Whatever body of knowledge exists, there is always a group of people who oppose or deny its theories and findings. That is the way of the human being: to be as contrary as possible, often in a way that leads to more research and deeper understanding. Deniers serve quite a useful purpose, helping to improve methods of validation and to strengthen the basis of rational enquiry.
For example, with all the developments in allopathic medicine and surgery, there are those who vehemently deny its benefits and propound alternative medicine such as homoeopathy, unani, ayurveda, naturopathy, and non-surgical methods. All these alternative forms of medicine have their uses.
Some deniers are amusing: those who believe (in this era) in a flat earth, those who deny the possibility of space travel and who say that all the pictures from space are mere fakes. They will refuse to accept the evidence that exists as they have not personally witnessed it. (I am reminded of a student who once, to support another who was trying desperately to prove that the story of Adam and Eve was not a myth, said vehemently: I don’t have to believe that dinosaurs existed because I have not seen them!)
But some deniers are potentially dangerous: those who violently or forcefully impose their antediluvian beliefs on others; those who deny themselves and their family members medical intervention because of their beliefs; and those who deny global warming and climate change (the current American President is one of them and, going by interactions with students some time ago, the current Indian Prime Minister might be another).
Dangers of Deniers:
The last category of deniers are dangerous precisely because, in a world poised perilously on the tipping edge of disaster, they have the power to influence developmental agendas and economic policies in ways that could push Earth over the brink! Trump, the American President has famously been quoted as tweeting: “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” (6 December 2013); “Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!” (29 January 2014); “Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air – not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.” (29 Jan 2014) In an interaction with students, Modi, the Indian Prime Minister is said to have stated: “Climate has not changed. We have changed…our tolerance and habits have changed. If we change then God has built the system in such a way that it can balance on its own.” (5 September 2014) At the Sacred Heart University, Tokyo, Japan, he asked students: “Climate change – is this terminology correct? The reality is that in our family, some people are old. They say this time the weather is colder. And people’s ability to bear cold becomes less. We should also ask is this climate change or have we changed. We have battled against nature. We should love nature instead of fight it.” (1 September 2014)
As of now, Trump has pulled the USA from the COP21 Paris accord and is willing to rejoin it only with tweaks that protect America’s interests. Modi has verbally affirmed India’s commitment to the accord, but shows little signs of honouring that affirmation in reality.
The Reality of Climate Change:
India is fast becoming one of the world’s leaders in air, water, and land pollution. The lack of sincere monitoring, the swiftness with which permissions for building are given, the multitude of infrastructure projects that are proposed and passed, all indicate a governmental thrust towards capitalist development which, with a 1.3 billion population, only spells disaster for the environment and, indirectly, disaster for the people. This disaster will strike the poor and rural populace more harshly, making this development a prejudiced one, one that abrogates human rights. The rich and powerful will have the resources and potential to ward off the ill-effects of environmental damage; the poor will have no choice but to face them head on!
Already, in parts of the world, rising sea level is affecting marginal fisherfolk and coastal communities. Cyclone Okhi affected tens of thousands of Indian fisherfolk. Agricultural distress takes the lives and livelihoods of our farmers. Will the massive buildings and industries feed the mouths of the hungry? Will the air-conditioned luxury apartments of the rich shelter the poor in the increasingly sweltering summers? Will the bottled water suppliers quench the thirst of the arid land and its cultivators?
The massive body of evidence in favour of global warming and climate change cannot be ignored any longer by deniers – whoever they might be and whatever position they might hold. We, the citizens, have a right to demand that our leaders accept the evidence, live up to their responsibilities, and moderate development to enable the earth to regenerate and recover from centuries of abuse and neglect.
We owe it to ourselves, to those who provide us with food, and to the future.
Suren Abreu, Green Madcaps
[This article will be published in the February issue of the Prophetic Voice, the magazine of the CPCI, published in Bengaluru.]