Cultural, Economic, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Political

Isn’t Great Britain in existential threat?

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

It may sound utterly surreal – a country with long and admirable tradition of tolerance, inclusiveness, multiculturism and parliamentary democracy is now in utter disarray due to onset of intolerance, bigotry, populism and ugly nationalism that may well lead to disintegration of British unionism. Decency, honesty, fairness and truthfulness are all attributes of the distant past. Ideological arrogance, spinning of facts to meet one’s selfish ends are more in keeping with the reality of Britain today, particularly with Tory political elites, than with the traditional virtues. In the pursuit of selfish benefits, the interests of the country and people had been blatantly abrogated. These are the sad realities of Britain today.

One may say, leaving the EU on its own volition is the beginning of Britain’s decimation. Nothing could be furthest from the truth. Leaving the EU (with or without a deal) may be the symptom but not the cause. The real cause is more deeply rooted and strongly anchored in the psyche of the British people – more accurately, the English people.

One must look at the inner causes that led Britain to opt to leave in the first place. What was so abhorrent in the EU that Britain, after over 40 years of association, had to leave the EU? Was that a genuine reason or a manufactured reason by some opportunistic political leaders? Was there an aspiration, an unfulfilled ambition of ‘English Elites’ that could not be met by being in the EU? Was it the ideology that the second era of British Empire, another ‘Golden Age’ of British Imperialism, thwarted by the EU can be fulfilled by leaving? All these unfulfilled ambitions, dormant aspirations were confluenced to arouse British people to go for it.

The present predicament could be seen to have started more than 100 years ago – from the beginning of World War I – when Britain was at the height of Imperial Power. Britain was ruling the waves of seven seas, Sun never set in the British Empire . A tiny island at the western fringe of Europe was ruling nearly half of the world. That mighty Empire was lost since World War II and, surely, it can be regained! This aspiration of a certain section of the British people, aided and abetted by delusional ‘Imperialist Elites’, became so vivid that it found expressions in the EU referendum in the form of ‘take back control’, ‘establish sovereignty of the parliament’, ‘day of independence’, ‘future is bright’ etc. The uninitiated general public fell for these deceitful pronouncements of the opportunist politicians.

The WWI did damage Britain significantly, not only militarily and economically but also reputationally. The mighty Empire was found by the colonies not to be invincible. Then came the World War II, only about 20 years later, when Britain hardly had had enough time to recover. The end of WWII in 1945, even with a victory, was the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Within short two years, the jewel in the crown of the British Empire – India became independent – followed in quick succession in other parts of Asia and Africa.

The USA did come to the rescue of Britain but extracted a high price for it. On high moral grounds, the USA demanded Britain should forgo its colonies and offer freedom to all nations. A new world order was established – USA would lead the western powers and Britain would follow it subserviently. This is what was dubbed in British diplomatic circles a ‘special relationship’.

The waves in the seven seas are still there, but there is no single power to rule them anymore. However, USA is gradually taking over the role vacated by British Empire and it is now called America, comprising the central mainland of 50 States and hundreds of overseas territories, protectorate and sovereign lands with their military bases. America’s overseas territories are almost as big as the original USA mainland, both in terms of territorial size and population!

When given the opportunity in the EU referendum, the deprived underclass of Britain blamed the EU for the demise of British power and opted to leave the EU in the vain hope of regaining the bygone glory of ‘British Empire’. Of course, they had been incessantly fed by the opportunistic, populist politicians the messages that getting out of the EU would usher in the opportunity of regaining world power without the shackles of the EU, Britain would ‘take back control’, Britain would be ruled by ‘elected representatives’, Britain be ‘sovereign again’, Britain would make better trade deals with countries etc. Those deceitful politicians claimed (egregiously) that £19 billion that is paid to the EU as annual fees would be given to the NHS – £350 million per week extra! None of these claims is true. But the unpretentious general public did fall for such mendacious claims and voted to leave.

But the question is, why did this bunch of politicians mislead the public with downright falsehood to leave the EU? Apart from personal financial gains – most of these politicians are wealthy tax dodgers and supporters of overseas dwellers of tax havens – they had the agenda of getting back the second era of British Empire! The EU was, in their minds, the only impediment. Once free from that shackle, they would be able to go around the world, make trade deals with various countries and everything would be just hunkydory.

