When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Climate Change: We Can No Longer Wait For Politicians To Save The Planet

Another so-so summit on the climate, and another set of tepid, if not useless, commitments to curb emissions. If the governments can't get it together, the people must act on their own.

 A man walks past recycling bins next to the COP 20 conference center in Lima on Dec. 3
A man walks past recycling bins next to the COP 20 conference center in Lima on Dec. 3
Eduardo Barajas Sandoval


BOGOTA The history of global warming is often traced back to Thomas Newcomen"s invention of the steam engine in the early 18th century. He effectively initiated the ongoing race to burn coal on an industrial scale, which already had churned out one billion tons of smoke emissions by the early 20th century.

Warnings of the harmful effect of humanity's actions on the environment are hardly new. By the 19th century, there were observations on the principles and phenomena that could lead to generalized warming as a consequence of man's productive activities.

Discovering the uses of oil, beyond its medieval applications in war as Greek fire, would eventually lead to the car-emissions tsunami overwhelming us today. This fabulous instrument of mobility, which has helped individuals and groups travel what were formerly the most unlikely distances, has become a status symbol and vicious poisoner of the air, especially in cities where populations continue to grow.

Caught between these and many other agents of environmental damage, those of us aspiring to survive the avalanches of progress and disaster are shouting at governments and state actors to take decisive action that will mitigate this unprecedented change in climate around the world.

One might say that outside the economic realm, whose fine points and logic may well escape ordinary folk, or geopolitical and strategic considerations, global warming is easily perceived and felt. We really do not need sophisticated analytical models to establish its existence or provoke the reactions of citizens. Indeed, we may find that the biggest mistake will turn out to have been entrusting the whole issue to states at all.

Children forming the image of a tree, next to a sign reading ""The World We Want"" in Lima on Dec. 4 — Photo: ELuis Camacho/Xinhua/ZUMA

Don't call it a dream

The recent Lima climate conference, which fortunately ended with a consensus declaration, was the best example of how countries are unable to confront the problem with disinterested and universalist perspectives. The powerful nations tout themselves as pioneers of progress, innovation and development, barely agreeing to sign proposals they know perfectly well nobody will force them to implement. Lesser culprits that have greater interest in addressing climage change — and yet less to sacrifice — sign on with enthusiasm, but they know they lack the power to really make a difference. And they meanwhile give in to the temptation to protest the "injustice" of the onus and tasks required of them.

The climate convention planned for 2015, which is intended to help clarify some of the proposals that came out of Lima, doesn't look promising in terms of turning back the existing model of inequailty, abuse and impotence. At the risk of sounding utopian, it could be that the world's citizens will be the agents of political intervention, and not the officials governments themselves.

It's not simply about demanding that countries commit, and act on those commitments. It is also about individuals acting and fighting through the irrepressible force of collective action and intelligent use of non-violence to obtain appropriate environmental policies.

It is also about citizens adopting constructive habits and behavior in their daily lives, prompting the principal predators and their political and bureaucratic allies in governments to conclude that humanity prefers having fewer superfluous goods and breathing cleaner air. Progress should not be measured in the accumulation of goods, but in the recovery and preservation of the basic necessities of life — air, soil and water.

This citizen uprising could materialize through existing civil groups and organizations, with existing communication networks fomenting a global consensus about the balance between progress and sustainability. It is not just an act of responsibility toward future generations, but a matter of survival.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

food / travel

Inside The Search For Record-Breaking Sapphires In A Remote Indian Valley

A vast stretch of mountains in India's Padder Valley is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, which could change the fate of one of the poorest districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Photo of sapphire miners at work in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district

Sapphire mining in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district

Jehangir Ali

GULABGARH — Mohammad Abbas recalls with excitement the old days when he joined the hunt in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district to search the world’s most precious sapphires.

Kishtwar’s sapphire mines are hidden in the inaccessible mountains towering at an altitude of nearly 16,000 feet, around Sumchan and Bilakoth areas of Padder Valley in Machail – which is one of the most remote regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Up there, the weather is harsh and very unpredictable,” Abbas, a farmer, said. “One moment the high altitude sun is peeling off your skin and the next you could get frostbite. Many labourers couldn’t stand those tough conditions and fled.”

Abbas, 56, added with a smile: “But those who stayed earned their reward, too.”

A vast stretch of mountains in Padder Valley nestled along Kishtwar district’s border with Ladakh is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, according to one estimate. A 19.88-carat Kishtwar sapphire broke records in 2013 when it was sold for nearly $2.4 million.

In India, the price of sapphire with a velvety texture and true-blue peacock colour, which is found only in Kishtwar, can reach $6,000 per carat. The precious stone could change the socio-economic landscape of Kishtwar, which is one of the economically most underdeveloped districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest