Science demonstrates human beings’ utter significance—and the devastating impact of their hubris on our planet. Pushpinder S Jamwal put together images that drive home the point
Some Himalayan cultures believe that it’s in the nature of water to remember. For a mountain range that holds more water than any other in the world, that is an ocean of memories. The Himalaya is the world’s youngest mountain range. It is still immature, and the impact of human irresponsibility in other parts of the world is first felt here. One of the most visible consequences of a warming world is an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.
The Himalaya is also home to one of the world’s most renowned river systems, one which gives nourishment and livelihood to millions of people. Researchers like me train ourselves to understand water, calibrating and measuring it, predicting its behaviour, carefully recording its parameters. This exercise is even more important after one experiences a water body’s full force—during a flood or a glacier lake burst or other such events. Then, the water recedes, having left scars on the earth, and human activities resume without having learnt much from the experience.
Science teaches us to be witnesses—a vantage point that demonstrates the utter insignificance of human beings. Equally, we witness human hubris, its refusal to alter behaviours that affect nature in profound ways. Human activities such as deforestation, linear infrastructure development and altering the path of rivers by constructing massive dams are contributing to climate change in the Himalaya.
Steep gradients and energetic rivers make the Himalaya a bounty for hydroelectric power. A new race has begun to construct dams along Himalayan rivers. Water reservoirs created by damming rivers could have a significant impact on the world’s carbon cycle and climate system, which in turn will not only impact the ecology of the region but also change the landscape.