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Letter to Gulf Daily News

21 December 2009 No Comment

Got published on 24 Dec 2009. This letter was a response to a seemingly dejected young man called Tariq, who wrote about the failure of COP15.

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Small steps that can make a huge difference /Letter to Tariq

Dear Tariq,

I read your letter ‘Faith Shattered’ in the GDN, dated 21st December 2009, and I would like to tell you that like many others, I share your concern. I have recently returned to Bahrain from Finland, and visited Copenhagen to experience the ‘life-changing’ summit. In Copenhagen, it felt like the global leaders took a two week long vacation over there and came up with 3 pages called the Copenhagen Accord, with nothing really substantial in them. The UN officials applaud it as being the ‘first step’, and I would like to ask them ‘What was the Brundtland Commission and Kyoto Protocol all about?’ The only first step that’s been taken is that the Northern rich countries (UK,USA,Europe) have managed to yet again find another way to bully the Southern poor countries into staying poor. Sure, there is some fund set-up and sure, there might be a few more meetings on what should be done but one can only question what will come out of it.

It is a known fact the Northern Countries constitute 20% of the world’s population and consume 80% of its resources. None of them have binding commitments but yet, they put pressure on countries on India and China to do so, claiming they are the world’s biggest polluters. Well, if one has to look carefully, all the industrialization that takes place in countries like India and China are done so to create goods that countries like USA and UK consume on a daily basis. One can only guess how big a share of China’s carbon emissions USA is actually responsible for?So Tariq, we face paradox, hypocrisy and new form of colonization or bullying.

Though Climate Change is a debatable topic as there is so much uncertainty about the certainty of climate, but surely everyone can agree that way too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cannot be a good thing as even our bodies purge it. We also have to ask ourselves about the equity of resource: is this culture of consumerism a good thing? Consuming and depleting the earth’s resource (oil?) and taking or plundering from the poorest nations just because we can? Something has to give, right?

From the COP15, Tariq, it is obvious that we cannot look to the people who we elect or who rule us to guide us out of this huge mess that we have created for ourselves. It starts with us and it starts NOW. Let me assure it is no easy task as it would mean giving up a certain way of life and beginning a new one! We have to question everything we have ever known and begin change into a low-carbon society (1). It starts with the small stuff-

For example, recently someone wrote about reducing the use for plastic bags. What’s the big deal about plastic bags? Well, it’s not easily-recyclable and toxic in nature. At the risk of looking like a madman, it wouldn’t hurt to carry a jute or canvas shopping bag, would it? I know I do and trust me ,its worth it. Or instead of driving that lovely Ferrari, wouldn’t it be nice to walk to work? It is good for your heart and you will know for a fact you are not polluting the air we breathe. Or maybe you don’t really need that Iphone because your current mobile can be repaired or you have ten others that work perfectly fine.

Or how about building malls and buildings that do not depend on air-conditioning and lighting but instead utilizes vernacular architectural knowledge of Bahrain to build better places and spaces. Or can we look at having a localized economy that utilizes the traditional skills of the Bahraini people in terms of farming, goods and clothes. This will bring employment to the people of Bahrain and make them an independent nation as we know now, that a major reason for the recession and environmental issues re a result of the failings of Western model of economy and development. I am not saying that we should completely disregard the Northern countries and their achievements but we should take their knowledge and incorporate it locally, not incorporate it blindly. For example, if the government of Bahrain looked at setting up public transport of metros, trams and bus system like the cities of Helsinki, Copenhagen and many others, it will reduce the need for private transport and thereby, reduce carbon emissions into the air and make the city well-connected. Or their achievements in building solar panels, wind turbines, geo-thermal energy, biofuels to harness natural energy to provide electricity to houses, vehicles etc.

These are small steps, Tariq. Many more to be taken and we have a long way to go. Let me tell you now it will be very discouraging at times but you have to keep reminding yourself about the world you want to create for your children and their children and so on. So taking a cue from Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela: Change starts with one.

Kind regards,


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-carbon_economy


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