I Have Come Back From The SERVIR Himalaya Youth Forum On Climate Change In Islamabad As A ‘Tree-hugger’- Something Very Different From The Lackadaisical, Ignorant Individual I Was Before.

December 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm (Uncategorized)

‘Tree-huggers’. What a term. It is the hostile slur some people use to label their fellow humans who love the environment and its denizens, and who want to protect both from harm. They are the very same selfless people who care about the generations that are to come after them– to such an extent that they are willing to sacrifice their own desires and comforts, in order to make the Earth more welcoming and safer to survive in for their children.

I ask you an intimate question- a question that pertains to your soul- how can you leave all those lights on, all those taps running when you’re not using them? How can you collect all those plastic bags from the grocery and various marts you shop in, only to dump them in that obscure side of your kitchen and to never use again?

The cumulative effect of every human’s careless behavior is death and destruction– I am not only referring to the trees, but to your own brothershumans.

‘As many as 12 million people have been affected by the torrential rains and floods and about 1,300 people have died due to flooding caused during July/August 2010 in Pakistan. A total of 650,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed and up to 500,000 people are homeless in the Punjab province. At least 1.4 million acres of farmland were destroyed in the province, where people rely heavily on agriculture for food. Most parts of the downstream (one of the largest irrigated river basins in the world) which ensure the country’s food supply and 23 percent of GDP were devastated by the flooding. Eighty percent of water that feed this basin is provided by seasonal snow and ice melt in the Hindu Kush Himalaya Mountain in the upstream’ (ICIMOD, SERVIR Himalaya Youth Forum Training Manual).

Being a part of this cycle– being both a culprit and a victim in this cycle– is a tragic irony  that every other person experiences. We are also responsible for the lives lost, for the houses damaged, for every person affected by floods and hurricanes who couldn’t have their daily bread because we are part of this cycle.

ICIMOD in collaboration with Suparco, Lead, and the Institute of Space and Technology (Islamabad), organized an event for 30 youth from different regions in Pakistan and from different professions to educate them on climate change, technological techniques used to calculate and analyze the extent and nature of the damage due to climate change, and how to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

I had the honour of being a participant in this event, and got to meet young people like me who were from various fields and organizations- Engineering, Social Sciences, Medicine, Earth sciences, Information Technology, Geology, Geography, GIS and RS, Forestry, WWF, NGOs, Arts and Environmental Sciences. It was a pleasure to meet such passionate people and to participate in their engaging, intellectual discussions. It was a pleasure to learn with (and from) them, to have fun with them, and to see how they didn’t want their ambitions to just end with the forum; but were enthusiastic about using our different fields and contacts and keeping in touch to pursue climate change mitigation and adaptation together.

We had a brainstorming session at the end of the Forum (the fourth day), about what we are going to do for the Earth when we go back home, and how we are going to make use of the skills we learnt in all those four days- and who we are going to influence.

During this discussion, a close friend of mine who studies medicine with me in the same medical school, mentioned how the people in Pakistan probably wouldn’t give a darn about doing anything for the environment unless we offered them something that directly interests them (mercenary motivation).

Our teacher who belongs to the Netherlands, Mr. Sebastian Wesselman, asked whether a flood wasn’t enough to directly interest and affect the people of Pakistan. I felt ashamed to tell him that no, on the contrary, it was not enough. People like me who are becoming doctors and who come from families who can buy themselves out of the disaster would be like: ‘I can’t be arsed, let the tree-huggers do something about it’.

It was a shameful thing to admit, but it was the truth. It is the truth that when I came back home, I spoke to a sort of close friend (a confidante) about my passion and about the event- only to see her looking at me as if I was green in colour myself. She flat out told me to leave her alone and that she didn’t care about the environment; and with a laugh she actually had the soul to say ‘why should I care about the environment?’

That kind of reaction obviously pissed me off tremendously, because it made my misanthropic side come out again just when I had tried to kill it with optimism. I wanted to- and still want to– believe that I can pass on the glorious message about saving all the living creatures on this world by saving their home: the Earth. I want green to be the new black. I want being green to be a modus vivendi and something to be proud about.

I thank ICIMOD- the MENRIS division in particular, for organizing such a professional, inspirational and honest event that has changed my life. I thank Mr. Sebastian Wesellman, Mr. Faisal Mu’een, Mr. Govinda Joshi, Mr. Hammad Gilani, and Mr. Him Lal for teaching me all those awesome GIS and remote sensing skills. I don’t want to merely show them off, but I want to introduce them to the field of Public Health in Pakistan. I thank the Institute of Space and technology for providing us with a venue to learn and for being extremely hospitable to their guests. I thank my young friends- the participants- for their excitement about the Earth and because I learnt a lot from them. I thank them all for the academically truthful conference that I was blessed to attend, and I end with the Powerful Words of Allaah- Who lovingly Created our Earth for us:

‘’O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous – [He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him].’’

(Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verses 21 and 22).



  1. khurshid jan said,

    wonderful articulation so nice of you…

  2. kaarbeenjo said,

    Very well written. I’m glad you have started feeling for the people of this country and will try and bring a change in our attitude towards our environment InshaAllah.

    • Mendaxxx said,

      Thank you very much! I hope you will be a helping hand, too, insha Allaah.

  3. Miss Serotonin said,

    This is absolutely brilliant!

  4. Mendaxxx said,

    Thank you, Miss Serotonin!

  5. Kyoto said,

    I’m glad someone cares for the environment 😛

    • Mendaxxx said,

      Haha 😀 I love the name you’ve used btw 😉

  6. imran said,

    Brilliant writing. Hats off to u. Keep it up.

  7. Al Hittin said,

    It is quite disheartening to learn that people who care for the environment are termed as mere ‘tree-huggers’, while turning a blind eye to the disaster engulfing the planet we live in. But I think, this is the terrible situation of the day and age we live in, where people care little for anything.

    • Mendaxxx said,

      I agree with you strongly, especially about the last point that you made. This lack of concern for things that are significant to the well-being of humans is an epidemic and is seen in almost all fields of life.

      I don’t know what to expect from other people after some of my own friends laughed at my zeal for green.

  8. Maga Waga said,

    I’m glad you’ve finally found something of interest here in Pk =p

    • Mendaxxx said,

      There is an advantage and disadvantage associated with a newly-found ‘interest’.

      Advantage= I am intrigued, and that is a pleasant sensation.

      Disadvantage= People who are not similarly intrigued piss me off.

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