Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why India should not leave itself open to Geo-political blackmail

The West needs to decide whether India is a poor country whose plentiful eating is contributing to the global food crisis or a country whose fast-paced development is a threat to global warming. Statistics are thrown about at random, telling us Indians about our carbon footprint and what we ought to do, whilst it remains that the U.S. has the largest per capita carbon footprint, with a Hummer and gas-guzzling lifestyle topping the list of world polluters.

I just happened to read Bret Stephens’ article in the Wall Street Journal of August 4th, Global Warming and the Poor :Why India and China don’t care much about climate change.

He says,

"Roughly 75% of Indians—some 800 million people—live on $2 a day or less, adjusted for purchasing power parity.”

Now I wonder, where from he got his figure, whether he is not indulging in the same figure-hustling that Mr Kofi Annan’s report on climate-change induced disasters has been accused of, by disaster trends expert Roger Pielke Jr.

In India, where lifestyles are not technology driven but sustainable and simplistic, the purchasing power of a dolar is much more than elsewhere. This doesn’t mean the average Indian is poor as because he does not posses a washing machine or a car of his own. Rather, is indicative of a traditional sustainable culture, which advocates the use of muscle-power and bicycles. In other words, what the eco-elitists are resorting to today, in order to reduce individual carbon footprint the conscpicuous way, the Indians have been doing for long.

Mr Stephens further says,

"But what about all the pollution in India and particularly China?

It is beyond comprehension why India keeps getting clubbed with China,vis-à-vis pollution. Neither is India an “oppressive Third-World” country nor as eco-ignorant as is made out to be. India’s sustainable lifestyle are a part of its Vedic inheritance rooted in community participation. It maybe true that coal has been touted as one of the largest factors for emitting polution, but India is not alone in using coal-powered plants and technlogies. The entire Western world, including the U.S. is guilty, so it is unfair to corner India on this issue. At the same time, it is a fact that India is seriously turning to alternative and renewable sources of energy.

In Mr. Stephens' own words,

"China’s pollution problems are not a function of laissez-faire policies and rampant consumerism, but of the regime’s excessive lingering control of the economy”.

The problems assailing India are not all that weird, but perhaps beyond the comprehension of the Western media and policy-makers. For India is an absolute vote-bank politics driven nation, where no local governance would be foolish enough to indulge in banning a grossly carbon-intensive activity, if it meant jeopardizing the interests of their die-hard fans. Which is anyway, not much different from the American Oil-Coal lobbying, that has more of a global ramification than our Indian regional policy reforms or lack thereof.

However, the scene is fast changing at the macro level, going by the stance taken by Jairam Ramesh and Sathya Saran, refusing to kow-tow to the American demand of capping carbon emissions, whilst the West refuses to bear their ‘historic responisbility’.

Going by the sense of outrage in the Western media and political circles at India’s arrogance at rebuttal, it seems that U.S. is in for some nail-biting times in the face of its proposed Energy and Climate Change Bill.

India is a country, where large parts of the rural country enjoy carbon negative lifestyles. The practice of using the earthen kullar and leaf plates maybe perceived as indicators of poverty but actually speak of an ancient culture’s ‘cradle-to-cradle’ sustainable far-sighted way of life. This is a country where large sections of the popultaion have historically been vegetarians with minimum food miles.

In such a scenario, where India does not carry the burden of a high ecological rucksack, it is quite right that we do not succumb to external pressures that bind us. India has a 7600 km long coastline, a rich watershed of rivers and an abundance of sunlight for energy sources. So India shall be better off shifting to these renewable energy forms and using the natural resources judicioulsy, rather than commit to measures that would restrain the pace of development and perhaps leave her open to geo-political blackmail at a later stage.

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