In the shadow of the pandemic, humanity’s greatest challenges remain: Ashwin Sanghi

A virus that may have been spawned in a Chinese lab has wreaked havoc around the world over the past two years. As of this writing, there have been 209 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 4.4 million deaths worldwide. The good news is that around 4.5 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered. And while it is true that new variants of the virus continue to emerge with frightening regularity, it is equally true that safety guidelines, urban management, hospital protocols, scientific research and large-scale vaccination can. allow humanity to come out of this war to see another day. .

But the pain of hitting your toe is only felt until you hit your head even harder. Sadly, the challenge of tackling Covid-19 has overshadowed all other issues. I have always argued, and I continue to argue, that the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century will be climate change, water scarcity, population-resource disparities, power imbalance and extremism. ideological. These issues may have faded into the background due to Covid-19, but they remain. A pigeon closes its eyes upon seeing a cat, hoping that the cat will magically disappear. This is precisely what the world is doing with the most pressing problems of our time.

Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that over the next two decades, the world is likely to exceed the threshold of 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. This would likely lead to sea level rise, forest fires, rainstorms, heat waves, extreme temperatures, coastal flooding, drought, ocean acidification, species extinction and increased threat from pests and pathogens. But talk to climate change experts and we’ll hear the usual suggestions: use public transport, take shorter showers, switch to electric vehicles, recycle garbage, and plant trees. Very few discuss the billions of cows, goats, chickens, pigs and turkeys that are crammed into factory farms and produce huge amounts of methane. Each gram of methane is 84 times more powerful than a gram of carbon dioxide at trapping atmospheric heat. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says animal agriculture is the largest source of methane emissions in America. So if we are serious about tackling climate change, humanity has to switch to an increasingly vegan lifestyle. But such a point of view must be motivated by hippies, vegetarians and tree lovers. So let’s not talk about it.

What is worrying is that in countries like India, Israel, America and Germany, the far right is becoming increasingly belligerent in response to the perceived threat of Islamism. We can find a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 but where will we find a vaccine to treat an extreme ideology?

A poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge says, “Water, water everywhere, no drop to drink.” Isn’t it ironic that our high sea level comes with a scarcity of water? Only 0.01% of the water on earth is soft and accessible. Almost 97% of our water is saline and about 3% is extremely difficult to access. One third of the world’s population lives in conditions of water scarcity. By 2030, there will be a 40% gap between demand and supply of water. According to UNICEF, half of the world’s population could live in areas facing water scarcity by 2025. In fact, one in four children will live in areas of extremely high water stress. Across the world, water use has increased at more than twice the rate of population growth over the past century. Many parts of the world will soon run out of groundwater. Added to this is the fear that a large part of the water supply in many countries will be contaminated. In the meantime, geopolitics and uncontrolled dams will ensure that river waters become the very reasons for war. But such a view belongs to the anti-industry lobby and no one wants to discuss the depressing scenarios of the Parched Earth. So let’s not talk about it.

What should we talk about then? Ah, yes, almost a billion of the 7.7 billion people in the world are affected by hunger. About 33 countries already have extremely alarming hunger levels. The world’s population is expected to grow by 83 million people each year and reach 9.8 billion by 2050. A child born in a country with the lowest ranking health care is 60 times more likely to die than a child born. in a country with the best health care. The average income of people living in North America is 16 times that of people in sub-Saharan Africa. And the inequality is not just between nations. According to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report, the richest 1% in the world own 43.4% of the world’s wealth. Inequalities in resources could fuel conflicts, both internal and external. But discussing the inequalities of wealth between individuals and countries is Marxism. So let’s not talk about it.

Since it’s embarrassing to talk about veganism, depressing to talk about water deprivation and leftist to talk about inequalities, let’s turn our attention to another topic: the indefatigable economic engine of the world, China. Economic growth has enabled China, on average, to double its GDP every eight years. Today, China has become the world’s largest economy on the basis of purchasing power parity. It is also the largest manufacturer, trader and holder of foreign exchange reserves in the world. But with China’s economic strength came an even greater tightening of control by the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s economic weight has enabled it to detain a million Muslim Uyghurs in what they call “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. It can advance massive projects such as the Belt-and-Road Initiative while burdening developing countries with crippling debt. China supports some of the worst regimes in the world, including North Korea and Pakistan. He is brazenly waging war on democracy in Hong Kong while continuing to bitch against Taiwan. It is undermining territorial waters by building artificial islands in the South China Sea. It is the biggest cyber spy in the world and also one of the biggest polluters in the world. Not content with directing India to its borders, China has territorial problems with Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore and many others. Considering the huge reliance on Chinese investment, supply chains, and trade, it’s awkward to talk (excuse the pun) about the bull in the china shop. And if former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain could be fooled into believing that he had negotiated “peace for our time” with Adolf Hitler in 1938, then where is the harm in believing that the economic, political and military weight of China will not have serious consequences for the world? But to hold China to account is to wage war. So, let’s not talk about this inconvenient truth either.

All right, then consider this. One million Uyghur Muslims are incarcerated in Xinjiang, but you can barely hear a glance of the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which includes 45 Islamic countries. They are quick to point out the injustices – both real and perceived – against Muslims in Kashmir, Palestine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but there is a strange conspiracy of silence surrounding the Uyghur situation. What explains it? Truth be told, the Islamic world is a divided lot. The only unity is a medieval ideology that clings to gender inequality, LGBTQ revulsion, apostasy prevention and disbelief aversion.

The world tries in vain to fight Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hezbollah and the Taliban, but is reluctant to accept that the real fight is against the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology that inspires such groups. Even Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has found it necessary to push for new interpretations of the most controversial texts. But anyone who suggests Islamic reform is generally referred to as an Islamophobic fanatic. What is worrying is that in countries like India, Israel, America and Germany, the far right is becoming increasingly belligerent in response to the perceived threat of Islamism. We can find a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 but where will we find a vaccine to treat an extreme ideology? Instead, let’s do the best thing. Let’s not talk about it.

The great poet, Mirza Ghalib, wrote “Hum ko maloom hai jannat ki haqiqat lekin dil ke behlane ko Ghalib yeh khayal achcha hai. “We know the reality of Heaven, but it’s still a good idea, well suited to keeping the heart happy.

So let’s just stay happy by not talking about anything important.

—Sanghi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant, Keepers of the Kalachakra, and other books

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