“What is it that is following me?” A southern voice on climate change

From Kashmir to Delhi, Moscow to Manchester, what is it that is following me?
by Irfan Syed, (Chair, Salford Interfaith Network and Co-Chair Salford Forum for Refugees)

Lush green mountains, deep lakes, fresh air and singing birds of Kashmir. I remember swimming in Dal Lake and setting up school camps in the woods of Pahalgam. These are the memories of my childhood.

As I grew something is following me. What is it? Lush green mountains started to become naked, the bottom of lakes started to show, rivers became drainage ditches. What is it? As I am getting older it is getting stronger. It is not my business. What is it?

Delhi is the place where I made my future. Did I really make my future? Concrete jungle, noise of electric motors pulling water from the heart of the earth. Something is still following me. What is it that is following me from Kashmir to Delhi? Who cares? I have a degree, my future is safe.

Unprecedented heat waves, cyclones, floods, salinization of coastline and effects on agriculture, fisheries and health. Is my future safe? Who cares? My degree is safe.

Decreased snow cover, affecting snow-fed and glacial systems such as the sacred Ganges. Who cares? I have a degree, my future is safe. What is it that is following me? Who cares? I have a degree, my future is safe.

Now I am scared of what is following me; I will run away from whatever it is. I will fly 2696.87 miles from Delhi to Moscow; it will stop following me. Has it really stopped following me? What about hazardous and toxic air emissions following me? Who cares as long as flights are cheap? Now I am not scared; I am in one of the most powerful countries in the world. Will it stop following me? Big skyscrapers, expensive big cars, designer shops – is Russia getting richer? Birdsong is now replaced by the noise of expensive cars, trees are now being replaced by billboards, bright lights have replaced twinkling stars. Is this development?

Rising gas cost in Siberia, polluting coal is replacing gas in residential homes. The situation in Russia’s regions is becoming more severe with the growing use of coal, this means shortened life expectancies for Russians – whose short average life-spans are already creating a demographic crisis as the health of Russians is sold abroad in the form of expensive gas. I was wrong: it is still following me. Stronger countries were not able to stop that which is following me. Siberia even you were not able to stop it. What is following me?

Who cares what is following me as long as I am enjoying my holidays. Looking at the map and passing different countries I can’t find the Aral Sea. Is Central Asia drying up? Where is the Aral Sea? Once the fourth biggest land –based water source in the world, now it is dead, no more water, no more sea. Is it here even before me, that which is following me? Still we have time to save the Caspian Sea and an endorheic lake, Issyk-kol, in the northern Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan. Please help me to stop what is following me as I want to keep something for my children to see, please help me to stop it. Please help me. What is following me? Someone please answer me – what is following me?

On Tuesday 1 May 2012 in Manchester I got my answer to what is following me; it is Climate Change that is following me.

It was workshop organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) that helped me to know what was following me. I was happy to see many representatives of different organisations attending this workshop. Together we are united and stronger. We discussed impact of climate change on BME communities.

The hall where we attended this workshop was full because of Kate Damiral and Nick Wilson’s hard work and dedication in bringing us all together to fight climate change. It was the first time in my life that I attended this type of workshop. After attending this workshop I got a feeling I was reborn to save this planet and my community.

A presentation by Kate Lonsdale gave us an insight into how the world is affected by climate change. Nick Wilson’s powerful presentation introduced seven climate change drivers, that is : rising temperatures, rising sea levels, floods, drought, climate effects elsewhere and pressure for a low carbon society.

On 5th May at Pendleton Gateway in Salford I gave a small presentation to 50 members of the Salford Forum for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum on climate change and its effects on BME Communities, using what I had learned from the NCVO workshop. We have members from Africa to Asia, Russia to Iraq. It was well received by our members I felt happy and proud that by attending this workshop it has started showing results. Members asked many questions about how they can stop the effects of climate change in their communities and the countries they had come from.

In the NCVO workshop we also explored the implications of climate change on BME communities in Manchester. I attended this workshop with questions in my mind but when I left the building I had answers to how to tackle climate change starting from my home, then my community and then from my country. Powerful countries are not able to defeat it but if we all stay together and united for this cause we will defeat it once and for all. It is our duty to save this planet for our future generations to come.

Rightly said by Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

[Salford Refugee Week runs from 18 to 24 of June. There will be an event around climate change impacts. More details to follow.]

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Monthly Magazine/newsletter about all things climate and resilience in Greater Manchester.
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9 Responses to “What is it that is following me?” A southern voice on climate change

  1. Phil Korbel says:

    A lovely piece Irfan – so good to see you link all those places on your journey so powerfully. Good luck with your work on this in the future.

  2. shakkka says:

    Nice to hear some optimism, too.

  3. shakkka says:

    Reblogged this on militantmoments and commented:
    A different perspective

  4. Ruth says:

    Irfan, I have met you many times and had no idea until now how beautifully you write. so pleased that you’re taking the message to your many many networks and connections in Salford.

    Ruth

  5. Kate Damiral says:

    Hi Irfan: when I asked last week whether anyone would like to write a blog about our first project workshop for MCM, I had no inkling that it would lead to such a poetic piece. Wow!

