Subh-e-Nau Magazine

International Politics and the Environment

2018 has been a rough year so far. This year has seen some deadliest natural disasters including hurricanes, hailstorms, heat waves, floods and forest fires causing loss of human lives and severe property damages around the world. How has international politics played a role in all this?  

Scientists have found that there ia strong link between climate change and extreme weather events. Uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions and exploitation of natural resources are increasing Earth’s average temperature. The challenges posed by climate change are global that require international level cooperation.
This month’s cover story details how international politics affect the environment and how effective are these agreements to improve the environmental quality of planet Earth.


The earliest environmental movements can be traced back to Jainism in ancient India. Jainism’s core values were associated with environmental activism by the protection of life and natural habitats. The Arab scientists, including Al-Kindi, Qusta Ibn Luqa, Al-Masihi, Ali ibn Ridwan, and Isaac Israeli ben Solomon, during 9th – 13th centuries, also wrote notable information about environmental science in their books.
Modern environmentalism gained momentum right after the end of World War-II in the 1950s. Unregulated post-war industrial revolution resulted in severe environmental pollution. The Great Smog of London (1952) paralyzed the British Capital and believed to have caused 6,000 deaths making it one of the worst nightmares in the continent after WW-II. This is when they passed the first Clean Air Act in 1956 to control air pollution in the United Kingdom. Most of the people in Europe and North America began to develop the consciousness to address the environmental issues at regional and international levels. In 1972, the UN General Assembly declared 5th June as the World Environment Day to encourage awareness about environmental protection just two years following the declaration of annual Earth Day on 22nd April, 1970. In May 1985, the shocking discovery of the ozone hole was first confirmed by British Antarctic Survey scientists. The research revealed that Chlorofluorocarbons chemicals were causing Ozone layer depletion which protects our planet earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. The alarming impacts of greenhouse emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation made the front-page news headline in The New York Times for the first time in 1988.

History of International Environmental Agreements of Modern Times

Environmental degradation had become a major international issue by 1980s. We’ve included a few important international treaties on the environmental protection to manage the effects of climate change signed by different countries from the early 1980s till now.

Montreal Protocol 1989 (Canada)

The treaty for banning ozone layer depleting hazardous substances was signed following the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer happened in 1985. This international agreement was aimed to phase out the production of infamous chlorofluorocarbon chemicals responsible for ozone depletion. Destruction of this protective gaseous layer over the atmosphere could significantly increase the risk of skin cancer by allowing the most harmful UV rays to reach the earth surface.

Rio Convention on Biodiversity 1992 (Brazil)

The treaty also known as CBD or the Biodiversity Convention, was signed in Rio de Janeiro and became effective from 1993. Its three main goals include:
  1. To protect and conserve biodiversity
  2. To make sustainable use of its natural resources, and
  3. The fair and justifiable sharing of benefits coming from these resources.
The United States of America had signed but not ratified the treaty. Excluding the US, all UN member countries have signed and ratified the Rio Biodiversity Convention 1992.

Kyoto Protocol 1997 (Japan)

It was the first major international treaty on regulating greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. In order to make the agreement justifiable and globally acceptable, the developed industrialized countries were required to cut their annual greenhouse gas emissions while those developing countries were offered relaxation. The United States signed but refused to ratify the agreement arguing that exempting ‘economies in transition’ was unfair. Canada which was the part of the Kyoto Protocol also withdrew from the agreement later. Australia was the last developed country to sign and ratify it. At least 29 countries either refused to sign, ratify or withdrew from this international treaty to control global warming.

Stockholm Convention on POPs 2001 (Sweden)

The convention was signed in 2001 and became effective from 2004. This international agreement was aimed to restrict the production and use of hazardous persistent organic pollutants, also known as ‘POPs’, in all the signatory nations. POPs are known to be absorbed by plants and animals. These persistent chemicals can affect the whole food web in the ecosystem through bio-accumulation and very toxic to all plants and animals including humans. As of 2018, nearly all countries have signed the agreement leaving Israel, USA, Italy, and Malaysia the only few non-ratifying countries in the world.

