On a recent trip to Kanpur, India I woke up in the morning to see a layer of smog covering everything as far as the eye could see. It indeed felt unethical to ignore this.
However, what struck me most about this all was the nonchalance with which the people conducted themselves. I wondered if it was ignorance, helpless acceptance, or pure denial? My best guess was that if you randomly picked someone from the streets of Kanpur and inquired about why such a dire state of climate did not bother them, chances are that you were equally likely to get any of the answers. Like all other social situations, the truth is somewhere in between the extremities. And from what I have heard from friends from other developing countries, the story is not too different.
Now, I only had a passing interest in climate change before this trip. In fact, if you ask him nicely, Mark Zuckerberg could dig out a very public post written by the 21-year old me stating that the climate change had nothing to do with man-made activities (silly, I know!). But, this trip made me think more deeply, both from a humanistic as well as from public finance and public policy perspective.
The ground reality is that an average human being is primarily interested with doing his daily job and securing his financial future, irrespective of the impact of his actions on the future of his environment. Whether it is ethical or not is a matter of conjecture and not the topic of my interest. But what I am interested in, is the alignment between the aspirations of global policies with those of billions of workaday people across the world. And at the moment, from what I have seen, read and heard, there is a massive disconnect between the two.
Something needs to be done about it.
All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and do not express the views of opinions of any of the organisations with which I may be associated.
His name is Ravinder. I met him while walking near my house in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, India. I got talking with him over a cup of tea, during which he told me about how, as a young man, he would engage in petty theft. He didn’t tell me if he was ever caught. All that I could see was this expression on his face after he told me about his past. Make of it what you may.