    Readers can find out more about the Climate Change and BME Communities project on the NCVO website: http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/networking-discussions/blogs/83/12/05/11/climate-change-project-our-bme-communities-strand-begins

    And hopefully we may be able to persuade Irfan to blog again as the project continues…

  6. Irfan Syed says:

    Thanks All……… I am very greatful and humbled that you all liked my blog.God Bless

  7. Anne Hicks says:

    Hello and thank you for this article. So-called environmentally induced migration is still unsolved problem. According to Essam El-Hinnawi definition form 1985 environmental refugees as those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. The fundamental distinction between `environmental migrants` and `environmental refugees` is a standpoint of contemporsry studies in EDPs.
    According to Bogumil Terminski it seems reasonable to distinguish the general category of environmental migrants from the more specific (subordinate to it) category of environmental refugees.
    Environmental migrants, therefore, are persons making a short-lived, cyclical, or longerterm change of residence, of a voluntary or forced character, due to specific environmental factors. Environmental refugees form a specific type of environmental migrant.
    Environmental refugees, therefore, are persons compelled to spontaneous, short-lived, cyclical, or longer-term changes of residence due to sudden or gradually worsening changes in environmental factors important to their living, which may be of either a short-term or an irreversible character.
    According to Norman Myers environmental refugees are “people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty”.

  8. Irfan Syed says:

    I am Irwell River

    I am Irwell River 39 miles long. I was born at Irwell Springs on Deerplay Moor but on my way to the River Mersey different springs keep me flowing. I am history, I am present and I will be future. Yesterday someone wrote about me, today you are writing and tomorrow some other will write. I always flow, am flowing and will be flowing. From centuries I witnessed changes, some were good and some were bad. People used me for fishing I kept flowing, people used me for transport and I kept flowing, people polluted me I still kept flowing. I changed my colour with time. My banks became home to a wide variety of factories and mills. Once heaven for fishing these mills and industries used me to throw waggon-loads of poisons from dye-houses and bleach yards and I become untouchable and was left with an unpleasant odour. No more fishes and no more birds, I was polluted and left alone to die. My green banks were replaced by concrete jungle. People used me, abused me, they polluted me when they wanted, I nearly died when others were prospering, they dumped, they polluted they hurt me. I never complained I did what I know best I kept flowing. Every day I witness children becoming adults and adults getting older. I also witnessed hustle and bustle and construction of Kersal flats, I also saw communities building and then I also witnessed communities dispersed and flats demolished, I witnessed it all while flowing. One generation comes and another goes I am there to witness it all.
    You don’t think I am weak. Do you think only you can hurt me; I can also get stronger and mightier and can hurt you too. I showed my might and burst my banks and flooded where you (people) thought I could never reach. I still remember with my might a local pub, the Black Boy got weaker and me stronger. Mills stopped, traffic stopped I forced a whole city to stop. Do you think it is me responsible for bursting my banks; it is your action that forced me to harm those who had nothing to do with me. Because of your action innocent people lost their homes, children lost their playground where they used to play. Your action was my reaction. I blame you as you are responsible for climates to change, you are the one to blame for climate change. Stop playing with me and stop playing with nature, please don’t force me to repeat what I did in 1866, 1946, 1954, 1980 and 2007.
    Nothing remained everything has gone, no more factories and no more big ships on the canal. I am there to witness it all. Change comes and change goes. I miss it all and I feel alone. No more shouting, no more workers, books of history closed them once and for all. I am the witness of that change and I still am flowing after that change.
    That was past now I am present. Big buildings and shops have replaced mills and factories. Now my banks are protected I am recovering and I can feel a positive change. I am quieter and now home to many birds, people run, children play and different flora and fauna flourish on my way. As I pass from place to place at Cambridge Street old mills have been replaced by shops and warehouses. Before I was polluted by throwing waggon-loads of poisons and now plastic bags and rubbish around shops and ware houses is their new home. Winds blow the litter directly to me; now I am polluted with the litter from shops and the ware house surrounding me. I am worried and I am sad, plastic bags may harm the wildlife with whom I flow along. Please stop killing of innocents who do no harm to you but make this world beautiful, and calmer with their beautiful sounds. Money is manmade thing, and these beautiful little creatures are priceless, I have seen many who have left this world your world forever, even your fake paper (money) can’t get them back. What will you tell to your future generation that you killed them because of this paper which you called money? Still you have time to wake up and save what is left.
    I am Irwell valley and I am proud that on my banks I home Oasis of Oasis, a beautiful place called Kersal Dale. When I pass this piece of Oasis I feel I am the same old Irwell River which started the journey centuries back. Times has stopped so have I. Please save it as it homes many beautiful species, flora and fauna. Save this heaven save it for your future generations to come and I will as always flow and tell them your stories because people come and go and me the River Irwell keeps on flowing to tell the people the stories they have never seen.
    I have to go and I promise I will tell your children, grandchildren your story how you with the Broughton Trust tried to save me and my destiny. I will flow I promise I will flow and share the stories with the people to come like I am sharing with you about the people who were before you. I promise I will keep you alive in my stories while I flow.
    Irfan Syed

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