COP-21 2015 (France)

This is the latest international agreement on climate change happened in Paris 3 years ago. The 21st Conference of Parties was a part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992) held in Brazil. The agreed objective of the UNFCCC is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous levels of human interference with the climate system. The signatories agreed to set new emission targets to limit global warming to 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels, which is believed to be the maximum safe permissible limit. The environmental scientists have already warned that if we fail to keep greenhouse emissions under control, climate change could accelerate causing extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels etc. At least 174 countries had signed the COP21 in follow up meeting held on annual Earth Day 2016 in New York, USA. In November 2017, Syria, the war-torn state, was the last one to sign Paris climate agreement leaving the US the only non-ratifying state in the world! The news came as no surprise when President Donald J. Trump announced that his ‘superpower’ nation wasn’t interested in ratifying the COP21.

Criticism and Controversies

Many international treaties on global warming, climate change and environmental pollution have been signed but we always fail to meet most of the targets set in those agreements. International political analysts and economists find few reasons for not achieving the goals to limit global warming.

Global superpowers are immune to the agreements

The United States of America alone produces more than 15% of global greenhouse emissions resulting from fossil fuel combustion and industrial process but the this ‘superpower’ almost never signs or ratifies most of the international agreements on the environment. The US refused to be the part of Kyoto Protocol and Canada, the 2nd largest country of North America, withdrew from the treaty later. Australia also refused to recognize Kyoto protocol at first saying that since countries like China and India was given ‘exemptions’ for being the ‘developing economies’, it is pointless for other (developed) nations to sign it and cut their part of emissions. Where the world is switching to renewable energy, the US does not see it ‘viable’ for them to replace coal-fired power plants with cleaner sources of power generation in near future. The North American superpower still produces 30% of total electricity by burning coal which is the dirtiest form of fossil fuels. The analysts predict that coal power plants will continue to operate even after 2040 unless the US government makes a drastic change in energy and environmental policies.

Developing countries not yet ready to go green

Poor or developing nations’ excuse for not following strict emission control is quite simple; they cannot afford pollution control technology because their industries face tough competition at regional and international levels. They also lack the educated and skilled workforce to improve their environmental quality and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The governments of emerging economies argue that they cannot achieve green goals without receiving financial and technical assistance from developed economies. Most populous countries including China, India, Brazil, Pakistan, and Indonesia are facing worsening air quality and devastating natural and man-made disasters linked to climate change. These countries still use poor quality fuels, they do not have the adequate waste management system and deforestation rates are dangerously high. Corruption and mismanagement are also among several major hindrances to combat global warming and environmental pollution in the developing world.

Political rivalries hindering mutual cooperation

Warfare and military exercises directly impact the global climate change while cold wars are just as damaging for the environment. ‘Unfriendly nations’ do not welcome people from ‘rival states’. This behaviour sometimes becomes a big hindrance in technology transfer for sustainable development. China, Cuba, India and North Korea are notoriously known for arresting and deporting foreigners visiting those countries for work. Foreign training and aid workers are often barred from working in different developing countries as they are accused of spying for their international rivals.
Superpowers claiming immunity, developing nations incapable of adapting to new technology and political rivalries make these international treaties ineffective most of the times. We are unlikely to achieve green goals without addressing these key issues at the international level.

