Monday, July 20, 2020

What is at stake when an Arctic town hit record high temperature

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Mountain in Altai Republic, Siberia, Russian Federation | Source: Konstantin Dyadyun via Unsplash

The Russian Arctic region of Siberia has front row tickets to an approaching climate change rollercoaster ride as it experiences soaring temperatures.

The mercury climbed to 38⁰C (100.4F) in Verkhoyansk, Siberia in June 2020 creating the new record of highest temperature in the arctic region and beating Fort Yukon, Alaska, which recorded 37.8⁰C in June 1915. The forecast for the coming weeks was also a whopping 10⁰C higher than last year. This region is also known for experiencing the coldest temperatures, reaching as low as minus 60⁰C during winters.

Concerned scientists claim that the Arctic is heating with double the speed of global average. “Such heat-waves aren't necessarily new to Siberia, but that climate change is increasing their severity and length,” says Sergei Semyonov of the Yu. A. Izrael Institute of Global Climate and Ecology in Moscow.

The heat waves are occurring due to a ‘heat dome’ effect in the Arctic region. This phenomenon happens when the Air is pushed and compressed, creating a very high mass of air into one location. This heavy air prevents clouds from forming, keeping the weather sunny, and pushes warm temperatures down to the surface which creates a virtual dome in which heat is trapped for a long duration.

This has led to devastating consequences for the environment of the arctic region. The forest areas of Sakha Republic, Russian Federation are witnessing rampant Wildfires. In Siberia, a major diesel oil spill incident happened due to the melting of Permafrost and caused contamination in the Ambarnaya River.

Permafrost serves as a foundation for almost the entire Northern Hemisphere’s landmass and is also responsible for trapping twice the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere. This is a cause of concern, not only for the Arctic, but for the entire globe as it would amount to release of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Global warming is further fuelling the increase in temperatures of the frigid regions. May 2020 was reportedly the warmest month, according to the climate report of Copernicus Climate Change Service. As a result, snow in these areas melted earlier than it was supposed to. In 2012 as well, around 97% of the ice sheets in Greenland turned to slush due to extensive warming and in 2016, the warm climate in Norway resulted in rainfall instead of snowfall.

From these observations, it would be fitting to state that our planet is undergoing ‘Polar Amplification’, meaning, quicker warming of the poles. Snow cover helps in reflecting the sunlight back in the atmosphere. However, with the gradual warming of Earth, the amount of snow is declining and more heat is being captured instead of being reflected. Melting of snow and icy bodies contributes to sea level rise, increasing the probability of floods in low lying coastal areas.

These events are indicative of the degrading health of our planet which to a large extent are caused by our reckless actions. If we persist with business as usual, the survival of the human race may be as endangered as that of the Siberian tigers.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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