In an interview after the catastrophic floods in Germany that led to over 150 deaths, a citizen said, “We thought this was something that happens only in the poor countries.” This reveals the mindset that has divided the international approach to climate change. Pretend as they might that solutions are being sought for one planet, most governments in the ‘developed’ world unconsciously behave that it is a problem faced only by the developing nations. As such, at the heart of the policies they formulate to combat global warming, the onus is on countries like India, China, Brazil, etc., to make the required changes. It is their belief that they have crossed the Rubicon in this regard. Naturally, because of the misplaced priorities, this approach has failed to make any real impact.
The world economy has developed in a manner over the past few decades that the polluting effects of ‘developed’ countries’ consumption has been transferred in many ways to the developing world. So, while they consume in seemingly sustainable and ‘clean’ ways, the dirty underbelly of the production process is in other countries. Large scale manufacturing has shifted to China. Non-biodegradable waste was being shipped till only recently to that country for ‘segregation’ and disposal. Their e-waste is wealth for Vietnam. The ship breaking yards have been in India. Having passed the cycle of thermal energy production into ‘cleaner’ technology, India is being pressured to give up the process before alternatives are properly established. The munitions exploding daily in many parts of the world are almost all manufactured in the ‘first world’.
The truth is that, while the third world may be hit first by the impact of climate change, by the time it reaches the developed countries it will very likely be irreversible. The heat wave in Canada that has also taken many lives does not seem to have registered; instead a magazine like The Economist has recently speculated on what would happen in Chennai should a heat wave strike. Again, evidence of the psychological inability to look at a problem unless it is in a third world context!
And, as is usually the case with single dimension faith practices, the environmental cause has become a means more of establishing moral superiority than actually a living practice. So, the fundamentalist and impractical approach of the Greta Thunberg types, which thrives more on social media than anywhere on the ground, has become a fad that proves one’s ‘wokeness’. God forbid that any effort is made to understand and learn from the all-embracing and reverential approach to nature that existed among evolved cultures of the past. Unless the attitude changes, nothing substantial will happen.