Targets achieved so far

Despite poor compliance and uncooperative behavior of member states, the world has managed to achieve several green goals through global agreements on climate change. Following are the few examples of how global cooperation can make this world green again!
  • Euro Vehicle Emission Standards: In 1992, the European Union decided to limit motor vehicle emissions by manufacturing cleaner cars and better quality fuel. Eliminating harmful particulate matter emission and nitrogen oxide (NOX) from diesel fuel oil was the biggest challenge. Sulphur content in diesel is responsible for black soot emission from tailpipes. The first (1992) Euro-I standard fuel contained around 5000 ppm sulphur in diesel fuel which has gradually been reduced to less than 10 ppm in the latest (2015) Euro-VI standard. The European Commission for the Environment also made strict pollution control standards for vehicle’s engines. All the regional and intercontinental automakers are required to make eco-friendly vehicles to minimize CO2, CO, NOx and PM emissions. Thanks to strict emission control measures, now the European Union is producing the cleanest fuel and the most eco-friendly cars in the world. However, they are still not satisfied and looking forward to achieving another milestone by entirely eliminating diesel and petrol engine vehicles from big cities by 2040. London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid and Milan have already announced their plans to phase out fossil fuel cars. All the major European cities will only allow Electric Vehicles or maybe clean diesel and petrol hybrid cars to ply on the roads in near future. The Euro standard has been adopted by several developing countries outside Europe as well. Our neighbors India and Iran are already producing Euro-V standard fuel leaving Pakistan and Nepal the only few countries in South Asia still following Euro-II standard. Cutting harmful emissions through better quality fuel and advanced technology is not only helpful for specific regions but it also helps in controlling global warming by reducing greenhouse gases.
  • Clean Energy Movement: The People’s Republic of China is now the largest emitter followed by the US, EU, India and Russia. China had committed in the 2015 COP21 to progressively increase the cleaner share of its total energy to 20%. The Chinese government reformed its National Energy Strategy (2016-2030) right after signing the Paris agreement. The coal-fired power plants will be phased out in next few decades thanks to EU agreements on sustainable development because China is home to several European businesses’ manufacturing units. The country is now on track to become the leader of renewable energy in the Asia. The transition toward renewables is also gaining pace in emerging economies of South America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and South Asia. Costa Rica had claimed to generate 99% of its total electricity from clean renewable resources in 2015. Sweden is all set to become the world’s first 100% fossil fuel free nation by entirely phasing out the use of fossil fuels within the country. Swedish auto giant Volvo will only manufacture EVs and Hybrid vehicles from 2019. Scotland produces 85% – 95% of the country’s domestic electricity needs from wind turbines. Kenya is also keen to replace fossil fuels by eco-friendly energy options. The East African state generates electricity from geothermal power. Kenya is also going to build the continent’s largest 310 MW wind turbine farm to add another 20% of total energy in its national grid. The combined share of renewable clean energy will help Kenya generate more than 70% of total energy needs.
  • Ozone Layer is Recovering: Nearly 30 years after The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer came into effect, we’ve got a bit of good news for planet earth. Collaborative efforts to eliminate ozone-depleting hazardous chemicals are now paying off. NASA has confirmed that international ban on CFCs has resulted in about 20% less ozone depletion than it was in 2005. Data analysis of NASA’s Aura satellite image revealed that the ozone hole is on its way to recovery and situation is improving as developing countries are also switching to ozone-friendly refrigerant chemicals. It’s pertinent to mention that stratospheric ozone layer protects life on the planet by absorbing dangerous ultraviolet radiation that can cause severe burns, skin cancer, can damage eyesight, weaken immune system and lethal for plants. The scientists claim that the ozone hole will eventually become a thing of the past if the entire world switches to CFC free chemicals.

How does Climate Change affect People Worldwide?

The climate change has cost the US more than $350 Billion over the last decade. The global superpower’s strong and reliant economy is capable of paying for the destruction caused by nature furies as the nation is also among the top 5 emitters in the world. However, the devastating impacts of climate change are not just limited to those regions directly responsible for global warming. Natural disasters are happening around the globe equally affecting those who don’t emit a large volume of greenhouse gases at all. The Maldives is a clear example of how environmental destruction caused by the industrial giants could prove costly for the poor nations. The tourist island of South Asia merely emits 3.5 tons (per capita) CO2 and going to be the ‘carbon neutral’ by the year 2020. Nevertheless, the Republic of Maldives is extremely vulnerable to rising sea level and could be swallowed by the Indian Ocean by 2050. Rapidly melting glaciers could be just as damaging for Hawaii and other small islands in the Pacific Ocean. Pakistan has blamed India for escalating smog due to coal-fired power plants in the Indian side. There are 4 thermal power plants in Indian Punjab and 9 in Rajasthan near the Indo-Pak international border. Boundaries cannot restrict pollution from entering the neighbor countries; only international treaties can reduce pollution. The agriculture sector is also bearing the brunt of climate change. The shift in rainfall pattern, extreme weather conditions and droughts are more detrimental for those developing economies reliant on agriculture. Pakistan’s annual greenhouse emissions are one of the lowest in the world, yet it has been ranked 7th most vulnerable country to climate change. Droughts, deforestation, glacier meltdown and floods are affecting millions of Pakistanis every year.

China or America: who emits more greenhouse gases?

The burning question is, which country is the largest polluter in the world? Looking at the amount of annual CO2 emissions, one can undoubtedly say it is China. However, it isn’t as simple as it might seem. In fact, China is the top global polluter with the highest amount of greenhouse emissions but critics argue that it is not fair to rank countries by the volume of emissions without comparing their population and economy sizes. Therefore, to make a fair and justifiable comparison, the environmental economists measure emissions per capita of different countries. This method compares emissions in terms of CO2 emitted per person; the USA has an approximate population of 327 million inhabitants where 1420 million (1.42 billion) people live in China. The concept of per capita emissions gives a much clearer picture of countries’ carbon footprint. Qatar, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates and Australia have much bigger carbon footprint than China, India, Pakistan, Brazil and rest of South America with significantly more per capita carbon emissions. Qatar with 2.64 million population tops with 47.8 tons per capita where Singapore which is home to 5.61 million people barely emits 11.25 tons per capita greenhouse gasses. Pakistan stands at the bottom of the list with surprisingly low 0.98 tons per capita CO2 emissions.

