Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, in light of the urgency of the matter, there is a need to consistently engage with the issue, learn about what perpetuates the impacts of the umbrella term “climate change” and find ways to minimize the damage they cause.
Considering its relevance and urgency to Pakistan, the issue of climate change is highly under-represented in the mainstream media, as well as in mainstream political discourse in Pakistan. Despite being one of the countries that will be drastically and disproportionately impacted by global warming in the years to come climate change is never addressed, debated or discussed in parliament or on cable news. Nor is climate policy taken under consideration by voters when they go to the polls every five years. And even the incumbent government’s hue and cry over climate emergency have led to little more than tree plantation drives and encouraging individual lifestyle changes to promote recycling.
While we should not entirely dismiss the impact of individual life choices, citizens of Pakistan need to work together in order to make our contributions meaningful in the long-run. Tree plantation drives, recycling and riding a bike to work every day won’t solve the climate crises. In order to make a meaningful impact, we need to not only drastically reduce emissions, but also rethink our current development model. As of now, the developmental model that the Pakistani state works on is exploitative; it seeks to expand and exploit resources to sustain the needs of the urban elites.
In such a model not only do we have an exploitative and unsustainable relation with our environment but also towards indigenous communities. Local communities that have a more sustainable relationship with the ecosystem are routinely displaced and evicted through force by state-backed capitalists. These patterns of violence towards communities and then the environment has been seen in Malir (Karachi) by Bharia Town that has damaged the Malir waterways beyond repair, the forcible seizure of agricultural land in the peripheries of Lahore for housing development or the recent cutting down of more than 9,000 mango trees to make room for DHA Multan.
Those perpetuating such violence are the usual suspects; the Pakistan Army Industry and the state-backed capitalist “developers”. The beneficiaries of such violence against the environment and local communities are also the same people every time, the urban elite class that lives on stolen land and stolen water.
As long as development as seen as this narrow idea of capturing resources and exploiting them, not much will change. We will plant more trees and still mine for coal and build concrete jungles. The state and the elite do not have the political will to change this exploitative relation, hence in such a case, we need to provide a platform to the voice of the indigenous communities that have, and propagate for, a more equitable and sustainable relationship with the environment. The only people who have been rising against the forcible seizure of agricultural land around Ravi, and speaking against the harm to local ecosystems by the Ravi City Project have been farmers and local communities are Ravi.
The climate crisis is inevitably tied with other issues; it is intersectional. Development can no longer be imposed from above, it is not sustainable. It is only through empowering local communities through participatory development, that we can fundamentally change our relationship with our ecosystem and environment from one of exploitation and abuse to a sustainable harmony with our planet.