The #10YearChallenge and our environment | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 27, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:53 AM, January 27, 2019

The #10YearChallenge and our environment

Of course, we have people with polarising opinions sharing their annoyance, their neutrality, and their satisfaction with the new trend: the #10yearchallenge. While some are using the hashtag to reflect on how far they have come and how much they have grown, some are wielding the trend as an eye-opening device. A device that has the potential to present facts in an alarming light.

The sun beats down on the defeated, amputated hills and the rickety shelters that have mushroomed abundantly, spanning endlessly. A bandaged colony has sprung up where silent hills—heavenly and green—used to be. The Asian Elephants' age-old home has been destroyed as the refugees' new homes have been built. Both kinds have been driven out of their native places, one by persecution, and another by its aftermath. Whenever the camp lights disturb the elephants' nocturnal movements and the yellow excavators eat up a portion of the forests, they turn away to another path helplessly. Their corridors are disturbed. They are trapped, unable to make their way towards their destination. This means a major setback in the propagation of their kind. This means more human-elephant conflicts against the backdrop of the Asian Elephant being marked endangered by IUCN.

In satellite images published by Star Weekend, one can see how the Kutupalong refugee camp has sprawled from a tiny patch in 2015 into a wider area in 2018, only in three years' time, annihilating vegetation in the area and thinning the survival of the flora and fauna. Now imagine how the area used to be 10 years ago. A photo has gone viral on Facebook in relevance to this scenario with the hashtag in question. Wild elephants used to roam free along their range. Seasonal migration wasn't a problem. The corridors were undisturbed. There weren't too many Rohingya refugees. The refugees' horrors were yet to come.

Our Black Rhinos are extinct. The last male Northern White Rhino breathed its last in 2018. Japan is hell-bent on continuing whale hunting. Who knows what the carbon-trapping whales' status would be 10 years from now? Industries like palm oil and paper are blooming as the flora and fauna are un-blooming. Many colonies of colourful and vibrant coral reefs are now turning bleak and are dying. The plastic materials are forming forests of their own under our seas. They live throughout the course of many species going extinct. They are bleeding into our ecosystem. Our progress is spewing unrefined waste materials. Our air is getting dustier and dustier, picking its victims faster than before. We have more carbon emitters than carbon trappers. We have only 12 years to curb the atrocities that come along with climate change. The icebergs are melting, the sea level rising, the polar bears thinning, the climate refugees increasing. Human settlements are ambushing the Sundarbans, allowing the tiger population to shrink and wood extractions to rise. Development projects adjacent to the region are disturbing the harmony. Stronger tidal waves and storm surges are likely to attack the area in future, further degrading the forests. Our winters are shorter and dustier than before, our summers hotter. We emit chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) while we write about climate change. Trees are felled; skyscrapers and high-rise buildings are born.

The hashtag created waves on social media by highlighting the above facts visually in a striking manner. It gave us a window into the mutual fate shared by the helpless subsidisers of our progress. The mutual fate of degradation. For instance, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has shared images of the Rondonia region of Brazil that show how deforestation has marred the Amazonian region. Many conservation organisations, celebrities, and individuals have done the same to focus on the degrading conditions of our planet. They are riding the social media trend to make people aware and make them feel a sense of responsibility, a sense of awareness. The collages seem to create a deep impact as they present visual, jarring contradictions—the victims and the aftermaths side by side.

While we look at how we have evolved personally in a course of 10 years, having our eyes opened to the changes brought by a lengthy duration of time, we must also look at how our existence has shaped the planet's alchemy and is continuing to change its ideal definition. We must know by now that warnings shouldn't be taken lightly. I mean, the red flags were hoisted earlier than only “10 years” ago, but were we able to prevent the imminent losses?

Shah Tazrian Ashrafi is a contributor to Shout, a weekly publication of The Daily Star.


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