Climate Change Facts

  • The Earth’s average temperature will continue to rise; ranging from 2°C to 6°C by 2100.
  • Three times more people would be exposed to the risk of flooding by 2030.
  • The ocean surface water is 26% more acidic now since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been irreversibly damaged by coral bleaching as a result of the rise in seawater.
  • Complying with the COP21 to tackle global warming could add at least $26 trillion to the global economy by 2030
  • Old bacteria and viruses trapped in the permafrost for centuries are reviving as a result of glacier meltdown. As the ice melts, the ‘hibernated’ infectious agents may be released causing deadly disease outbreaks worldwide.
  • UNHCR warns that climate change-related disasters can create more refugees forced to flee their homes destroyed by nature furies.

Writers: Sultan Kiani / Prof. Farrukh Chishtie 

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10 Basic Safety Items for Every Home

Your home is undoubtedly the safest place to be. Nonetheless, disasters can strike without warning creating life-threatening situations even at home. Here are 10 ways to avert looming dangers waiting to happen.  

House fires, medical emergencies, floods, and earthquakes can be devastating, especially if you are not well prepared. Therefore, we should be prepared for an emergency situation. Here is a list of 10 basic household safety items to be emergency ready:

1. Standby Telephone

During emergencies, communication is very important. We may dial emergency helpline 1122, call our close relatives/friends for help or just to make sure they are safe. Although we often have multiple phones at home but they are not necessarily ‘emergency ready’ most of the times. Some of our smartphones are running low on battery after streaming videos or gaming, other phones are out of credit as we forgot to recharge the prepaid account. It is highly advisable to keep a phone only for emergencies at home. Buy a basic and reliable mobile or a GSM Fixed Wireless Terminal telephone for this purpose if you live in low network coverage area. Always keep it fully charged and there should be at least 100 Rupees credit in the prepaid account. Your close relatives should be on speed dial, number 9 may be reserved to trigger an emergency call to 1122.

2. First Aid Kit

Knife cuts, sprains, insect bites, abrasions, burns and scrapes are some of the common injuries which require immediate first aid at home. A well-stocked first aid kit should always be kept in every home. You also need to learn to effectively use each item in the kit as well. Emergency medical experts recommend keeping the following basic supplies in your first aid box:
  • Bandage Tape
  • Antiseptic Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Antibacterial Ointment (Mycitracin Topical Cream)
  • Wound Dressings
  • Band-Aid (Sunny Plast)
  • Latex gloves
  • A pair of scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Ice packs
Tip: The bandages, creams and solutions have a shelf life of 1 to 5 years. Always remember to replace those (unused) expired items by fresh supplies a month before expiry date mentioned on the product label.

3. Fire Extinguishers

Fire is a good servant but a very bad master. A small flame can turn into a deadly fire that can devastate a home. Firefighting experts believe that the first 30 seconds are very crucial in controlling typical small house fires. At least one 2kg ‘ABC’ (dry powder/all purpose) fire extinguisher should be kept in a single story house. It is also a good idea to keep another C02 fire extinguisher suitable for extinguishing electrical fires. Never use any fire extinguisher other than C02 or Dry Powder on electrical fires. Grease/frying pan oil fire is class F fire requires Wet Chemical extinguisher which should be placed in the kitchen. A good quality fire extinguisher costs around 2500 – 3500 Rupees which can save your life and valuable property.

4. Smoke & Gas Detectors

Early detection of small fires is very important or these portable fire extinguishers may not work after the fire goes out of control. Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in most of the house fires occur during late night hours. A smoke detector can significantly increase the chances of early fire detection by ringing alarm lowering the risk of a deadly house fire.
The gas leak detector is another must-have safety gadget which automatically detects flammable gas leakage in confined spaces and rings alarm before it reaches the lower explosive limit and may cause a massive explosion. Both types of detectors are easily available in Pakistan; you can visit an electronics shop, safety gadget store or buy online. A good portable smoke detector is available under 2500 Rupees while you can buy a gas leakage detector in 4000 Rupees or less. It is very important to use a good quality battery in these safety detectors and replace them very often.

