Climate Change

Mocha and the ever-growing fiasco we are pushing ourselves into

Will the Anthropocene be the shortest era in history?

By Kunal Sharma
Published: Tuesday 16 May 2023
Residents living on the Patenga coast of Chittagong preparing to move to safer places ahead of Cyclone Mocha landfall. Photo: iStock__

This is the final call. An exasperated planet’s last message to its wayward children: We are quickly exhausting our welcome. And Mocha, by the time we know its final tally, will no longer be what was once considered a rare super cyclone. Soon, it will be counted as normal.

Yet, we do not actively talk about it. We calculate its measure in units of resource extraction or a shiny car. We refuse to accept that our entire way of life is prone to missteps. We hush it away in conversations as if segregated waste landing on a designated landfill is somehow, magically, never impacting the planet. 

We decry it as activism when young children, often at the unforgiving loss of their sense of wonder, have been striking and protesting into deaf ears. We do not see much writing on popular media either. 

There is hardly an acknowledgement that our very way of life is inherently self-destructive. 

Scientists are unable to write for fear of scepticism in the light of sometimes confusing data. Activists are treated as pests and routinely sidelined. 

An important statistic that gets buried each year is the number of attacks on or deaths of environmental activists. The list is startling. 

But we are talking about Mocha and our inability to ever agree on anything. And the apparent sense of hope that this era seems to exude. 

Each day, more convert to the neo-liberal economy, succumb to its lure of a better future and join the global workforce. Each day, millions of us work ourselves to death, many do it out of passion in what may count as connected souls — connected to the cause and through it to the earth. 

But even those whose souls are connected in their pursuit of justice and happiness, as a modern monk expounded, even those souls are overworking themselves to death. Our concept of peace has been irretrievably deleted. 

But we are talking about Mocha. We are not talking about the neo-liberal economy or the effects of mining on the environment or the giant thermal plants which exist because we do. And because we ask for it. 

We must talk about the neo-liberal economy and not talk about the billions of devotees who see it as the path to salvation. As a community, human beings do not seem to grasp the concept of willingly letting go of short-term needs / pleasures / wants for future cushioning. And we all know this. 

This was the first thing I learnt when I crossed adulthood, which for me surely came after 21 and not 18. That was the year my own sense of wonder shattered. 

Mocha may have killed a significant number of people, ones who are already on the brink of sanity with the multifarious ways in which they have been subjected to tragedy. 

Mocha will also displace more people. No one is sure and when the populace is left to itself, there is limited chance of them shifting to a better lifestyle. The future of these refugees is now what can be described as critical.

The talk on future scenarios seems distant but a friend from the Central Highlands wondered whether he would see the ocean from Ranchi one day. If that were ever to happen, can we still plan for the future?

And since we are talking about Mocha, we cannot but talk about hope. Hope, one may say, is in short supply. But hope is what keeps us ticking. There is always the possibility that the sheer weight of good happening across the planet still outweighs the overwhelming amount of bad that seem to take most of our attention. 

Many people can sense that the entire planet, as we breathe, is in a state of flux and we are still capable of reducing our impact on the planet. The choices we make are different though. Not just the usual lifestyle choices that a paternal TV screen suggests, but one that is radically different. 

Do we choose to continue this rate of growth even after we completely shift to renewables, knowing that an aggressive path in this scenario might still hurt the planet, albeit less than our current pathway? Or do we decide not to grow aggressively, respecting the fact that solar energy may not be enough to sustain our current rate of growth?

Do we decide to opt willingly for a lower rate of growth and a probable collapse of profit-based industries?

Mocha does not care for these questions. It just barrelled through Myanmar even while this article was being typed and no amount of human genius can predict the death toll that an impoverished region underwent, as the rest of the world was caught unawares. 

But these numbers matter. Some scientists are beginning to predict we are beginning to see the end of our era. Will the Anthropocene count as the shortest era in history?

What if the answer is agreeing to let go of all our modern amenities, returning to a life where global logistics value chain markets did not exist and we continue to survive in small pockets, as we did for centuries before the advent of colonial endeavours. 

The question is whether we want to return to that life or continue unhinged towards that elusive dream that countries and companies continue to entice us with.

Since we are in the era of having to remember one record-breaking weather event after another and at the same time continue to be under the transformative force of the modern economy that asks us to enjoy the current status quo, any hopes of a collective human agency to solve any crisis in a meaningful way is still a pipe dream. 

But our peculiar species still chooses passion over work. Our species also continues to wilfully engage with group solidarity and yet destructively provoke conflict with other groups outside our sphere of imagination. 

These fluctuations spell hope for small groups of those humans who can at least continue to try, even when everyone around ceases to see evidence. 

Mocha will likely be forgotten soon but it will be the people of Kolkata who will strangely never forget these days leading up to Mocha when the air grew dry enough to resemble Delhi’s climate and lips started getting parched. 

It was also that unique summer where mango showers took a break and mangoes strangely tasted sour. It was the year that we finally came face to face to our greatest folly, in an already endless list of follies.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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