Those delusional Tory politicians started going around the Commonwealth countries to make trade deals which would be needed post-Brexit. Liam Fox, ex-International Trade Secretary, went to India to draw deals under the guise of Commonwealth fraternity. But he had been told bluntly by India that any future deal would be made on purely commercial basis, no amount of Commonwealth or past Imperial flag waving would cut any ice. However, special relaxation of travel restrictions, residence requirements etc for Indians might persuade India to come to a trade agreement! In other words, India would extract special price for any future trade deal. Of course, the same practice would be applied by other Commonwealth countries. The delusional Tory Brexiteers thought making new deals would be a breeze with their imperialist past! Liam Fox said before the EU referendum that making new trade deals would be ‘the easiest thing in the world’!

Leaving the EU, the largest trading block (44% of all exports from the UK goes to the EU), without a deal would leave Britain so severely damaged that other countries would definitely try to extract heavy price for any export-import relationship. No country would even come to make a fair-trade relationship with a lame duck country. After all, Britain under the British Imperialism, did the same thing! Now the hunter has become hunted and that is by choice!

Another sinister issue is the likely disintegration of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Why would Scotland be dragged out of EU against the will of their people by England, when 62% of Scots voted to Remain? Where is the democratic accountability and fairness to the constituent countries of the United Kingdom? In the EU, every Member States (MS), no matter how large or small, has equal say. A small country like Malta (population 500,000) or Luxembourg (population 600,000) or Cyprus (population 1.2 million) has equal say as big countries like France (population over 67 million) or Germany (population 83 million) on all matters of interest. And here is Scotland with a population of over 5.4 million has no say at all in the union with the United Kingdom. This is creating a great deal of strain in Scotland and the demand for its independence from the United Kingdom is growing ever louder. The same narrative goes for Northern Ireland which voted 56% to Remain in the EU.

Gordon Brown, the ex-prime minister of Great Britain, said in an article in the Observer on 11 August 2019 that Britain is sleepwalking into oblivion fuelled by destructive, populist, nationalistic ideology deployed by Boris Johnson. This is not an alarmist view; it is an honest view of a senior politician. When the idea of inherent unfairness will go into the minds of people of those countries within the United Kingdom, it would be extremely difficult to put a stop to it. The strident calls by delusional Boris Johnson to ‘do or die’ and ‘come what may’ will come to haunt him as the disintegration of the United Kingdom rolls on. History will come to look in utter amazement how a country which ruled over half of the world came to smithereens in just about seventy to eighty years!

Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist

Economic, International, Political, Religious

Brexit and ISIS – two sides of the same coin

The 23rd of June, 2019 is likely to be a black letter day in the British calendar. Exactly three years ago, on this very day, the fateful In/Out referendum on the continued membership of the EU was conducted under the direction of the then prime minister, David Cameron. He thought he would sail through the EU referendum and then rule the country for four more years in peace. Little did he know that he had fallen victim to the treachery of the hard-core Brexiteer gang and within 24 hours he would no longer be the prime minister of the country and the country would descend into utter chaos and possible dismemberment.

Now, what is this Brexit (British exit) ideology and how can this ideology be compared to the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) doctrine? Superficially, it may look totally disparate, far-fetched and ludicrous. But when one digs deeply at the root causes or mind-sets of these two dogmas, one finds uncanny resemblance and convergences of ideological objectives.

Brexit bus with the egregious claim

So, what is this Brexit ideology? In the British society, particularly among the elites and upper echelons of the English society, there are unconscious or subconscious desires to gain back the good old imperialism. They hanker after the days when Britainnia ruled the waves, sun never set in the British Empire. They were distraught at the loss of coveted colonies like India and adjoining countries; Malaysia, Burma, most of Africa and so forth since the WWII (World War II). Surely, they can regain all these colonies only if they can break away the shackles of the EU and become great again!

Compare this mind set with the ISIS fundamentalists. In the golden age of Islam, Islamic art and culture, scientific and technical achievements as well as military power were so dominant that no other country could come close to it. They were the supreme rulers of the world! Although those glory days were many centuries back, it is irrelevant to them. Couldn’t they pull back those golden days now and become great again?

