We are like frogs in boiling water: Author Amitav Ghosh on climate change (IANS interview)

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) The much-touted Paris climate conference is only about business and not about addressing environmental degradation, noted author Amitav Ghosh says, adding that these very businesses had created the present scenario.

“It’s important that so many countries together believe that climate change is human induced. But what COP-21 does is creating the circumstances where people can make money. It’s basically a new way of making business opportunities without recognizing that those businesses had bought us into the present situation,” Ghosh, whose latest work is “The Great Derangement, Climate Change and the Unthinkable”, told IANS in an interview.

He went a step further by taking on the international leadership on the issue.

US President Barack Obama “talks about climate change and at the same time he has opened up areas for off-shore drilling. He has stopped just one project under pressure from environmental groups. He hasn’t really oppose fracking. What we see is a global failure (to act),” Ghosh maintained.

“The world is facing many and very critical problems which will grow exponentially. It worries me and should worry those who have children. What is this world that we are leaving for them, where every thing is being used up and nothing remains?” Ghosh said.

“We know how climate-induced migration has shaken Europe to its core, and it has started in our country with drought. We are facing a planetary crisis and somehow, strangely, it doesn’t seem to have affected the people’s minds; they are unaware. This is something that worries him a lot.”

Surprised that the authors, filmmakers, thinkers and journalists have failed to do justice in dealing with this crisis, Ghosh asserted: “No one is thinking at all. I visited a media headquarters and interacted with young journalists about this severe heat wave in north India that left many dead. I ask them how many stories they wrote on the issue and they said nothing.”

This is one of the major reasons, he says, that he wrote this book, hoping that it would serve the cause by bringing environment into the public conversation.

“It’s like we are the frogs in boiling water which keep looking around but doesn’t recognise that the water is boiling,” he said.

Annoyed by the “don’t give a damn” attitude of India’s “myopic” political class, Ghosh expressed the view that in most policy matters, the present government is just a continuation of the previous dispensation.

“This year, due to this extreme drought, thousands of farmers committed suicide and more left Bundelkhand to live under the flyovers of Delhi. There was just one discussion in the Lok Sabha on it and only a few members (80/545) showed up. Now what would you make of our political class? It’s like they had completely lost sight of what is fundamentally the most important issue for the Indians. They did nothing,” he contended.

“If you think of our history, the first job of any rulers in India was always to look after the water — they built tanks and canals. But now we are in a situation where our political class doesn’t care about these things,” he added.

Ghosh, in his book, also addresses the issue of insatiable cravings and limitless consumption — a major contributor to climate change — warning that the entire human race could even cease to exist.

“Its certainly perfectly possible to have a smaller carbon footprint. But that’s not what we are thinking about. We are thinking of consuming more and more and more.

“Banks are pushing money at you, so that you buy a new car. I don’t want a new car, but every time I turn on my computer they want me to apply for a loan. It’s complete madness,” Ghosh rued.

“We have created a machine that is driving us towards destruction and no one is able to change the direction. That’s the sad reality.”

Even so, Ghosh thought there was a sliver of hope but quickly qualified this.

Referring to the “Laudato si” of Pope Francis, Ghosh hoped theology could be an answer to a much required awakening, but added: “Unlike the COP-21 which was just technicality and jargon, the Pope has certainly done it, but what about other religions? If you look at the people who are spokesmen of Hinduism, most of them are actually the salesmen of something.”

“Unfortunately, the reality is that we will pay the price,” he added.

Why so? Because Ghosh’s new book brings to mind a homily: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

(Kushagra Dixit can be reached at kushagra.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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