Over the last 50 years, natural disasters have increased fivefold, driven primarily by climate change, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization.
In recent years, we have all seen the havoc wrought by an increasing number of floods, typhoons, hurricanes, extreme temperatures and droughts. We have also seen those disasters increase in intensity and claim even more victims. What more information do we need to start acting to reverse this deadly trend? What are we waiting for?
Ninety percent of the world’s fish stocks are collapsing; the global species extinction rate has accelerated by somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times, with species of insects alone having declined by between 40 and 70 percent over the last 30 years.
Dana Milbank in The Washington Post wrote that he has taken up shooting to help reduce a multiplying deer population that is unbalancing the entire ecosystem in Virginia, US, because humans have removed their predators. How many more times do we have to witness such predictable disasters? What are we waiting for?
I read an article about how almost half of France’s bird species are in decline, with some major species losing more than 30 percent of their populations. I learned since that this statistic applies to the entire world, with one in eight bird species at risk of extinction. Climate change, logging and the pesticides that decimate the insects which birds feed on are primarily to blame. How can we simply let this happen? What are we waiting for?
Countries that once had tremendous amounts of water in their mountains, rivers and lakes are now subject to devastating droughts, punctuated tragically by terrible floods that kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Almost half of the world’s population will suffer from water scarcity by 2050, yet tens of thousands of people died in severe floods last year. How can we let this happen? What are we waiting for?
Why are we wasting our time instead shooting balloons out of the sky? We are suffering the consequences not only of climate change, extreme weather and ecological destruction, but also of misgovernance, of failing institutions and irresponsible politicians. Where is the UN, one of the most noble institutions established in the world, when we most need it to call for action? When will the anger and disobedience boil over? What are we waiting for?
We do not need to go to a hospital to learn that we are sick. In fact, with the heavy weight of ignorance and delusion we carry on our backs, we would never even make it to the hospital. We have all the education and information we need to see the disaster unfolding before us, yet we continue to fail to act. What are we waiting for? Insects with almost no brains are telling us things that we simply continue to ignore.
We need to wake up and start working together if we are to preserve anything of the nurturing world we used to know before it is too late. We certainly do not need any more displays of muscles; we do not have the bones to support them. And do not think artificial intelligence or the gods of technology will save us. It will not happen. They are simply a smokescreen we use to continue living in ignorance.
So what are we waiting for? We can no longer see the forest for the trees. What, indeed, are we waiting for?
Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Ofﬁce in Washington, D.C. from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.