The uncanny similarities between these two groups are astounding. Both of them are hankering after golden days – in ISIS case about seven to ten centuries back and in Brexit case about three centuries back – and harbouring the delusion that things would be rosy again. They simply disregard the intervening centuries, changed world circumstances with entirely different geo-political, economic, scientific, industrial and military positions. They just dream of the past rainbow images and desperately hope that they will come true if they want them earnestly enough! They are just delusional.

For the Brexiteers to have the present predicament of towing the EU rules and regulations over and above the national regulations is very demeaning and hurtful. How could they submit themselves to the regulations enacted by ‘unelected politicians’ (which Brexiteers mendaciously claim to be so) of states which had been liberated by Britain in the second world war? Surely Britain should have the most dominant role in the EU; not the state who had been beaten fairly and squarely in the last world war. For them, the present world order is too bitter a pill to swallow.

ISIS Jihadists

The ISIS is in the same dilemma. They claim to have given the world scientific disciplines like Algebra, Geometry, Astronomy, Optics, Medicine etc and now Muslims are told to follow the advancement in these disciplines carried out by the infidels! Quran is the book given only to Muslims directly by God (Allah) and that holy book contains all the knowledge there is in the world! The ISIS now, proclaiming the Caliphate of the Muslim world, is the rightful owner of all the superior knowledge given by God to human beings. And why should ISIS with glorious background follow the laws and regulations enacted by the infidels? They should follow Sharia Laws and become great again!

All of this parallelism between Brexit and ISIS would have been ignored or gone unnoticed, but for the ‘populist’ politicians and ‘fundamentalist’ Mullahs stoking up their respective sectarian narratives. These two strands of people are not confined to the UK only, they are everywhere; it is a world-wide phenomenon.

Populism from Trump in America, Johnson in Britain, Orbán in Hungary, Erdoğan in Turkey and many more round the world are creating a poisonous political atmosphere and vitiating democratic processes to suit their own purposes. The claims such as £350 million per week extra to the cash-starved NHS (from the saving of British subscription to the EU), stopping of millions of Turks (to the tune of 80 million!) coming to the UK under the EU, unacceptability of Brussels rule (by unelected representatives) over the British parliament, loss of millions of jobs due to European immigrants coming to Britain etc. were the ‘ignominious populist’ British propaganda underpinning the Brexit ideology. Once these blatantly false and egregious dogma were thrown out in to the public domain, they are very difficult to put back and Brexit has become a firmly held ‘religious dogma’. A recent survey of opinion poll had shown that among the Tory party members, Brexit has become such a sacrosanct issue that over 64% of them are prepared to sacrifice the Union of this country, accept significant decline in national economy, accept drastic drop in standards of living of the public in order to achieve Brexit! What Brexit will achieve is not important to them; but Brexit must be upheld. This view is no less fundamentalist in severity than the religious fundamentalism.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaiming ISIS a few years ago had the ultimate objective of establishing a pure form of Islam upholding the fundamentalist ideology. This ideology, called Wahhabism, emanating from the Sunni sect is the only version of Islam worth keeping and all other sects of Islam as well as all other religions may be sacrificed. The internecine conflict between Sunni and Shia arises from this basic premise. The fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology has become supreme and everything else is dispensable.

Anti-Brexit march in London in 2019

Doesn’t it ring a bell of uncanny similarities between the Brexiteers and ISIS Jihadists? Both are myopic pursuant of their own tunnel visions disregarding surroundings and all other factors. This mind set arises from extreme form mental disease due to egoistic, xenophobic, supremacist attitudes. These two attitudes are the two sides of the same worn-out coin.

  • Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist

Bangladesh, Economic, Environmental, International, Life as it is, Technical

Our oceans: The ultimate sump

Plastic pollution

Today is “World Oceans Day,” a day observed worldwide to raise awareness about the crucial role the oceans play in sustaining life on Earth. It is also a day to appreciate the beauty of the oceans that “brings eternal joy to the soul.”

The oceans are among our biggest resources and also our biggest dumping grounds. Because they are so vast and deep, many of us believe that no matter how much garbage we dump into them, the effects would be negligible. Proponents of dumping even have a mantra: “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Really! In case they don’t know, garbage dumped into the oceans is continuously mixed by wind and waves and widely dispersed over huge surface areas.

