It’s hard for me to be shocked anymore by a news report, feature article or scientific study on climate change. I get it already: it’s upon us and accelerating faster than even the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says. But Belfast Telegraph reporter Johann Hari’s recent account of global warming in Bangladesh hit me like nothing else I’ve read in the recent past.
The sheer enormity of the tragedy already unfolding for so many people (Bangladesh has a population of more than 150 million) is mind-boggling. Hari describes whole villages losing their agricultural livelihoods, their health and — sometimes — their childrens’ lives as rising sea levels cause saltwater to seep underground below once-fertile rice paddies. He visits island communities whose older residents now point to treetops jutting out from the sea when asked where their homes once stood. And, chillingly, he meets with a new and growing generation of jihadists — unusual until recently in Bangladesh — who are seeking out scapegoats as their futures visibly wither away.
The only promising note in Hari’s travelogue comes from his encounter with Abul Hasanat Mohammed Rezwan, whom he dubs “Bangadesh’s Noah.” An architect by training, Rezwan has given up designing structures that, as he says, “will be under water soon anyway.” Instead, he now leads a charity called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (“self-reliance”) that builds floating homes, schools and hospitals that can survive his country’s future.
Imagine that: the concept behind the Kevin Costner movie once widely panned by critics might end up the only solution for a nation of 150 million.
If you’ve found yourself growing numb — or worse yet, hopeless and complacent — with the ongoing developments of climate change, you owe it to the future — your family’s, your world’s — to read Hari’s article in its entirety. And see then if you don’t agree with the latest comments from climate scientist James Hansen, who today is calling on Congress to put the Big Oil CEOs on trial for “high crimes against humanity and nature.”
If what’s already happened to the residents of communities like Munshigonj, Moheshkhali and Charkashem Island don’t qualify as such high crimes, it’s hard to imagine what would.