Snow leopards, polar bears and more
Dr. Ali Nawaz explained that it is a task for him, not only as a university teacher but a common man to teach his fellow citizens and indeed children about the fragility of nature. We must do what we can to protect endangered species like the snow leopards, find ways for people and animals to cohabit, and indeed be good overall stewards of the environment.
I thought Dr. Nawaz spoke essential words. I was also pleased when I heard that the Norwegian Embassy wanted to give prominence to the Gilgit children and climateCHANGE issues. It is symbolic, and nothing much will concretelyCHANGE. Yet, in our professional and private lives, we all contribute just a little bit, we express a thought or two, we have a few ideas, and we support some activities. And if we are lucky, we have an embassy, a university or an NGO behind us, which can make our little symbolic actions more visible.
I believe in the symbolic actions, too; it is part of drawing attention to issues and support change processes. Other activities can follow later and be implemented by ourselves and others. Essential in the case I refer to is that children are main actors, indeed artists. The environmentalists have sawn seeds in their hearts and minds, quite unnoticeable in the short run but invaluable in the long run. It is children and youth with good values and goals that will move mountains in future – or just be concerned about the environment in the land they live.
Children and adults can be part of other activities, too, and other linkages between Pakistan and Norway, the first a large land on the subcontinent with more than two hundred million people, the latter, a small land with just over five million, on land about a third of Pakistan’s size. It is a long and narrow coastal and mountainous land, with an island territory ‘half-way to the North Pole’. The High North, to the north of mainland Norway, is a resource-rich sea and land area, with fish, minerals, maybe oil and more. Recently, the Chinese have been exploring the possibility of a sea route from their land’s east coast to that of North Norway, making China’s sea connection with Europe by far shorter than today’s route over southern waters. Interestingly, the global warming, which we otherwise fear, will have some positive effects up there, melting some ice and making the waters and ports open over the winter season. But the polar bears will not like it.
So let us remind ourselves that it is not only important to preserve and protect the snow leopards, the polar bears, the seals and the other life up north for the sake of nature photographers and tourists. It is important that we study and become good stewards of nature, facilitating people’s livelihoods and other activities in the real world we live in. It is important that school children learn about these comprehensive and exciting issues, and that they develop attitudes, values and opinions about the world they are part of and responsible for.
The Chinese ‘explorers’ and innovators of our time can indeed stimulate our imagination if the new ‘sea silk route’ over the northern waters materialises. Yes, the polar bears and snow leopards are nice symbols ofPURE and clean nature, but the utilitarian Chinese aspirations must also be included. After all, we will not and should not stop exploring the globe we live on. The oceans will indeed be important in future. There is so much more to find out about the oceans, the untapped resources on the ‘seven seas’, the thousands of seas, with all their life and resources below the waters. Until now, we have only explored a tiny percentage of all this; we fish, we travel and transport on the seas, and we use them as dustbins, but we have not yet become real managers and stewards of that part of nature. From the mountains of the Himalayas to the ice-cold seas and land in the High North, from the Chinese age of expansion and seafaring to the children’s investigative and exploring minds, we have an exciting future ahead of us.
When the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited the USA a few weeks ago, she also used positive arguments to interest President Donald Trump in environmental protection, indeed the Paris Agreement to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Trump has earlier said he is against the Agreement and wants the USA to pull out. Solberg, a centrist-conservative politician, came prepared with the right arguments, namely that the Paris Agreement would create opportunities for innovation, new products and new business for the private sector. For example, if all petrol and diesel vehicles were banned in future (and in Norway most such new vehicles will be banned from 2025), the innovative manufacturers would have to find new, competitive alternatives. She tried to appeal to the Businessman Trump’s heart and mind. America is one of the worst polluters, and it needs to be part of the Paris Agreement under the broader United Nations Convention on ClimateCHANGE. We all need to be onboard the new thinking in the new world we live in. More leaders realize that we are near the cliff edge in so many fields in the environmental, economic and social sectors.
Again, we should also enjoy being good explorers, imaginative dreamers, practical inventors, and so on – like the Chinese and others are today – and the Norwegians and others were a hundred years ago went they went to the South Pole and almost reached the North Pole. We should explore and exploit nature to benefit people in better ways than in the past, with better scientific and other knowledge and experience. Indeed, we must become better at economising and sharing what nature gives us, remembering the geographical and generational dimensions.
I began my article talking about children from Gilgit – and an ambassador and a university teacher. The school children of today are the leaders of tomorrow; they will be envoys to foreign countries and organizations; they will be university teachers and hold ordinary jobs; their opinions, knowledge, and values will be essential. We should encourage the children to engage in environmental issues. That is easy because they have a natural inclination for it, but they need our recognition to get started; soon they will be ahead of us, and they will tell us how to do things better.
Dear children of Gilgit, thank you for the beautiful artwork you made of the snow leopards, which the chairman of the Snow Leopard Foundation could then donate to the Norwegian ambassador. You have inspired so much in so many!
The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience in research, diplomacy and development aid. He writes for The Nation.