There is a zone in the Pacific Ocean, called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a gyre of marine garbage twice the size of Texas. The garbage, mainly microplastics, were carried there by strong currents from other parts of the ocean. This is not the only floating garbage in our oceans. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans have their own garbage patches. Worse yet, the sheer size of the patches is making clean-up efforts an extremely difficult task.

Surely, human activities are impacting the oceans in drastic ways. Some of the anthropogenic environmental issues that are affecting the oceans are plastic pollution, oil spills, climate change and noise. One of the most dangerous threats the oceans may face in this century is radioactive pollution.

Each year, we dump nearly eight million tonnes of plastic—mostly grocery bags, water bottles, yogurt cups, drinking straws and plastic utensils—into the oceans. Recently, plastic has been discovered in the deepest part (11 kilometres) of the world’s oceans, Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Extremely elevated concentration of PCBs, an environment-damaging chemical banned in the 1970s, have also been found within the sediment of the trench.

While it takes hundreds of years for plastics to decompose fully, some of them break down much quicker into tiny, easy-to-swallow particles that can easily be ingested by marine species causing choking, starvation and other impairments.

Pollution of the oceans by oil spills has been one of the major concerns for a long time. The primary source of spill is offshore drilling. The process is inherently dangerous and thus, is prone to accidents. When accidents happen, and they do happen without warning, they cause massive damage to the environment—aquatic and shore—that persists for decades to come. Some oil spills happen when tankers transporting petroleum products have accidents.

If the layer of the oil is thick enough, it smothers creatures unable to move out from under it. Besides, swimming and diving birds become covered with oil, which mats their feathers, reducing their buoyancy and preventing flight. The insulative value of feathers is also lost and the birds quickly die of exposure in cold water.

The world’s largest oil spill was not an accident; it was the result of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The second worst disaster was the spill by BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Both incidents killed tens of thousands of birds, marine mammals, sea turtles and fish, among others.

Land and oceans together absorb slightly more than half of all the carbon dioxide emissions, with the oceans taking a greater share. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it forms carbonic acid. Various studies estimate that if we keep on pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at the current rate, then by the year 2100, the water of the oceans could be nearly 150 percent more acidic than they are now. Such a large increase in acidity would upset the productivity and composition of many coastal ecosystems by affecting the key species at the base of the oceanic food webs. It would also reduce calcium carbonate, which is essential for building the shells and skeletons of creatures like mussels, clams, corals and oysters.

Because oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the heat that is added to the climate system, sea level is changing, albeit unevenly. It is changing unevenly as oceans do not warm uniformly across the planet, with the southern oceans warming at a faster rate. In addition, global reef systems are slowly migrating poleward as oceans around the world continue to warm.

The single most significant contribution to rising sea level is from the thermal expansion of water. Melting ice makes the second most important contribution, but only melting of land-based ice—glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets—is significant. Ice that is already floating in the water—iceberg—makes essentially no change in sea level when it melts, because the greater density of water offsets the volume of ice that is not submerged. Other factors that contribute to the rise in sea level include wind and ocean circulations, depth of the oceans, deposition of sediments by river flows and alteration of the hydrologic cycle by humans.

According to some studies, global sea level rose by about 18 cms during the last century. In the worst-case scenario, sea level could rise by two metres by the end of the year 2100. Arguably, rising sea level is among the potentially most catastrophic effects of human-caused climate change.

The oceans are no longer “The Silent World” of the famous oceanic explorer Jacques Cousteau. Today, they are being acoustically bleached by noise from seismic blasts used for offshore oil and gas exploration, marine traffic and military sonar.

Unlike plastic pollution, noise pollution does not have the visual impact that is needed to spark an outcry and force action. It is an invisible menace that is drowning out the sounds of many marine animals, including fish, use for navigation, communicating with each other, finding food, choosing mates and warning others of potential dangers.

Whales and dolphins are particularly vulnerable to noise pollution. The deafening seismic blasts and the ping of sonar are responsible for the loss of their hearing and habitat, and disruption in their mating and other vital behaviours. The disappearance of beaked whales in the Bahamas in recent years have been attributed to testing of US Navy sonar systems in the region.

From 1946 through 1993, nuclear countries used the oceans to dispose of radioactive wastes. The United States alone dumped more than 110,000 containers of nuclear material off its coasts. Russia dumped some 17,000 containers of radioactive wastes and several nuclear reactors, including some containing spent nuclear fuel.

