Monday, February 15, 2010

The Politics of Environment

The economies of the world are in a dilemma. Population is growing at an unprecedented rate, which means energy requirements are also growing. To meet the needs of the growing population, non-renewable sources of energy have to be depleted. This depletion results in environmental pollution and cause climate change, which is tantamount to putting an axe to the branch on which we are sitting.

If the environment gets polluted, no more fresh mountain air, no more ocean cruises, no more ski holidays. So, what actions can the governments of the world take?

They can ration the use of fossil fuels, impose taxes on carbon emissions, etc. to ensure the balance of nature is not disrupted. As was clear from the deadlock that occurred at the Copenhagen Summit of 2009, all nations do not agree to this method of solving the problem. A reduction in energy usage cannot be demanded from a country, especially one that is standing on the verge of being labeled a ‘developed country’ or ‘developing country’, without affecting its economic growth. Demanding energy cuts from lesser developed countries can legally doom the millions living there to perpetual poverty. 

The Copenhagen Summit seems to highlight the flaws in the existing mechanisms for solving environmental problems. Post summit discussions are rife about the inadequacy of the Kyoto Protocol to contribute substantially to climate issues. However, there is no doubt such discussions have alerted at least the environmentally conscious people all over the globe.

Nowadays, one can hear such conversations between a customer and a salesperson in the local store, “is this labeled as environmentally safe?” Although it is true that ecolabels have become a sort of brand name of late, at least people are taking the time to find out if their goods are harmful to the environment. 

However, you can’t blame them if some experts demand new regulations be put in place of Carbon tax, Kyoto protocol and the like to combat the existing situation. The Copenhagen Summit showed the world how the national leaders fought for their vested political interests in the name of performing well for their country. It is enough to put anyone off of his or her belief in governments as a whole.

But if you thought everyone felt similarly and waited for the government or the local politicians to take up the matter, you thought wrong. There are thousands out there, common laypeople, who have started taking action. They have started harnessing clean energy from renewable resources to meet the needs of their households and small businesses (energy from the sun, wind, water and bio fuels are clean because they don’t cause pollution).

Remote villages in developing countries harness biogas from cow dung and household vegetable waste and use it for cooking instead of firewood. There are hundreds of websites that give you personal experiences and methods on how to build low-cost solar panels, solar cookers, wind turbines, etc. in your backyard. After all fight for the environment is a fight for all, even those sitting at home watching the ‘leaders’ battle it out.

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