5. A Radio Set with Batteries

Remember the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake? We are located on active fault lines making us one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the region. We cannot predict when this kind of tremor might strike again without warning! A major earthquake can badly affect communication making landline and mobile telephone service unusable. A battery operated radio set can be your only hope in such worst case scenario to catch important updates and instructions on FM radio channels.

6. Flashlights

Thunderstorms, earthquakes and wildfires could cause power breakdown in large areas. Even small electrical faults e.g. short-circuit in your home can cut off the power supply leaving you trapped in darkness. Those tiny LED lights on mobile phones are not enough, we must have the real flashlights and rechargeable emergency lights ready all the times. Those people who install backup inverter (UPS) systems at home often forget to have battery operated flashlights. So when the backup power fails, we are stuck in a dark home. Always place a flashlight in a place where you would be able to easily find it during a power failure at night.

7. Emergency Medicines

A well-stocked medicine cabinet is as important as a first aid box which could be helpful to treat common illnesses.
  • Paracetamol: a pain and fever reliever which can reduce inflammation related to conditions like backaches and toothaches.
  • Aspirin: works as a pain reliever for adults and also helps during a heart attack. This drug is NOT recommended for children under 18.
  • Antihistamines (as per your physician’s recommendation): to treat hives, itching and allergic reactions from a wide range of causes.
  • Cough Suppressant and Flu Relief Medicines
  • Antacids: to relieve heartburn caused by stomach acidity
Important: Do not forget to clear your medicine cabinet of expired drugs. Always follow the dosage instructions as indicated on medicine’s label/leaflet. Keep all the medicines out of reach of children, preferably locked in a secure cabinet.

8. Medical History

Always keep a record of the medical history of all the family members. This is particularly more important for those patients who are regularly taking medications to treat or manage chronic health conditions. Medicines save lives but mixing drugs could be extremely dangerous. Whether it is a regular medical checkup or a visit to Emergency Room, always tell the physician about the patient’s medication history (including nutrition/vitamin supplements) so s/he could prescribe safer medicines with no harmful synergetic effects. This should be kept in a written form as it is easier to forget which drugs you or your family members have been taking lately.

9. Medical Insurance & Credit/Debit Cards

You should keep your medical insurance documents secure and easily accessible all the times. A visit to the hospital could be costly; you may need a lot of money to handle these medical emergencies. Your credit/debit card should also be secure but reachable at home.

10. Sufficient Cash

Although many superstores, fuel stations, hospitals and pharmacies offer cashless payments but cash is always more reliable in developing countries like Pakistan. Cashless payment systems and ATM points suffer the most during major disasters when the communication network is down and more people rush to the banks for cash. You can keep emergency cash in a secret safe vault at home.

Writer: Sultan Kiani


The challenge of this century

Climate change skeptics insist that nothing is happening, that global warming is a figment of diametrically opposed collective consciousnesses with those unsure either way swinging like squeaky pendulums between each camp and yet, if the staunch unbelievers bothered to tune in to nature, the undisputable evidence that ‘something’ is happening is there for all to see.  

