Are we living on the edge?

Last night, a cousin who lives in Alberta, Canada sent me a picture she had taken. It was no ordinary picture.

She had captured the moon behind the tree branches with the poor air quality from the recent wildfires burning in nearby British Columbia as the backdrop. The poor air quality makes the picture of the moon very interesting and surreal, almost idyllic, such that the cause of it is almost forgotten.

According to her, the sky has been covered with smoke and haze in the last two months, creating the picturesque evening scenes. On top of that, she said the heat wave, which she has never ever experienced all these years living in Canada, is really not pleasant, unbearable and scary. 

It’s first time something like this has happened in their history, the people told her.

This anecdotal story can be repeated in many corners of the world today, and we have very recently been fed footages of forest fires and uncontrollable conflagrations in the US, Turkey,

Australia, Russia and other places.

There is no doubt that a root cause of the climate change phenomenon — also known as global warming — is the adverse impact of human activities on the planet. The technical term used is the ‘anthropogenic’ (‘human’ + ‘generating’) impact on the environment.  

In these recent years, we have witnessed many incidents of uncontrollable forest fires, massive storms, floods and landslides, the accelerated melting of the ice caps and glaciers, the rapid loss of forests and vegetation, the massive pollution of the environment, rivers, seas and oceans. 

Even the current pandemic is, in the opinion of some, anthropogenic in nature.

There is no doubt that the adverse impact on his environment has been contributed in large part to man’s own hands. Man, who is supposed to be the custodian of the Earth, has become its bane, the source of the scourge.

Another way to look at it is, man has become the ‘strangers within the gates’ — unwelcomed and inimical to the overall wellbeing of all the inhabitants of planet Earth, which include myriads of other living and sentient beings.  And within the gates, the infighting, petty quarrels, political gamesmanships and rising geopolitical tensions are like a tinder box waiting for a match stick to be lit.

So, are we living on the edge, very close to the precipice? Definitely. Are we oblivious to it, doing things in the usual, mindless and careless ways? Definitely. Will we fall over the precipice? Possibly. If we don’t mend our ways, that is. 

It’s not too late, but we are fast approaching the midnight hour, and each day is a ticking clock. We are really, really in need of the authentic leadership that the world is awaiting for.

Our destiny very much lies in our hands.

By Datuk Medan Abdullah is a regular contributor to New Sarawak Tribune.