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Written exclusively for Salaam by al-Maktabi

Over the past two months there have been a number of incidents in Europe pointing to dramatic changes in the weather. The floods in northern Italy and the continuing floods in England have been devastating in their effects on the lives of people, property, and the landscape. There are obviously arguments over the causes for such dramatic climate changes. One explanation is that over the long-term such occurrences of strange weather are not unknown. It is simply our inability to deal with such incidents that we have little memory of that causes the panic. The other explanation asserts that the earth's climate as a whole has been changing because of the human impact on the environment. Proponents of this position have plenty of data on weather patterns: on our depleting ozone layer, flooding, rising sea levels and so on as evidence for their argument. It is persuasive.

Indeed, on all accounts the human impact on the environment is devastating. Governments and international agencies all recognize that a change in our habits are necessary to prevent further destruction - and bring weather patterns back to some kind of norm. The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was a landmark event attended by 172 nations but its recommendations, contained in Agenda 21, is still only theory. Furthermore, not much has been done to strictly impose limits or punish the transgressors. The leading culprit in terms of ecological abuse, the United States of America, is in fact insistent that it is already doing its bit to control emission levels, for instance. No amount of international pressure or recent European Union wheeling-and-dealing can get the superpower to even agree to the most modest controls. The living standards of US citizens cannot be sacrificed even marginally for the future of the earth.

We are all in trouble. The entire biosystem is in severe trouble. Areas of particular ecological richness such as the tropical rainforests - covering 6% of the earth but with half the species of animals and plants in the world - have been losing land surface to 'development'. No amount of cosmetic protection of species in botanical gardens or game parks and zoos can protect the almost inexhaustible richness of our ecosystem. Modest reductions in consumption of destructive fuels especially in the wealthy West, can however make a change. Reductions will mean lifestyle and economic changes that few are ready to accept. For example, British truck drivers were essentially demanding for unlimited unlimited cheap fuel in their protests.

In the near future alternative and ecologically friendly fuels will have to more fully replace our current sources (coal, petroleum, wood). Secondly, there must be a reduction in the amount of junk produced and the energy that such energy-consuming junk produces. In all calculations by business and their economists the future of the earth must be taken into account and the profit motive made less significant. Having somewhat more predictable weather, and not having to get out of your house in a boat, would be only one of the many benefits.