Climate Change Catastrophe on Health and Habitats

25 May, 2022

There is a growing need to adopt a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that aim to “Transform the World”. Change comes with collective effort, mutual understanding and knowledge toward specific goals. 


Despite the UN and other international organisations making crucial decisions, the result is far from expected. It made me wonder what it is that we are falling short on? Is it the lack of interest or lack of awareness? 


That’s when I had a eureka moment, and it suddenly started to make all sense. Many people don’t know the complicated terms and references that are used when we talk about sustainability. The idea inspired me to create a new series called “The ABCs of Sustainability Development”. I hope that this series of blogs is well received and serves its purpose. Following the history of what caused climate deterioration and how it has been affecting our health and living, this week I want to share an incident close to me.



Bells for climate change, unfortunately, only ring after a scalable crisis or when there’s an excessive loss of land, habitat and life. Last month I found myself visiting my home country, South Africa. It was a visit that turned out to be a nightmare as well as an eye-opener. If you haven’t heard, a storm delivered an entire year of rainfall within 48 hours! The most affected region was KwaZulu Natal. Locals described it as constant “sheets of water” pouring down. A Guardian report estimated the death toll to be around 450 people but I can assure you that’s a gravely underestimated number.


As the rains washed communities away and wiped out bridges, ports, roads and entire houses, thousands became homeless. Across Durban, people remain without any source of drinking water and experts fear outbreaks of infectious diseases, strong enough to cause an epidemic. This was the first disaster I witnessed first-hand, and one that shook me to my core. All of what South Africa witnessed is directly linked to rampant deforestation and global industrialisation.


Recently at Umdloti, sugarcane fields and natural woodlands were cleared to make space for construction which left the red sand loose. Last month when the surface water level rose, the entire development collapsed from the top of the hill. Here are some pictures from the site:


Near the road leading to the port of Durban, one of the busiest in Africa, the swollen river washed mud and debris onto the roads, as well as threw up shipment containers from a nearby warehouse onto the streets. Throughout eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban and many surrounding suburbs, apocalyptic scenes were on display, reported New York Times. In Inanda, a short drive north of Durban, a collapsed bridge dented a curved road to leave a gap as large as a football field with a drop-off of hundreds of feet. 


Who is to blame?


The causation of the storm, landslide and floods have largely been credited to the poor drainage and infrastructure across Durban, but as critics have pointed out that the three-fold increase in rain showers is not a regular occurrence. In fact, it should raise alarms about the climate change crisis. While announcing a national disaster recovery plan for the devastated area, South Africa’s president, pledged to reduce emissions and invest in climate adaptation measures to better protect vulnerable areas but on a larger scale, it goes beyond the responsibility of the third world. 


Rapid development and first world industrialisation have led to direct loss of habitat and health globally. Tightly packed spaces, poor management and incessant and unsupervised urban development has changed the way we look at habitats. It took a pandemic for the global ethos to recognise how health and habitats are tied up. COVID-19 took the world by storm and if anything, it is strong enough to make organisations work towards conservation.


According to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, failure to limit gas emissions over the next eight years will bring the global temperatures to the highest by 2030 bringing “extreme events unprecedented in the observational record”. It is predicted that the excruciating heat will force mass populations into a spree of global migration, making the cost of living skyrocket. Crop failures, reoccurring natural disasters and shortage of food supplies will contribute to political and social instability worldwide.


As far as warming goes, India’s capital touched 49°C, one of the highest summer temperatures in seven decades. Predictions are turning into a reality and it shouldn’t take a body to alarm the world. While individuals play a role in the global climate crisis, corporations and governments are the biggest players involved right now.


Innovations in the Sector


Interestingly, innovations in all industries are coming forward with creative ways to curb climate change. Dyson recently announced a creative concept, launching their Zone air-purifying Bluetooth headphones with a visor. The wearable device essentially builds the firm’s air purification expertise into a set of noise-cancelling headphones targeted towards an urban audience that wishes to avoid air pollution.


Here is a snippet from a Guardian report: 


It delivers purified air to the mouth and nose while simultaneously tackling noise pollution through its active noise cancelling technology. The air is drawn through the filters cleaning it of 99% of particles as small as 0.1 microns, including pollen, bacteria and dust, as well as gas pollutants such as sulphur or nitrogen dioxide. The filtered air is then pushed along the inside of a visor, which sits just in front of the mouth and nose without making contact with the skin, creating a pocket of clean air for the wearer to breathe.


When it comes to institutional backing, Tyneside council is currently debating a toll on traffic that will enter the outlined Clean Air Zone from July. The area will likely circumference Newcastle City Centre, while the toll policies will target drivers of some high-polluting vehicles with heavy daily charges. As reported by ChronicleLive, “Lorries, buses and coaches that do not comply with emissions standards will have to pay £50 per day to drive into the city centre, while older vans and taxis will be charged £12.50 per day. All private cars will be exempt.”


While citizens remained concerned about the direct impact on residents and businesses, awareness and action now only come down upon us as a directive to save the planet. I sincerely hope these alarming bells catch global attention and all layers of society push towards conservation and restoration of our climate.


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