Read somewhere today, "earth doesn't belong to man, man belongs to the earth."

Nothing can put this relationship in a truer perspective than the statement above. Nothing can elaborate this eternal fact more specifically than this realisation that survival of mankind is possible only if the earth exists. The resources, the ecosystem and environment are all prerequisites for furtherance of life.

However, instead of realising our collective responsibility to maintain the natural characteristics of our only habitat, we are continuously trying to destroy it. Mustansar Hussain Tarrar remarked in one of his travelogues that if his children ever asked how the world looked like when God first made it, he’d refer them to Fairy Meadows, Gilgit-Baltistan, one of few regions in the world where effects of "development" haven't reached properly. It's ironic and sad that the number of such places is shrinking at an alarming pace. Even Gilgit-Baltistan region is losing its charm partly due to easy access, thanks to our all weather friend for constructing Karakorum highway, mainly for its trade use. This doesn’t mean development is bad, but unplanned and unsustainable development does ecosystem, and consequently its habitat – including human, more harm than good.

Post industrial era development has undoubtedly bore fruits for human race but it has come with a heavy price tag. Our obsession for luxury, consumerism and maintaining so called "lifestyle" has led us to destroy our environment and consume natural resources without planning for the future generations. Pakistan's oil consumption in 1980 was 104 thousand barrels per day; in 2012 it rose at 440.11 thousand barrels per day. The same increase was in the cordon emission by us, the price environment paid for our economic growth. This, ironically, is a perpetual payment, so our grandchildren and their grandchildren will keep on paying the price of the life we are enjoying today. They may, God forbid, also have to live in a lot grimmer an environment than what we have today.

The population of Pakistan was fraction less than 80 million in 1980, it stood at 179.2 million in 2012. The population bomb is by large the second biggest reason for the mayhem we are in process to nurture. More population means consumption of more resources, which are inversely proportional to the population growth. More population means requirement of more grain, vegetables, fruits, milk, livestock and seafood. The obsession to get higher yield from farms results in usage of hybrid or GMO (Genetically-modified) seeds. These seeds require more water and more fertilizers. This puts more pressure on already scarce water resources. These seeds not only damage soil but the excessive use of chemicals eventually mixes in the river water. In countries like Pakistan where water is supplied to household without processing/treatment, it results in increase in water borne diseases. Usage of these seeds has far reaching effects on our farmer's and national economy as well. Their use makes us dependent on handful of multinationals consequently handing them over our lifeline.

The population growth coupled with easy access to city centers compels villagers to migrate to cities for better opportunities. This migration increases the demand of housing facilities and translates into unplanned urbanisation. Just glance around every big city center and one will notice endless housing societies mushrooming like concrete jungles without respecting the natural environment and its importance for the population. Pakistan is blessed to have a full monsoon season which is nature's own way to freshen up our lands and compensates surface water deficiencies. But due to urbanisation, all the rain water goes directly to drains, which flow directly to our rivers. This puts pressure on our existence water ways and result in more flooding every year.

This tendency has also destroyed our flora and fauna. We no longer enjoy humming of countless birds in our backyards. Our "Sky views" are devoid of vultures hovering above. We don't see awe inspiring scenes of children running after dragon flies in our villages. Absence of these and countless other species has effectively destroyed natural ways of production.

These are but few facets of our irresponsible tendencies of handling Mother Nature. We are in January and there are neither the signs of celebrated winter rains nor a snowfall in Murree. If we continue to tread our path, we may very well end up making our lives miserable and the earth inhabitable for future generations. Someone has said, "The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard." Protecting environment and earth's sanctity for future generations is a sacrifice we can make, because today we are in control and the beginning is always today.

Ars Mustafa is an Islamabad-based social activist and freelance writer.