None know more than meteorologists, farmers, horticulturalists, botanists, ornithologists and others living in harmony with the natural world that the pattern of nature, on which, ultimately, we all rely, is undergoing momentous disruptions and unpredictable fluctuations. These are severely impacting all that grows, whether in the wild or under cultivation, along with bird, butterfly, animal and insect species that depend on the bounty of plants for their very survival.
Home gardeners too, if they are completely ‘simpatico’ with the natural rhythm of the patch of ground they are lucky enough to call their own, will, over the past 10 years at least, have noticed distinct alterations in germination and growth habits of every single species they have under their care. What were once regarded as ‘tried and tested’ sowing and harvesting times for example, have altered dramatically and are no longer ‘stable’. Traditionally March sown seeds for instance can, due to an early rise in temperature, suddenly be sown in the middle of January one year but not until April the next with harvest times of fruit, vegetables and cereals wildly swinging too which badly affects preplanning for consecutive crops.
The custom of primarily relying on specific crops like interplanted corn, beans, cucumbers and pumpkins is no longer a reliable form of maximizing land use for subsistence level farmers in upland localities. As due to the vagaries of climate change, as in dryer or wetter condtions, their growing cycle is confused, resulting in the cucumbers and pumpkins rotting beneath a tangled, humid mass of rampant beans, which the corn also finds it hard to compete with.
An unusually dry spell during spring and early summer last year played havoc on germination rates of all varieties of spring sown plants. This dry spell, accompanied by ‘hair-dryer’ winds, also destroyed orchard crops in many areas of the country and, followed as it was by a depleted monsoon, any fruit which survived was of a small size and extremely poor quality. Citrus crops in the Punjab, particularly northern Punjab and the Islamabad area were a prime illustration of this point as grapefruits were only the size of oranges and oranges extremely small indeed. As the ‘failed’ monsoon moved in to history, drought conditions took over completely with some parts of the country, upland areas in particular, suffering badly for the following 5 months until the long dry was broken with heavy falls of snow. Approximately 18 feet of snow fell in Dir during one 36-hour period, the largest fall since 1962 and which played havoc with the natural as well as the human world.
The results of just over 3 feet of snow in less than 18 hours in the Murree hills was clearly noticeable as trees, of species usually taking much heavier falls of snow without any problem, had become extremely brittle during the long drought and therefore snapped under what was, for this area, a moderate rather than heavy snowfall. So the unpredictable, climatic pattern continues with people at a loss what to plant and when birds migrating at odd times and building nests too soon, foxes shedding winter coats just before it snowed then shivering for the duration and scorpions venturing out of hibernation at least two months early.
With natural patterns and cycles so totally out of kilter home gardeners, particularly those without any long-term experience, are being completely disillusioned. Dutifully following the sowing instructions on seed packets or listening to the advice of seed sellers/ nursery men or taken from books, they are increasing finding that even if their treasured seeds manage to germinate, they don’t perform as they are supposed to. This can result in such dire disillusionment that further attempts at cultivating anything are viewed as a complete waste of time and effort.
Admittedly, even horticultural experts are currently finding the going hard and personally speaking, massive crop losses last summer followed by the additional loss of winter and spring crops too, was both heartbreaking, disheartening plus hard on the pocket as expensive seeds now have to be purchased rather than harvested from the previous crop. But, finding ways around problematic growing conditions is the only way to move forward now, with working against increasingly adverse challenges offering an important learning curve for those of us willing to take on the task and then to disseminate the knowledge thus garnered. This is where, I seriously hope, all of you gardeners out there come in.
Rather than falling at the first hurdle, I would sincerely encourage you to try and work with our ‘evolving’ climate instead of against it. This basically means having the flexibility to sow seeds when you, (not the seed packet, the nursery man or the book indicates), feel that the time is right.  Keeping in mind that species requiring long daylight hours are unlikely to succeed during the shorter daylight hours of the winter months. Actually, consideration of daylight hours is an invaluable planting guide, which is, all too often, overlooked with attention only being given to ambient temperatures instead. Wild plant species and please do remember that all plant species are derived from wild ancestors, primarily respond to the length of daylight hours not to the fact that the temperature may or may not have increased by a few degrees and will pop up, even in adverse weather conditions, if their genetic programming tells them that the quality of daylight is suitable. Obviously different plant species have inherently different alarm clocks which is why asparagus wakes up during late winter whilst cherries blossom in spring, why sunflowers flourish during the long daylight hours of the summer months and hellebores in the short days of winter.
Climate change skeptics will immediately point out, quite correctly as it happens, that even ‘if’ something is going on, daylight hours have remained exactly the same so there must be a different reason for crop failures and there is although, frankly speaking, daylight hours seem to have lengthened rather quickly this year so much so that one wonders if the earth has shifted on its axis and no one wants to tell us!
Not wanting to cause any additional confusion let me clearly specify what I am getting at: Traditional planting times hinge on certain temperature ranges not on the length of daylight hours, as, historically speaking, different months demonstrate different temperature averages but these temperatures have changed. Therefore, planting by daylight hours instead of by temperature range could be a far more successful way of going about things as long as, and this is the other important factor, you are, irrespective of potentially long lasting, devastating droughts, able to provide your crops with the required amount of irrigation they need at any given time. Which means, in turn, being environmentally conscientious enough to recycle every single drop of household water possible for use in the garden along with harvesting any rainwater, even heavy dew, which happens to come along. Daylight hours and irrigation being far more important to crop survival than the ambient temperature range although, extreme temperatures, by which I mean the occurrence of unprecedented hot or cold spells will need to be catered for by utilizing some form of easily maneuverable protection.
The world of gardening, like the world itself, is somersaulting through changes we must, if we are to survive, be brave and determined enough to both tackle and, eventually overcome.
Writer: Zahrah Nasir
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