It is highly likely that radioactive wastes would eventually leak out of the containers because of poor insulation, volcanic activity, tectonic plate movement and several other geological factors. Indeed, last month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres confirmed that a Cold War era concrete “coffin” filled with nuclear waste is leaking radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean. Since radiation from nuclear wastes remains active for hundreds of thousands of years, their dangerous effects will linger for a long time and will have lethal impact on marine life.

Furthermore, six nuclear submarines — 4 Russian and 2 American — lost as a result of accidents are lying at the bottom of the oceans. They represent serious threat of radioactive contamination of the oceans, too.

One of the biggest contaminations due to radiation was caused by a series of nuclear tests conducted by the USA on the sea, in the air and underwater at Bikini Atoll in the North Pacific between 1946 and 1958. The French nuclear tests carried out during 1966-1996 in French Polynesia are responsible for other cases of intense radioactive pollution of marine ecosystems.

Clearly, we are using the oceans as the ultimate sump, partly because their very immensity seems to preclude any long-term effect, and partly because they belong to no one. This cannot continue indefinitely because in order for us to survive, we have to protect the oceans. Lest we forget, life emerged from the oceans and the source of most of the oxygen we breathe are the oceans. They have been an endless source of inspiration to humankind.

Quamrul Haider is a Professor of Physics at Fordham University, New York.

Economic, Environmental, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Political

The political landscape in Britain is changing

Lib Dems jubilation after their unprecedented success

A new dawn in British politics may have begun on Thursday, the 2nd of May 2019. It arises not only because the Lib Dems have literally risen from the ashes of coalition with the Tories between 2010 and 2015, but also because the Greens have managed to find space to push through green shoots in the perched landscape devastated by the right-wing elements of the Tories.

The right-wing clique of the Tory party had been agitating for quite sometime to get Britain out of the EU. Their underlying aim was to take Britain out of the EU (and thereby out of the EU regulations) and make Britain into an offshore tax haven to materialise their selfish ends. Realising Tory party’s visceral antipathy towards the EU and to bring together the divided Tory party, David Cameron, the then prime minister, in his ‘Bloomberg Speech in 2013’ agreed to have a In/Out referendum on EU by 2017, if the Tory Party wins the 2015 election. Probably he felt as the prime minister of the coalition government with Lib Dems that there would be little chance of Tory party winning outright in 2015 general election and therefore committing EU referendum was a low risk strategy. 

However, the political landscape changed dramatically since 2015. In the general election, Tory party did manage to win an overall majority of 5 seats by most disingenuous and unscrupulous means by blaming the coalition partner, the Lib Dems, of all shortcomings and failures of the government. The drubbing that the Lib Dems had suffered for being the partner of the Tories was that 57 Lib Dems MPs had been reduced to mere 8 MPs in 2015! That was a disastrous result for the Lib Dems. Since then, Lib Dems had been tarnished by Tory association and the voters kept punishing them for implementing Tory policies in the coalition government.

When in the EU referendum on 23 May 2016, Britain failed to secure ‘Remain’, the right-wing Tory fanatics as well as xenophobic nationalist bigots were simply ecstatic. Boris Johnson, arch Brexiteer, declared on the morning on 24 May that this was ‘the day of independence’ for Britain.  

It is blatantly obvious that the British politics, particularly the national politics, is now truly and utterly broken and dysfunctional. This process of political erosion and corrosion did not start with the present regime, although this regime bears the brunt of total delusion of the Tory extremists. The erosion of morality among the top politicians had been going on for quite a while now – at least from the dying days of Thatcher administration – sex scandals of Cecil Parkinson, perjury of Jeffrey Archer and others are the vivid examples. However, the end of Thatcher regime did not bring to an end of sex scandals; it only metamorphosed into more sophisticated form. The media then coined a new term ‘sleaze’ to cover everything from political to sex to parliamentary expense scandals. Subsequently, the term ‘spin’ came into the media vocabulary to cover misrepresentation of facts, misleading statements, soft lies, innuendos etc.

