A friend recently had an uninvited guest visiting his car – a rat. Unfortunately, my friend came to know of the guest only after the visitor passed on to the netherworld when it got stuck with the wires in the car trunk, disrupting the car’s air-conditioning system. The departed visitor had gifted a bill of Rs. 5,000 to my friend towards restoring the car to its former glory.
To my surprise, my friend was not frustrated with the unwelcome rat. Rather, he felt remorse for having entered the rat’s ecosystem by purchasing a flat on the outskirts of Hyderabad. This part of the city was once part of a large wilderness, he said, and he wondered how much further damage his household had caused to the Earth’s once-pristine surroundings.
Not all of us would share my friend’s guilt, but it is a fact that the Earth has lost a considerable lot of its wilderness in recent years. One study estimates that one-tenth of global wilderness has been lost since 1990. This loss of wilderness has created disruptions in maintaining biodiversity, contributed to climate change and also disturbed indigenous populations. While it is easy to suggest that policy makers have to done more to conserve the environment, we as individuals and as members of the human race have to take responsibility.
A more alarming announcement came towards the end of the International Geological Congress held in Cape Town in August 2016. A working group of geologists has announced that we have entered a new geological age – Anthropocene – “The Age of Humans”. It has been suggested that the new age started around 1950, eerily, after the World Wars. If this announcement is formalized, then we would have bid adieu to the Holocene, the last naturally induced epoch, and entered a new (and the first) era caused entirely due to human impact.
With growing unrest among people for access to water and other natural resources, we cannot keep denying that humans do not impact the environment. Even more, we cannot claim that we have enough resources to keep consuming at the unsustainable rate we do now. Well, there is always the other alternative: we have, of course, discovered a new, potentially habitable planet – Proxima b – even though it would take only 70,000 years to get there!
Are we going to continue exploiting Mother Earth in ways that will make things worse for us? Or are we going to pack our bags and leave planet Earth?!