It never ceases to amaze just how incredibly thoughtless people can be when it comes right down to the bare basics of life that, ridiculously, those living above the poverty line, simply take for granted even, like right now, when the writing is on the wall.

Food security should, especially with the ever more visible effects of climate change, be uppermost in everyone’s minds, yet the indisputable fact that, unless across-the-board action is taken right now, there is unlikely to be enough food to go around appears to be beyond most people’s, let alone the governments, comprehension and the stark reality is unlikely to hit home until the situation is way out of immediate control.

All one has to do to gain an understanding of how climate change is already impacting the agricultural backbone of Pakistan is to keep up with increasingly worrying reports of agricultural losses due to extreme weather events such as floods, drought, unseasonal rainfall and unexpected cold spells: such reports have surged over the last two or three years, but, as they do not make front page news and are more often relegated to short paragraphs tucked away amongst, to some, items of more popular interest, these ‘warnings’ are missed or selectively ignored by all, except members of the farming community itself as they are the ones to suffer first.

Reduction in income is always of serious concerns to farmers, but what is, in the long term, even more serious, is the reduction in the amount of fresh food available in the market. Under such conditions, prices obviously surge and whilst the salaried classes moan and groan and cough up, a massive percentage of the population - an estimated 65 percent of the population exist way below the poverty line and this figure is rapidly increasing - have no option, but to purchase even less than they already do and ease their hunger pangs any which way that they can.

That our own people suffer hunger and malnutrition is completely ignored by the population at large and it is still a cultural ‘norm’ to waste vast amounts of food for no reason other than, as at weddings, often already overweight, more commonly obese, have stuffed themselves to bursting point and simply cannot devour anymore so in the bin it goes. These selfsame people also, when possible, inhabit homes with gardens - the garden centrepiece usually being one of those criminally insane ‘lush green lawns’ surrounded by ornamental flower beds - where water usage is ridiculous and in which nothing edible is ever produced and this, if the country and those living in it, are to survive, is just one of the many things which must change.

The primary challenge, however, is one of attitude: People need to understand that they and they alone, are totally responsible for their own personal survival and that no one, when the chips are down, is going to help them aside from, maybe, tossing them a few well intentioned scraps once in a while.

Advertising, in all of its numerous - sometimes devious - forms does not promote survival, but rabidly encourages the exact opposite: spend, spend, use plastic money, get in debt and tomorrow will take care of itself being the destructive mantra actively force fed to all and sundry on each and every possible occasion and this mantra is swallowed, hook, line and sinker by almost all. Thinking before gobbling up the blatant falsities of life is not, unfortunately, in fashion!

Understanding that personal survival is a personal issue might, this is in no way guaranteed the current mindset being what it is, encourage a few people to wise up and act, but, as the majority will still stubbornly refuse to accept that all is not as they perceive, it is going to take a massive effort - on ‘someone’s’ part to kick-start them into collective action.

Getting an entire nation to accept that it must, for example, take at least a share in the responsibility of feeding itself should, naturally, be a government issue, but, as with all governments unless in an actual open war situation, it, the government, is not about to stand up in public and issue the kind of dire warning that is currently needed as, if it does, this is tantamount to admitting that, as per usual, it is not doing its job.

It is up to the people themselves to wake up…....or to be woken up by the tiny percentage of the population, who do have some basic understanding of where the current scenario is leading which is, like it or not, to dire straits in the water and food department which, in turn, lead to increased societal unrest and lawlessness.

Crime is already on the upsurge in this disintegrating land where, or so it appears, absolutely no one is safe anymore and once the ever present spectre of real hunger affects, as it will in time, say at least 90 percent of the population then all hell will most certainly be let lose. Growing food at home, instead of depending on a limping along agricultural community, is, make no bones about it, the need of the hour.

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban. Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com