This Saturday's World Environment Day (WED) will be marked by the usual suspects. Seminars (and news that jars), launches (and lavish lunches), and rallies (of big people in little e-cars). But the 800-pound gorilla in the room will be, you guessed it, climate change.
Now there is nothing wrong with all of the aforementioned. There will be findings, identified threats, initiatives, commitments and most important, young people will be inspired by the refreshing knowledge that there is more to life than politics. Climate change is now acknowledged as the premier threat to life as we know it, and efforts to mitigate and adapt deserve the attention they are finally getting, no more so on WED.
Or do they, here and now in Nepal?
Mitigation, or measures to reduce climate change, is not something Nepal needs to prioritise in Nepal. We are ranked 195 for producing 0.1 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita in 2006 (compared to Qatar, with a whopping 56.2 tonnes). Yet it is precisely because of these environmental predators that we need to rave and rant about what their dubious development is doing to our glaciers and all that follows downstream. This we are doing quite well, from Copenhagen to Everest Base Camp.
Adaptation, or measures to reduce our vulnerability to climate change, is a much more urgent proposition for us. This less glamorous aspect of the response to climate change is finally getting underway with the formulation of Nepal's National Adaptation Plan of Action.
The worry however is that the 800-pound gorilla will end up diverting attention from all the other monkeys on our back: the destruction of fauna and flora, the defilement of air, water and earth in town and country, and the energy crisis. All the other environmental bugbears that decrease our quality of life. Where's the dignity of telling the world to get their act together when we live in the cesspool that is Kathmandu? There's no blaming the rain for the Bagmati Sewer.
Whatever happened to that great catchphrase of the last decade, 'think global, act local'? Thinking global is just about all we seem to have accomplished. All that requires is a sense of drama and a penchant for rhetoric – from Switzerland to Singapore and back to Everest. We can't really do very much to mitigate climate change, but we sure can protest with the support of a government that has to do very little about it. Is it just me, or do those 600 who carbonned off to Copenhagen last year on taxpayers' cash (only to be reminded that it was not up to them) bring you in mind of another very similarly positioned 600?
Acting local is rather harder. It means doing your bit to solve the problems you see around you. Using less water. Using less power, eschewing inverters, and investing in solar. Using fewer plastic bags, and not dumping your rubbish wherever it takes your fancy, like an animal. It means cycling, if you can, and if you can't, ensuring your fossil-fueled yantra actually earned the green sticker it sports. And where any of this is unfeasible, we have to lobby for the relevant authorities to make it feasible. A little here, a little there can make for a lot everywhere.
There used to be a time people actually seemed to care about the environment of the Kathmandu Valley. For a while there in the 1990s, still basking in the global approval that followed the success of Nepal's community forestry programs, we were concerned at the route the Kathmandu Valley was taking. Several revolutionary upheavals later, this city has morphed into a filthy beast even as deforestation and excavation disfigures our landscapes. Are we beyond caring?
If we believe it to be so, it will be so. This Saturday may be the time to reflect upon how we live in the environments we claim as ours.