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How Dare You?

This is the clarion call climate activist Greta Thunberg gave reading from a piece of paper while speaking at UN Convention on Climate Change. She accused the world leaders of inaction to combat climate change. She made an emotional pitch condemning world leaders for taking away the childhood of her generation.

Apart from her emotional appeal to the audience, she pointed out that a lack of political consensus among governments across the world has put the world at the brink of a mass extinction and accused them of being myopic in pursuit of economic growth.

But I would like to turn the tables on Thunberg and ask her the same question “How Dare You?”

During her UN sojourn, a video of Thunberg addressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi popped up online via Brut media. She accused the Indian PM of inaction on combating climate change and proclaimed history would judge him as one of the greatest villains to walk the Earth. I feel the criticism coming his way on the subject of climate change is not justified.

This post is my rebuttal to her vlog addressing the Indian leadership.

Instead of elucidating the list of measures and reforms taken by the Indian government as Twitter users have taken up the responsibility to put the facts in public domain, I would like to point out the hypocrisy of the western lifestyle. The countries labeled as ‘developed nations’ try to school the rest of the world while their contribution to the ecological footprint way higher than the developing and emerging economies.

Karolina Goswami who hosts the popular youtube channel India in Details in a recent vlog after Thunberg’s UN speech spoke at length on the ecological footprint created by the hyped ideal western lifestyle. Citing a 2016 WWF study titled the ‘WWF Living Planet Report’ which criticized Sweden, a Scandinavian country acknowledged for environment friendly practices, for its unsustainable consumption of the planet’s resources.

Be it the American dream of the 60s or the glitz of the ideal western lifestyle promoted aggressively across the globe with a great deal of PR has mocked the native practices and tried to get the world to conform to the ideals and practices that propagate this ideology.

To give an example, I would like to talk about toothpastes. Before the Indian market was flooded with a wide variety of FMCG products, the morning ritual of cleaning the teeth was done using neem twigs and dental powders containing salt. These practices were mocked by Western conglomerates as primitive and introduced the Indian consumer to chemical heavy toothpastes. In what has come a full circle, the same companies such as Colgate and Pepsodent are now advertising the availability salt, lemon and other herbal ingredients in their dental products.

A study by’ Global Footprint Network’ quoted in the same vlog quantified the damage wrought by the Swedes with their lifestyle in terms of ecological footprint stating that a planet approximately 4.2 times the size of Earth would be required to sustain their lifestyle. It also has statistics of America which are more alarming than Sweden. While the same study shows the ecological footprint generated by living the lifestyle of an average is more sustainable and would require a planet only six-tenths the size of Earth.

What can we infer from this?

The waste generated by an average American or European is many times more than the waste generated by an average Indian. Most of the countries situated in the South Asia and South-East Asia generate less waste compared to the Western counterparts. But they are more polluted countries in the world. You might wonder why is it so.

Because the garbage and the e-waste generated in the developed Western countries, who do not want the litter to tar their pristine cities, is sent abroad. The destination for the tonnes of waste that is shipped across seas are countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and India. This waste is dumped in landfills around the country adding to the challenge of tackling climate change.

There is another facet which is seldom talked about in discussions on climate change. In a bid to change lifestyles and food habits, there is an appropriation of culture that is taking place. Traditional Indian medicinal recipes such as turmeric milk are being offered as vegan options with health benefits in bistros and outlets like Starbucks. The plantain leaf on which food is served during traditional gatherings is being sold under the names organic plates by a German startup Leaf Republic which found itself in a IPR controversy claiming to have invented it.

Traditional Indian practices and traditional knowledge which were primarily based on eco-friendly and sustainable are now being adopted over the world to lead a more healthy lifestyle. It is an acknowledgement of the Indian ethos of living a lifestyle that is in harmony with nature.

Leaving the past aside, even in the present India is tackling the scourge of climate change in a decisive manner on both domestic and international fronts. From promoting international alliances of renewable energy and disaster management to changing the way the plastic is used in the country, from improving sanitation to helping people healthier lives India has taken a slew of measures to leave a better and greener planet for the future generations.

Now, based on these facts let us determine citizens and governments of which countries need to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle. But Greta Thunberg is busy schooling countries which are spearheading the battle against climate change without the knowledge of the activities that are taking shape in the country.

So I turn back her argument on her and again ask her ‘How Dare You?’

How dare you call the representative of a nation who has been leading the fight against climate change, a villain, without getting your facts right?

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