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.]