Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let the climate change if it must

For the longest time, I didn't know what to think on this whole climate change business. It seemed very important and exciting but it was also rather hard to tell where the truth lay. As a concerned citizen, someone who cares for trees and animals and the planet, I was inclined to side with the environmentalists. I had seen the beautiful hills of Northeast India being decimated. I knew that the song of the pines could no longer be heard in the towns there. We had mosquitoes, and traffic jams, and it was warmer, so people had fans in shops and even houses. All this was new, and definitely not nice.
The thinking got a little complicated because I also figured that the things causing the pollution are things I, for one, am not prepared to live without. I need my electricity. If it comes from polluting thermal plants, which 70 per cent of it in India does, well, too bad. I'm not giving up on bijli because of pollution far away.
I also need my car and plane. I've done my time in buses and traveled the breadth of the country unreserved on trains. I can afford a flight now, so I will take it.
If this is how I feel, it seems rather mean to deny others like me the right to a better life. The half a billion or so people in this country who live without electricity can't be faulted if they too want it. The morality on cars and planes may be a little more complicated, but surely, if someone gets an education, finds a job, and buys a car or planet ticket from his own hard earned money, there's nothing wrong with it?
So let the climate change if it has to. Technology will hopefully find a way, like it always has, to keep us ahead of doomsday scenarios like Malthus'. It's a risk we really can't avoid.
We can, however, ponder two statements. Gandhi once said the earth has enough for every man's need, but not every man's greed. Some years ago, I asked Amartya Sen about his thought on this, and he said, no one can curb the desire of people for a better life.

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