However, spin gradually became the norm in political circles. It became a sort of sophisticated political public relations tool during Tony Blair’s regime. But then during and after the tumultuous 2016 EU referendum, all forms of political spins and massaging of facts had become rather mundane and more aggressive form of lies, deception, bigotry became the preferred political tools. Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel, David Davis, IDS and so forth had been at the forefront of such aggressive use of lies. In the EU referendum campaign, they showed in writing in a double decker bus that £350 million per week extra to NHS would be available if Britain leaves the EU, they also claimed that agricultural subsidy, university research grants from the EU, regeneration of depressed areas etc would be available from the savings of British contribution to the EU. They also shouted out loud that 80 million Turks and endless queues of migrant workers from Africa, Asia and Middle East that were lurking outside the British borders must be stopped by leaving the EU. These are all preposterous scare-mongering lies and deception to achieve their aim.

Honesty, decency, political correctness etc had been thrown out of the window. When the national and international economic bodies such as the London School of Economics, the Bank of England, various Think Tanks, the OECD, the World Bank, the IMF had all been saying that leaving the EU would be disastrous for the UK, opportunistic politicians like Michael Gove, IDS, Priti Patel, John Redwood etc had been saying that these organisations had been wrong before and they are wrong again! When car manufacturers like Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Range Rovers were saying that leaving the EU would harm their business tremendously, Tory politicians dismissed them all as scare mongering.

Three years down the line, chickens are coming home to roost. Honda factory in Swindon is closing in two years’ time, Toyota is not planning to have new model built in the UK. Multinational companies in the finance sector are transferring their operations from London to various other countries. Workers are being laid off here and there – not in torrents yet, but in dribs and drabs.

The general public are now seeing what they have been sold in the name of ‘take back control’, ‘we hold all the cards’, ‘bring back sovereignty’, ‘the day of independence’, ‘the future is bright’ etc. When they see and hear on TV and radios that the British prime minister had to go to Brussels early in the morning to seek an additional concession from the EU and she had been told at the end of the day to wait in a side room while the leaders of 27 EU Member States would have dinner and discuss the British request for concession, that was not ‘take back control’ or ‘bring back sovereignty’; that was utter ‘submission of sovereignty’. That was because of some delusional Tory imperialist bigots had been hankering after colonial dreams outside the EU!

Smaller parties like the Lib Dems and the Greens had always sought to ‘Remain’ within the EU and in the aftermath of the corrupt EU referendum, they asked for a new referendum to gauge the view of the public based on facts, not Tory fantasies. The de-facto verdict of the people came in the recent local election in England and Northern Ireland on 2nd May. The Tories lost 1330 councillors (nearly 30%) and Labour lost 84 councillors (nearly 5%). (It should be pointed out that normally opposition party gains a lot of seats from the ruling party in mid-term elections). On the other hand, the Lib Dems gained 704 councillors (nearly 110%) and the Greens gained 194 councillors (nearly 270%). Another striking feature was that independent candidates won 661 seats (nearly 130%).  

Anti Brexit march in London on 23 March 2019

The conclusions that can be drawn from this seismic shift in politics are twofold. The first one is that people have lost confidence in and patience with the traditional self-serving opportunistic politicians – be it Tory or Labour. The politicians have forfeited all moral authority, as they lied and cheated in the EU referendum to achieve their goal. The trust in politicians in general is in short supply, although there are lots of very good, honest and sincere politicians in British politics. The second lesson is that despite what the crooked politicians claimed to hammer in their partisan view that ‘the people have spoken’ in the referendum, the people have realised now that they had been given a short shrift by the fraudulent politicians.

Now the opportunistic politicians are throwing up a smokescreen to spread their egregious message that people voted against the established two parties because they disliked the failure of the politicians to deliver Brexit in time. It is like a fraudster deliberately misdiagnosed the illness of the patient and gave a wrong medicine and when the patient was nearly dead, told others that enough dose had not been administered.

The sooner the enemies of the people are exposed and thrown out of their self-serving cocoons, the better it is for the country. However, the big question now is, will this change in political landscape be a permanent one or is it going to be just a flash in the pan?

  • Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist


Economic, Environmental, International, Life as it is, Technical

Who will pull us out of the climate change conundrum?

