On 20th May 2020 a super cyclone hit Kolkata, the city on the banks of river Ganga in the eastern part of India. When the storm was passing through the city I was calling up my family to check on them. They were not interested in giving me status updates or assuring me. They were too busy surviving. And after the storm had passed I called them again and they were ecstatic. They had stared death in the face and had survived. They didn’t say as much but it was clear from the tone of their voice. Their high rise buildings had swayed, windows shattered, rooms flooded, trees uprooted, power supply cut off but they were till standing and the beast was no longer howling on their doors. And this is from a section of society that can socio economically be classified as well heeled middle class. I really cannot imagine the level of trauma the less fortunate endured.
The chief minister said that “Sob Chole Gache. ” We have lost everything” and looking at the pictures that is how it feels. She can take solace from the number of lives she has saved by using the state machinery, as she rightly should, to evacuate people.
Bengal will be rebuilt. Most places do. It will be easier to remove the trees and restore electricity but the salinity of the farmlands will haunt us for years to come.
And what happens if another cyclone comes even as people are rebuilding. In UK we had three storms in one month.
Cyclones are a part of nature. But studies are showing that cyclones are becoming more frequent and more destructive. And that is mostly due to that word a lot of us do not want to hear “Global Warming”.
Yes the globe is heating, so are the oceans. As oceans heat they create larger amounts of moisture, which create stronger clouds and hit the land harder. It is really as simple as that. One of the predictions of this storm was that waves in the Bay of Bengal would flood as far as Kolkata. And the fear is those predictions will come to be true.
And these cyclones almost help create more cyclones. For example a large number of trees have been uprooted by this cyclone. We know trees are our friends against climate change. And as we lose them our capability to absorb all the CO2 decreases which leads to even more heating. More heating means more cyclone. I simplify it a bit but you get the picture. Similarly all the debris that is created leads to landfill and even more land grab from trees and even more heating.
When the cyclone was raging through Kolkata people all over the world were sending messages – God Bless, Stay Safe. If I remember correctly even the PM of India said he was praying for the people. Hence it is good to know that we all care.
And if we care we have the power to show it. The power to stop Climate Change and its devastating impacts.
Just like the evil pandemic the evil Climate Change will not go away. We will have to take action to bring it under control. The vaccine for Climate Change is to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.
But what can ordinary people like you and I do. If you are reading this you are no ordinary people. You have access to education and internet. And it is upon people like you and me that the world depends to take action.
We will have to change the way we eat (less meat), we travel (as little on planes and cars more on trains), we buy (buy less, repair more and throw less), but mostly we will have to change the way we do our politics. We have to support organisations that are fighting against climate change and voting for people who care about it and make policies accordingly. Make our governments accountable for their action against Climate Change.
Climate Change is the biggest threat we face as a race. The threat against our existence. Nature will survive but humans may not.
And if we do not then we will be like mythical Nero who was playing flute as Rome was burning.
The time to act is now. The people in Kolkata cannot think any more. They are still busy surviving. But we can.
If I was writing this note last year I would have said “A super cyclone is coming our children’s way.” But given the speed of climate change means I am saying “A super cyclone is coming our way.”
You can stop it.