Sunday, June 6, 2010

World Environment Day: Its all About Market, Stupid!

By Devinder Sharma - June 5th 2010

I don't have to remind you. You know it already. Today is the World Environment Day. Your newspaper has suddenly gone green. Some of them have even changed the colour of the headlines to green. Your TV channel is talking about those who made the difference. Many TV channels are digging out visual stuff from across the globe to show how much they care.

Schools and colleges have debates on the subject, and some even hold rallies. Most of the debates in the elite schools are being sponsored by USAID, DFID and the corporate houses. Political leaders will plant saplings. You will be told 'each-one-plant-one'. If you escape planting a sapling, some NGOs will catch you to tell you to go for rainwater harvesting.

How could you then have missed it?

Of course we cannot protect our planet without the support and collaboration from one and all. Prime Minister will appeal the nation to join the movement to protect environment. All through the year, the government brings in policies that unabashedly destroys the environment. But on this 'auspicious' day, they make a resolve to save the environment. Somehow I get an impression that the government thinks that its job is to plunder, and the task to save the environment is that of the people.

Not only the government, which operates through the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), but almost all official bodies and agencies do the same. The other day the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) organised a conference on biodiversity. At the fag end of the two-day conference they had a session on 'Role of farmers, NGOs, Civil Society in Biodiversity Conservation'. I was amused. To me it appears as if the task to save biodiversity is only that of the civil society and farmers. ICAR's job is to destroy biodiversity.

We launch programmes and project to create awareness about environment protection. The phrase they use is 'capacity building'. You will invariably see that the 'capacity building' exercise is always limited to the poor and marginalised. I wonder when will we begin 'capacity building' of bureaucrats, policy makers, politicians, journalists and the business and industrial leaders? The problem is not at the level of the ordinary citizen but among the people who matter. If the elite and the opinion leaders were to be sensitized, the economic and political discourse can change, and change for the better.

We are a great nation. All through the year we destroy the environment. In our misplaced emphasis on GDP, we plunder the natural resources. In the name of increasing crop yields we bring in technologies and products that sap the Earth and eventually kill farmers. In the name of development, we actually exploit, and exploit ruthlessly. In case you missed it, I draw your attention to one of my articles that I wrote when Tsunami struck India. Tsunami, Mangroves and Market Economy:

And then one day -- June 5 -- we want to give an impression as if everything has changed. The goalpost has shifted. As if we have learnt from our mistakes.

The next day, June 6, life is back as usual.

In many ways this is related to our religious thinking and attitude. Perhaps the nation's psyche is in many ways similar to what I see among the devout Hindus. All through their life they commit sin after sin (I am talking of most of them). We all know for instance we are a corrupt nation where every other man on the street is strikingly corrupt. Much of our economic growth is the outcome of corruption. The obscene wealth you see displayed during marriages is a reflection of how corrupt the family has been. We have no regret in even seeking bribe in the name of the dead. We have no guilt in even driving the people through our direct actions to even death.

We have no remorse. We know we can take a trip to the holy Ganges once in a year or so, take a dip and we will be free of our sins.

Mera Bharat Mahaan !

Why is that the world celebrates World Environment Day with such fervour? The answer is simple. The entire exercise is funded by companies engaged in selling green technologies. This is an opportunity for the $ 200 billion industry to showcase its hardware. No wonder, already leaders of the G-8 economies are talking of ushering in a Green Technology Revolution on the lines of Green Revolution. Therefore, the reason why your favourite newspapers have gone green for a day, your TV channel has suddenly become conscious of environment, your policy makers are talking green is simply because of the power of money and advertisement.

It's all about market, stupid !


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