Every year since 1995, our leaders or their representatives met at the so-called Conference of Parties, debating climate change, global warming in particular. Over time, the conferences’ goal has become what is politically possible, not what is environmentally desirable. Hence, the emphasis has shifted from reducing emissions of carbon dioxide to helping nations adapt to whatever the future climate might look like. While adaptation is necessary for survival on a planet ravaged by the vagaries of global warming, it also means throwing in the towel against the fight to tackle climate change effectively.

The outcomes of these conferences clearly indicate that we are backing away from a disaster of our own making by surrendering to the whims of powerful people beholden to lobbyists, special interest groups and climate change deniers. Who will, therefore, pull us out of the climate change conundrum, so that our future generations can stay in a climate-safe planet? How can we remain hopeful while facing the growing, irrefutable evidence of devastating climate-induced changes around us?

On March 15, 2019, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren all over the world, from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, answered the above questions, loud and clear. They skipped classes to protest what they see as the failures of their governments to take tough actions against global warming. Although most of the protesters are under the voting age, they nevertheless want to have a say in the politics of climate change. Hence, they are boldly challenging the stewards of “their” planet who have the ability to make the real differences needed right now with regard to climate change.

The protest was inspired by a 16-year-old Swede, Greta Thunberg, to express children’s frustration with older generations’ laissez-faire attitude towards climate change. She kicked off a global movement after last summer’s record heat wave in northern Europe and forest fires that ravaged swathes of her country up to the Arctic. Since August 10, 2018, she has been sitting outside the Swedish parliament every Friday, now known as Fridays for Future, protesting inaction by adults. She recently gave a speech to climate negotiators in Switzerland and told them, “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

Fridays for Future was also observed in New York City, where students at dozens of schools across the five boroughs stayed away from their classroom and took to the streets. They hosted multiple rallies in front of the City Hall, Columbus Circle, Bronx High School for Science, Columbia University, American Museum of Natural History, and elsewhere. All of them chanted, “Money won’t matter when we’re dead.” “Sea levels are rising and so are we.” “I’m not showing up for school because adults aren’t showing up for climate.”

They spoke about the importance of schools teaching students about climate change from a young age. “If we don’t learn about it, we might believe the things that are lies, that it’s a hoax… They can’t just leave a falling apart planet to us. We only have so much time to fix it, and we have to fix it while we still can, because by the time we’re in power we can’t fix it,” said the 13-year old Rachel Entin-Bell, who was protesting at the Washington Square Park.

The star of the protest was a 9-year-old kid, Zayne Cowie, who sat in front of the City Hall with his little sister on his lap holding a sign that says “Climate Strike”. “Climate change is happening faster than we can react. Well, we could react fast enough but nobody cares,” he said. Sadly, we are living at a time when a 9-year-old is more knowledgeable about climate science than the current occupant of the White House!

Starting in December 2018, following in the footsteps of Greta, Zayne opted out of attending Friday classes at his school and instead sit in front of the City Hall—rain, snow or shine—reading from the children’s book of verse “Goodbye, Earth.” The first two stanzas are:

The World is big and I am small.

One day I wish to see it all.

Pacific islands, northern Lights,

Himalayas, desert nights.

The World is big and I am small.

The Earth’s in trouble, hear her call.

Me and my nine-year-old peers

Have now lived through its hottest years.

Indeed, when children come out on the streets to protest climate change, we know that it is high time for adults to wake up and act decisively. Unfortunately, adults are caught up in their egotistic needs of power, accumulation of wealth, comfort and socio-economic status, leaving very little time to care about future generations.

Ironically, children like Zayne, Greta, Rachel and others are the first generation who are least responsible for the 410 parts per million concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today, but will face most of the catastrophic consequences from it. They are coming of age when the window to ward off this nightmare scenario is rapidly shrinking.

Many older adults have been warning for decades that our future generations will suffer for our greed, selfishness and inertia from continued inaction. Now, those future victims are raising their voice to try and shape the agenda. They are the bastions of hope emerging around the world. Their message: No more business as usual. We need to act as though our future and the future of all life on this planet depends on what we do, because it does.

How did adults react to the protests? In New York City, 16 protesters have been arrested for blocking traffic in front of the American Museum of Natural History. They were charged for disorderly conduct. Shame on us, who are doing very little at addressing climate change, leaving the consequences to be dealt with by younger generations, yet arresting them for raising their voices against climate change.


The writer, Quamrul Haider, is a professor of physics at Fordham University, New York