(Cartoon courtesy: Sunita Narain)
As if to openly advertise the lie that with material wealth comes spiritual knowledge, an attempt is being made by those errant states to teach ethics to India - like the ethics of physical restraint taught by a chronic rapist. Fortunately, India's response to the vulgar requests made by the USA remains praiseworthy at the time of writing this article.
Reading about this whole issue, I learnt that the unquenchable thirst for material comfort of the developed nations of this world (the foremost among them being the United States of America) has finally started hitting back at them. That greed has so destroyed the world's environment by pumping so much Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the air that the resultant global warming is threatening to create worldwide floods, hurricanes, loss of rainwater, famines and other calamities which one can no longer describe as natural. In fact, a new term has been coined to describe it all: climate change.
Scientists agree that economic development is an exothermic process: apparently, nobody has devised a way of becoming richer or increasing one's material comfort without heating up the environment. If you made yourself happy today by increasing your material possessions, you have done your part in heating up the world. As an aside, while burning fossil fuels (or to be more clear, running all those gas-guzzling cars in the USA) is known to be the single most important reason for global warming, I wonder if the human feeling of happiness derived out of material possessions is itself exothermic in nature (not counting the increase in temperature due to environmental changes). It would be an interesting piece of scientific information which has important spiritual connotations. But I digress.
Since the greedy nations of this world have already dumped sufficient CO2 into the environment to make themselves hurriedly arrange for conferences such as Copenhagen early next month with no real persuasion from the rest of the world, I cannot but conclude that hidden in their environmental research labs must lie estimates of serious catastrophes looming large on their own countries very soon. I suspect that scientists in the USA have fine-grain estimates of which US cities will be hit by how many floods and hurricanes in the next century, and undeniable scientific evidence that global warming is at the root of all this. I have no doubt whatsoever that it's Adam Smith's invisible hand and not the milk of human kindness which is making US President Barack Obama make statements about the well-being of the entire world. The problem, of course, is that the action of the invisible hand got so delayed that it has become anathema to both parties - the developed and developing countries. Harsh truths learnt the hard way!
So in summary, it appears that the world can take only a finite amount of material progress, for there can only be a finite amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere without burning up the planet. The USAs of the world have already taken such a big share of this pie that there's not much room for developing countries like India to do their 'developing' - not if this developing is done using any known methods of developing - which involve heating up the planet!
In such a situation, what is the position taken by developed countries? In the words of Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi,
The US’ intentions are not good for the climate. It has proposed the following: first, it will not take international commitments, but follow a domestic legislation route. So, it will act on emission targets legislated nationally. Second, the amount it will cut is nowhere close to what is required of it. The global consensus is industrialized countries need to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 per cent over 1990 levels, to avert a 2C rise in temperature. But the US, after much fanfare on its Nobel-awarded president, has proposed a puny target of cutting 20 per cent over 2005 emission levels by 2020. This country’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 16 per cent between 1990 and 2005. Thus, it is saying it plans to do practically nothing but stabilize by 2020. Nothing to cut its gargantuan emission share—with some 5 per cent of the world’s people, it emits currently 18 per cent of global emissions. Forget, even, that this single country is responsible for 30 per cent of the global stock of emissions in the atmosphere. Criminal, when you think of the impact of climate change on the poor of the world.Fortunately, Jairam Ramesh, India's environment minister from Karnataka, is doing the right thing by putting his foot down on signing up for any legally binding emission cuts, although there have been some rumours about him yielding to pressure from the US. India should not yield to pressure from the US to cut down CO2 emissions. Actually, I'd like to see India take its famed role of the world's spiritual teacher at this time of need and pass on Sunita Narain's message that efficiency is useless if there's no sufficiency. This time India should take up its famed role, for those who have not the slightest authority are up to it now.
Third, this puny target includes a huge amount of emission credits it will ‘buy’ from developing countries as offsets. In sum, it will actually continue to increase its emissions till 2017, at the very least. Doubly criminal and deplorable. Finally, it has made it amply clear it will do this little bit only if China and India and other ‘polluting’ nations are with it in this grand cop-out plan.
I believe the following shlokas from the Bhagavadgita (3.14, 3.15) throw light on what needs to be done here. Contact me for further discussion on how these shlokas are applicable in this context - I do not wish to spend too much time on them in this article.
ಅನ್ನಾದ್ಭವನ್ತಿ ಭೂತಾನಿ ಪರ್ಜನ್ಯಾದನ್ನಸಮ್ಭವಃ |O Copenhagen! Will reason reign on the diplomats coming to thee to decide the future of this planet?
ಯಜ್ಞಾದ್ಭವತಿ ಪರ್ಜನ್ಯೋ ಯಜ್ಞಃ ಕರ್ಮ ಸಮುದ್ಭವಃ ||
ಕರ್ಮ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮೋದ್ಭವಂ ವಿದ್ಧಿ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಾಕ್ಷರಸಮುದ್ಭವಮ್ ||
ತಸ್ಮಾತ್ ಸರ್ವಗತಂ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮ ನಿತ್ಯಂ ಯಜ್ಞೇ ಪ್ರತಿಷ್ಠಿತಮ್ ||
From food emerge the beings, and from rain food |
From yagna emerges rain, and yagna from karma ||
Karma emerges from brahma, and brahma from akshara |
Thus the omnipresent brahma is forever found in yagna ||
For the confused few - a clarification on my use of Sanskrit
I can only pray for reason to dawn on those who are confused as to how I can quote a Sanskrit shloka and at the same time emphasize the need to reverse the trend to over-sanskritize Kannada. Sanskrit is good for what it is good for, not for what it isn't. Thus, I have no problem reading or quoting from Sanskrit texts where I need to, and simultaneously argue for removing Sanskrit's influence from where it doesn't belong - for example from Kannada grammar and in the indiscriminate coining of new Sanskrit words when it is both more sensible and easier to coin new Kannada words. And yes, the Tamils under the Dravidian Movement have erred by treating Sanskrit as untouchable. We should not make that mistake, of course. Sanskrit holds far too much wisdom for Kannadigas or anybody to ignore or reject.