her goal with indomitable spirit.

COVID spared South-East?

The Buddhist majority countries in South-East Asia, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, saw rather small-scale outbreaks during this coronavirus pandemic. Despite these countries sharing borders with the origin of the deadly virus, China and India, country with most number of daily cases how have these neighboring countries managed to contain the spread of the coronavirus?
The wonder case in this region has to be Vietnam. A country with a population of approximately 97 million people, the authorities claim no deaths from Covid-19. Thailand, with 70 million people, has seen just 58 deaths and no cases of local transmission have been reported in over 40 days. Myanmar claims just six fatalities from 317 cases. Cambodia reported 141 cases and the tiny country Laos only saw 19 cases. Both these countries claimed no deaths and no local transmission since April. Geographically speaking, they have it far better than their other neighbors such as Indonesia with some 68,100 cases and 3,400 deaths, and the Philippines with 50,400 cases and 1,300 deaths, India with some 2.91million cases and 54,849 deaths. It is almost as if the pandemic has spared these Buddhist majority nations. But does it have anything to do with religion though? It would not seem so, because, Vietnam’s communist dictatorship is an atheist. Meanwhile, China, the original epicenter of the virus, also has a majority Buddhist population although it is also a communist state. Vietnam’s handling of the crisis so far is commendable. Centuries of mistrust in its great northern neighbor, China, prepared Vietnam to be extra cautious of all the information China gave about the virus at the beginning of this year. Vietnam even initiated cyber-attacks to get more knowledge about the path of the outbreak. The country closed its borders and used repressive forces to keep the population locked. They monitored and separated any affected patients. That is kind of similar to what China’s communist regime was doing. In terms of having a powerful government that can make the people follow protocols, as well as having a strong medical sector, Thailand also makes the list. The country led by generals in the name of democracy has an incredible healthcare system which makes Thailand a popular medical tourist destination. Besides, the government was swift to create a robust task force for fighting Covid-19. Initially, more contact with the Chinese people must have been a prerequisite for transmission. Yet this didn’t happen in Laos, which is too low to withstand the flattery of China, Myanmar, which is awash with Chinese traders and traffickers, or Cambodia, whose strongman, Hun Sen, is China’s greatest supporter in the region. Such countries are being reshaped by Chinese development thanks to BRI, and all came under pressure not to close borders with China as the pandemic spread. In February, at the height of the Chinese outbreak, Hun Sen traveled to Beijing. Thailand is also quite closely knit to China, it seems, as the country welcomed Chinese tourists even in March. And Myanmar’s China border seriously lacks guard. Then, why did all these visitors from China not cause a bigger outbreak in South-East Asia? Many suspects that they have done so, but these have not been revealed. Tests in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are extremely restricted. But, Frank Smithuis of Medical Action Myanmar, a charity with many clinics around the country, says that his organization would have found out if there had been a large-scale transmission since a COVID-19 epidemic cannot be covered especially in Myanmar, the ” number one gossip country” in the world. Also, researchers in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam do not see signs of large transmission, like people rushing to the hospitals with symptoms. Even the poorest countries have taken steps which may have helped to control coronavirus spread. Researchers in Bangkok said that migrant workers coming back from Thailand to their Myanmar villages had to quarantine in a shack outside their village for 14 days. According to health experts, many factors may have come in helpful, like large numbers of people living in the countryside rather than cities; the region’s relative youth; and a pre-existing tendency to wear masks in public which could have been trivial in pre-COVID times. Many of these countries are third world countries, non-industrialized thus people live in rooms with open windows rather than relying on air conditioning. Also, there could have been a religious element to it too. Since the Buddhist way of greeting is called the wai, where they press their palms together, unlike the handshake or hugs or cheek kisses in other parts of the world, the wai is a way of physical distancing. The question now is whether the Buddhist achievements in South-East Asia will survive second or third waves. Researchers say, perhaps low transmission from China wasn’t quite a miraculous blessing. After all, the giant neighbor soon got on top of its outbreak. Now, China is not the only problem anymore, the whole world is. The outbreak has changed its course and is still changing. Infections from across the world are being introduced across Asia, seeding local transmission, most recently in Hong Kong.

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Digital Detox

It all started a few months back, spending time on my phone was making me feel sick to my stomach. The strive to remain connected was making me feel annoyed, distracted and detached than ever.

Ever since data charges got cheaper and cheaper, using social media platforms one after the other became a part of our day. A routine to be exact.

It started off with taking over our lives when we felt bored at first, time does fly when you’re having fun. The transition to a time when we grew bored of it often. We’re certainly overdoing it.

However it never felt like an addiction to me, but on contemplation it became rather obvious that the struggle was inflicted by the content I consumed. The connectivity was paying a one hefty fee.

As faith would have it, one day it finally hit me. A solution to my problem lies in plain sight. Simple but genius. ‘Why do I have to do it, if it’s not healthy for me?’

A grave moment of epiphany.

The pandemic has fuelled people to spend long hours on their phones. The amount of content consumption should be a reason for concern.

We fancy all that our brothers from the West preach. We try to dress like them, eat like them and when they went onto to discovering social media platforms, we accepted it wholeheartedly.

Now as more and more such brothers preach the need for digital detoxes, this can’t be more true. They more or less do have an elder sibling effect on us.

The solution was ever apparent, for the taking to the ones that seek. We’re all stressed, tensed and severely pumped up than ever before. We all do find it hard to manage time too, and our attention span is just a little more than that of a goldfish.

Above all, the lack of sleep has also been found to have it’s toll on a few. The trends seemed to have circulated a few years back, around the time when the data charges were dragged to the ground.

The very essence of us passing time, being the very reason behind the matter of concern. They say, “the best days are the ones that doesn’t make you check your phone,” so why not do it? Make it a reality.

Social media has helped us out immensely, letting us to be connected to our loved ones around the world. Helping relationships to sustain itself over geographical and time barriers.

However we fell short to draw the boundaries. Boundaries are necessary. Knowing where to draw the line can absolutely do wonders.

The idea of a digital detox seemed a bit paradoxical to me at first. Cutting out the use of any device that is electric, seems far too barbaric, now. Our lives are so entangled that getting rid of it is not an option. However, Striking a balance seems apter by leaps and bounds.

I believe radical changes can cause more bane than boon. Whereas baby steps can take you places. Rather than completely throwing it out the window, imposing restrictions can be the first step.

Reducing the screen time to a smaller periods and then slowly stepping up a notch every now and then.

If it gets better and better, do more of it. After all life’s more about doing things that sets One’s soul on fire right.

Why should one bicker from doing more of what makes you feel better.

I believe in preaching what I believe in, A couple of months down the line, following the following has made me feel so much better lately. I’m connected but disconnected. Life got so much better.

Live and let live, right?