The flood in our Stars

Ranjan Yumnam *

 Khwairamband Keithel area : Incessant rain floods Manipur : Most areas in Imphal valley districts have been flooded :: May 30 2024 .
Khwairamband Keithel area : Incessant rain floods Manipur on May 30 2024 :: Pix - Khaba Kh

Man proposes, and God disposes. In the case of natural disasters such as the flood that has pummelled most parts of Manipur, including her citadel, the Imphal Valley, it is tempting to pin the blame on God for the massive destruction and inconvenience caused by the flamboyant floods to the populace of the State.

As if the flood was not enough, an earthquake also gave us a jolt doubling as a mini advertisement for Divine Power and reminding us that we actually are who we always suspected to be: tiny minions in the cosmic as well as seismic plan.

With this realisation, perhaps, we can thank our luck that we do not happen to reside in a coastal topography, in which case the flood will have shapeshifted into a tsunami and wiped us out off the face of the planet. So much for optimism.

If the flood is an act of God, the timeline for executing many commercial and money-minting works may need revisiting. That’s a small price to pay for the established businesses and institutions. The harder burden is faced by the masses of poor people floundering at the cutting edge of their existence—leaking roof-tops, submerged bedrooms and choked manholes.

There is an irony in the way the Almighty is dispensing justice or dolling out retribution against the few sinners while the bulk of its sharpest lashes are felt by the already underprivileged. This blanket divine logic is beyond our comprehension, like the ant’s inability to understand the hydraulic mechanism of JCB excavators that is put to work in full swing to seal the river dykes.

Floodgates of Climate Change

The probable reason why a flood of this scale is hitting us may be God’s unhappiness at seeing us shooting at each other throats that poisoned our heads adept at categorising people into us-vs-them. We will never know the correct reasons. What we can practically do is look at the factors that make sense to us, such as the impact of climate change that has brought toilet water to our waist level.

But piecing together the pieces in the puzzle of climate change is easier said than done. Take, for example, the role of the Sun’s irradiance, deforestation, greenhouse effects and global geopolitics dripping with the selfishness of My Nation First in the Climate Conventions.

As we know, Earth’s global mean surface temperature is determined through a global “balancing act” of the rate of energy that comes from the Sun and the rate at which the planet returns that energy into space. Contrary to our popular assumption, the luminance and heat that reaches the earth are not constant, and the Sun goes through cycles of varying emission, and this variability affects the temperature of the planet.

The greenhouse gases like CO2 and CH4 produced by activities of men such as transport, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors trap the heat in the atmosphere, and the higher the emission, the warmer the climate gets.

Deforestation is the devil among the tribes of the climate destroyers. Add to this list, husbandry and agriculture cultivation (by use of fertilisers) that release methane into the air. On the other hand, industrial sulphates and volcanic sulphates have a cooling effect, but they are not reliable but whimsical and harder to control.

One may argue that it is hard to predict natural disasters because they have been occurring since time immemorial, either by the Earth’s inherent ecosystem or meteors from outer space hitting the Earth. This is true. But the point of the scientists is that human activities have now disturbed the natural patterns and made climate prediction more complex by adding our own fuel to nature’s fury.

If any, the frequency and intensity of natural disasters have increased alarmingly due to the exploitation of the Earth’s resources by men at the altar of consumerism.

Taming the Climate Beast

A great task lay before us to prevent global warming and make the world less disrupted by erratic climate changes. The human spirit is bubbling with innovation at all times; scientists are the first to come forward with some bold ideas. One fantastic solution is to launch a solar shield in space and station it at a strategic location that could, in principle, reflect sunlight away from the Earth.

Another is simple, and so is elegant—to design our houses in such a way that they reflect more sunlight. Think wide white roofing and houses painted in bright colours like in Barbiedom. Stratospheric sulphate aerosol injection and marine cloud brightening are further potential ways to increase the reflection of sunlight, either directly by the particles in the atmosphere or by the brighter clouds they can produce.

Photosynthesis can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via enhanced plant growth (terrestrial or marine) combined with long-term storage of carbon in geological, ocean or soil reservoirs. All this is part of the brave new world of geoengineering. Leave it to the boffin class.

The Silver Lining

In the aftermath of a disaster, the human condition is laid bare, revealing both vulnerability and resilience. As seen in social media, the community spirit is at best helping each other, strangers giving hand for hand, even rescuing a newborn in a tub on the street and handing it to the safety of its mother. In such times, communities come together, demonstrating an innate capacity for support and recovery.

In that sense, Japan is a shining example of resilience and rebirth. The island country is frequently struck by tsunamis, but it wades on, never giving up, each disaster steeling its resolve and technological acumen to beat the odds. Lest we forget, Japan is also a victim of twin nuclear bombs; yet the tiny land has developed without looking back.

To fight its geographical disadvantages, it has developed sophisticated early warning systems and stringent building codes. The country’s preparedness and citizen participation in disaster drills exemplify how societies can adapt and thrive even in the face of recurrent threats.

The Government of Citizens

Dealing with natural disasters requires prepared- ness, early monitoring, and citizen participation. Urban planning, forest conservation, investing in early warning systems, educating the public, and providing relief in the aftermath of a natural disaster are Government responsibilities. It cannot be more emphasised, short of shouting from GM Hall, that preparedness is not just a Government responsibility; it is a collective endeavour that requires active citizen engagement.

Natural disasters, as shown by Japan, have their positive effects. Imagine a world threatened by an apocalyptic disaster or an alien invasion. Such a planet-wide existential crisis might unify humanity. The racial differences, ethnic clashes, trade wars, Twitter wars, and obesity will be all forgotten and be of no consequence.

Differences that once seemed insurmountable would likely fade in the face of a common enemy. This unity could bring about a new era of peace and cooperation, as survival becomes the shared goal of all nations and cultures. It is true that we are unified more by a common enemy than the romantic idea of peaceful co-existence and passionate love affairs.

Someone important said, “Choose an outfit based on the weather, and your wardrobe based on the climate.” Let’s adopt a green lifestyle and make our world a safer and healthier place to live in—then we can have all the fancy wardrobes we want.

* Ranjan Yumnam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 02 2024.

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