The Crucible

With the advent of global warming, the whole world has been put to a test
Deepak Rikhye

Once upon a time in the distant past, the Earth was a paradise and inspired John Milton to describe our planet as "A heavín on earth." We could be losing some of the splendour that the Earth has been blessed with. The beauty we take so much for granted has ,very slowly, shown signs of a reaction, to the extent that parts of the earth could give way to water. Natureís wonders just could be compelled to begin working against us. Charles Darwin warned that mankind must be vigilant; certain practices may cause species of flora and fauna to diminish. The cumulative effect would harm the planet. He called it the Malthusian Catastrophe. Let us identify a few aspects and ask ourselves a simple question: Are we going wrong?

Plants and animals need the right temperatures. Scientists in recent years have proved that the Earth is warmer than before. They call this global warming. Apart from some of the gas in the atmosphere comprising of water vapour, the other gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorocarbons. They form an invisible cover that holds the heat of the sun. This is what is called a greenhouse. They retain the sunís warmth and prevent it from escaping too quickly.

With increasing temperatures, ice in snow-bound regions is melting. The melted ice will find its way into the sea. This has resulted in sea tides getting deeper, albeit, barely by a few inches. Deeper sea levels would bring more land under water. Average temperatures all over the world are higher. Birds appear in regions never seen before. Mockingbirds that lived in southern US are now seen in New England. Robins prefer to stay at their present locations rather than migrate. The Hoopoe, a visitor to India from Siberia, has not been sighted in Ambala district. Plants on our planet help to maintain the balance of the greenhouse layer. They convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. If highways had trees on both sides some of the carbon dioxide produced by transport would change into oxygen. The same could apply to factories and industrial zones. Mankindís " God-like intellect" (Darwin) was elucidated in history, during different ages, long before global warming was ever envisaged. During the 5th century, Aryabhatta conducted his research which included the decimal system, trigonometry and measurements in astronomy, related to lunar and solar eclipses. Alas! This knowledge did not include global warming. The causes and effects related to global warming never occurred at that time. Mankind could only rationalise a subject if he perceived it.

Amartya Sen, at his brilliant best, explained that it is like smoke which signifies fire even if the fire is not visible. Scientists, centuries ago, never saw that "smoke" to indicate a "fire". As a result, global warming was a non-entity as a subject. Today, those melting snowlines have provided the "smoke" for the basis of a link connected to global warming. As a topic, global warming is thus very much within the parameters of an epistemological subject.

We have in our quest for energy studied nuclear power. Charles D Ferguson, author of Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know, questions the safety of this source of energy. How much electricity do countries obtain from commercial nuclear power? How are future nuclear power plants made safer? How hazardous is radioactive waste? Is nuclear energy a renewable energy source? It was perceived as an economical and abundant source of power. But its commercial use has been mired in controversy. There were two disasters that created a negative impact. During the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986, radioactive particles drifted into the atmosphere; a sudden catastrophic power increase in one of the reactors precipitated a massive explosion. In the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster when a plant was hit by the Tsunami, in 2011, radioactive materials were released into the surrounding waters. This caused an impediment for clean-up operations which was expected to take a few years. Our endeavours would need to focus on infinite sources of energy, related to the sun, wind and water. Research would mitigate the ill-effects of energy sources that involve burning of fossil fuels. Scientists firmly believe that global warming is caused by burning an excess of fossil fuels which produce smoke and carbon dioxide that is trapped in the atmosphere. Arthur Millerís famous play, The Crucible, was titled because it represented a severe test due to an episode in 1692. With the advent of global warming, the world has been put to a test. it is thus The Crucible of our times.