Environment Critical Digest: 19.12.11

Written by  //  December 20, 2011  //  Critical Digest, Economic & Social Policy  //  Comments Off on Environment Critical Digest: 19.12.11

1. Jayanthi Natarajan at Durban

Do you care about the grandchildren of the Indian representative at the latest climate change summit? As it turns out, several do. Jayanthi Natarajan, Environment Minister got a standing ovation for her defense of India’s right to grow at Durban’ s summit, in a speech that blended personal with per capita income. Responding to Canada shunning the Kyoto Protocol, Natarajan did not shy away from making India’s position on Canada clear: ‘’I was astonished and disturbed by the comments of my colleague from Canada who was pointing at us as to why we are against the roadmap. I am disturbed to find that a legally binding protocol to the Convention, negotiated just 14 years ago is now being junked in a cavalier manner. Countries which had signed and ratified it are walking away without even a polite goodbye. And yet, pointing at others,’’ she said. The speech was capped with a suitably personal note: ‘’I too raise my voice for urgency. Climate Change is the most pressing and urgent problem for us. I too have a grandson, the son of my son. Climate Change affects us too,’’ she said.

[Image: Chris Maddens]

The Durban Summit, while not a clincher in itself, is important when seen in the sequence of climate summits—and their achievements—since the epically-hyped Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. Interventions championed prominently by India and China have contributed to the Kyoto Protocol being kept alive, despite countries like Canada. Arguably, this life is one in solid deep freeze- so far, the second commitment period for the Kyoto has been agreed upon, to commence from 2013-2017. But what action will really commence? Durban promises a roadmap for all, from 2015 onwards, to be implemented from 2020. Will countries, especially industrialised (annexe 1 countries) commit to serious mitigation action between 2013 and 2020? That’s a real question, which the brackets of international convention draft texts cannot answer.

Predictably though, opinion is divided on who is the villain, the show-stealer, and the antagonist of the piece. In a previous post, I argued that words thrown about in international climate negotiations thrive much on (intentionally) benevolent ambiguity.  Equity is such a word. In a strongly worded analysis of the Durban summit, Sunita Narain postulates how equity for India has become a bad word for rich countries. This a whole universe away from what Chris Huhne, UK Energy and Climate Secretary, suggests be the space for a developing country. Scathingly, he suggests doing away with the concept of a fragile developing country, in perhaps the same way activists like Narain are asking the developed country bloc (including truants like Canada, and as an extension, US and Japan) to discard the developed-country-outraged-at-inaction-from-the developing –world mantle. On the promoted perception of India being a deal-breaker, Natarajan remarked at a Plenary session in Durban: ‘’Many people have come told me to drop ‘legal outcome’ and have blamed India for insisting on ‘legal outcome,’ I was told this would affect the outcome process. India is not intimidated by threats. But what is this legal instrument? How do I give a blank cheque signing away the livelihood rights of 1.2 billion members of our population?’’

2. DOW withdraws sponsorship from London Olympic Stadium Wrap

Arguably, concerns over climate change have contributed most to a sense of global environmental citizenship, wherein people from different necks of the wood feel moral outrage over environmental issues that may not directly affect their spatial location. This activism is marked by a strongly felt environmental consciousness- the Lion King’s Circle of Life Analogy- but also indignation bordering on issues of justice. It was a pleasant surprise when India took a strong stand against Dow Chemicals sponsoring the London Chemicals. This wasn’t just a tepid case, like that of MEA responding sheepishly to a racial discrimination case of a Bollywood export cheap jordans from china, Shilpa Shetty—this was India garnering the courage, and a certain constructed integrity, to pull out of the Olympics if its reservations were not taken seriously. This time around, what is warming is the broad support of India’s position by international press. The Telegraph, for instance, made its feelings on Dow being a sponsor clear by going so far as to publish names of celebrities who signed a petition against Dow. Successfully, as the sponsorship has been withdrawn.

3. Greenpeace for the Win

And it certainly has been a fortnight of petition wins. Greenpeace secured a win when their campaign on ‘dirty data’ got Facebook to agree to ‘unfriend coal’. Facebook has now agreed to power its data centres with renewable energy.

4. Targeting Tigers

No such luck for tigers. This is another issue with globally felt citizenship, and as a result, ownership. But even as more donors pledge money for saving wild tigers, tigers are being killed- wined, dined, and shot-with impunity.

This piece on an open auction of illegal tiger wine is a certain kind of journalism, a fairly Western gaze on the exotic spectacle at hand. But each time you read a story like this, let yourself be outraged. Outraged because you feel the sense of familiarity, of having heard vaguely of dead tigers being more coveted than live ones. Outrage that an animal known for its insouciant, iridescent beauty, becomes a glass of timepass despite the existence of domestic and international law. And be outraged again, because India isn’t doing that much better. For instance, what is to be done with a tiger you believe is a trouble-maker? Empty not one, but 15 bullets in it.

5. A Snake for a Bribe

On a less deadly note, this fortnight has seen crime-fighting straight out of the Nagraj comics. A disgruntled snake-conservationist emptied a basket of cobras and other assorted snakes in an Uttar Pradesh office, when an official asked for a bribe. Bribe-taking mortals, beware. Read Khushwant Singh’s take on this.

One for the Road:

[Image: The Telegraph]

And finally, here is the mother of what could possibly be the origin of creepy-crawly. A huge critter, considered the world’s largest sized insect, has been found in New Zealand. This lady insect can eat carrots, so it is obviously the size of a bunny. Insect conservation roadblocks better take note!

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