War Of The Worlds

First published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. 37 No. 4, April 2017

Author: Bittu Sahgal

Photo: Sabr Dri.

The handsome bezoar ibex Capra aegagrus aegagrus is the wild ancestor of the domestic goat that has helped sustain pastoral communities across the globe for millennia.

Sabr Dri took this image in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, in the Zrara village near Barzan. It is heart-lifting to see these handsome wild goats thrive in a beautiful, self-sufficient corner of our troubled planet. But its a tenuous existence. Not only beause of hunting and poaching, but also from climate-change, which is melting the ice and snow upon which such life forms depend.

No. Dont imagine this to be yet another conservation issue. You and I are just as threatened. Let me explain.

Consider Syria, once part of the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia (Mashriq), lying between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This ‘cradle of ‘civilisation lies wounded today, beset with violence and misery… not of its making. How? Well, agriculture was born here 12,000 years ago. Recent, successive, climate-triggered droughts caused crops to wither, livestock to die, and over a million farmers to undertake life-or-death migrations to hostile lands. The unfolding Syrian tragedy is our best-documented, modern-day, climate war.

While India dreams of economic miracles, the reality is that our resources - air, water and soil, are degrading as fast as Syrias. The inevitable resource deprivation could cause the once-tolerant attitudes of our people to degenerate into violent conflict. But how does this connect with the ibex?

These wild goats are the ‘canaries in our coal mine. A decade ago, John Ashton, U.K. Climate Change Representative, said: “the security story will be bound together with climate change" adding, “the last time the world faced a challenge this complex was during the Cold War." He darkly warned: “the stakes this time are even higher, because the enemy now is ourselves, the choices we make."

Himalayan glaciers are melting. Sea level rise in the Bangladesh and Indian Sundarbans is salinising soils, pointing to imminent migrations and violent social unrest on a scale never before witnessed on Earth. At 600 C, parts of Rajasthan will be uninhabitable. All this because of our oil, coal and gas fixation. Prepare for a War of the Worlds that no one can hope to win.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVII No. 4, April 2017.

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