Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2007, for supporting the cause of the environment. His film “An Inconvenient Truth” has won an Academy award as well. I got to watch this movie a few months ago. This is a real eye-opener. If you get an opportunity to watch this, do not miss!

What is this ‘Inconvenient Truth’? It is something that most of us know, but not willing to acknowledge. Our tendency is to push the mess under the carpet, unseen until it gets so big, and can not be concealed anymore. Well, the unpleasant, inconvenient truth is that the global warming caused by human activity has harmed the earth’s environment in the last 4 decades, probably more than what had happened in the previous forty centuries. And worse, we are turning a blind eye to that even after knowing the consequences of global warming.

The harm done to the environment is nowhere more visible than in the melting ice sheets and the receding glaciers. Over the years, glaciers are receding, and ice sheets in the Arctic and the Antarctic are melting away. In the last 25 years almost 20-30% of the arctic ice sheet has melted. Between 1850 and 1980 the glaciers in Europe have lost about a third of their landmass. Parts of the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean are actually warming up at a rate twice or thrice that of the other regions in the world. The ice cover in Greenland has about 10% of the world’s supply of fresh water, and if all that melts, the sea level will increase by about 20 feet. In The frozen continent of Antarctica has about 99% of the land covered in thick ice sheets. If this would melt, the sea level would increase by about 200 feet. Overall, the sea level has increased by about 6 inches in the 20th century. This may further increase by about a foot in the 21st century. Considering a large population of the mankind lives on or near the coastal regions, any impairment would be of great consequence.

Glaciers on all the 6 continents have been receding and melting away. The glaciers on the Kilimanjaro in equatorial Africa have receded to less than 60% of what was there in 1975. In Glacier National part in Montana, more than 40 of the 137 glaciers have disappeared in the 20th century. In Greenland, new islands are breaking away from the mainland due to melting ice. Several pacific and Indian ocean islanders are always living is fear of being overtaken by the sea.

I know many people who visited the town of Gangothri in Uttaranchal, expecting the headwaters of the river Ganga to be there and being surprised to find a free-flowing river instead. The headwaters are actually at Gomukh, several kilometers up the river at the terminus of the Gangothri glacier. The Gangothri glacier, source of river Ganga, is receding averaging to an alarming 83 feet every year. Gomukh is getting farther off from Gangothri every year, and it is 3 kilometers farther away from Gangothri than it was a century ago.

In general, the glaciers in the Himalayas are found to be drying up faster than those in the rest of the world. In case of Gangothri glacier, the rate of receding has been shown to be much higher in the last 3 decades. NASA pictures have shown that Gangothri glacier has receded about 850 meters in the last 25 years. If the same rate of depletion continues, it is feared that the glacier may totally disappear by the end of the 21st century.

If Gangothri glacier melts away, it will affect more than 1.5 billion people in India and Bangladesh directly. How does that affect others? The financial meltdown of 2008 has shown that in the current world economic scenario, no country is shielded from the events happening elsewhere. Billions of more people around the world will be affected by a slow catastrophic event of this nature. When the glaciers recede, the oceans will swell and cities and mangroves near the coast will face the threat of getting submerged.

So, should we care about climate change? Yes, we should! Every one of us can, and has to do something to slow the negative impact on the environment. In Kannada there is a saying “ಹನಿ ಹನಿಗೂಡಿದರೆ ಹಳ್ಳ” – “Water drops gather together to form a stream”. Even if individually small, collectively we can achieve large goals. Here are some things that we can do as individuals to reduce our impact on the environment.

Mother Earth has been so kind to us. Isn’t time for us to be kind to her?


(Posting a modified version of an earlier post I made in 2008 – For the Blog Action Day -2009)