Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why Copenhagen Failed--and our Winter Subscription Drive Continues!

Hey, we've been at this for more than fifty posts and three months now, and it's time to celebrate.  But before we get back to our Winter Subscription Drive (fun prizes are just down the page), here's a little substance.

Later in the week, we may talk a little more about how the talks at Copenhagen failed.  Today, we'll offer a few words about why they failed.  On Tuesday, our Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said this at a press conference after debate in the Rajya Sabha:
We have been successful in defending India’s national interests. I didn’t go to Copenhagen with the mandate of saving the world or humanity. My mandate was to defend India’s right to develop at a faster rate. For Western countries it is an environmental issue but for us, it is a development issue. --Mint, December 23, 2009

Unfortunately, in his rush to develop at any cost, Mr. Ramesh has missed one very important point: it is not possible to separate environmental issues from issues of economic development, for the simple reason that economic activity does not happen in textbooks or on the business pages of our newspapers; it is typically carried out by real people who live on a real planet.  And it just so happens that our small part of this real planet is under a great deal of (real) environmental stress right now! 

As a result of this unfortunate reality, development that is environmentally unsustainable cannot be sustained indefinitely. (Maybe Mr. Ramesh has taken our proposal to move India's food storage facilities to the moon a little too seriously. Oh dear, sir, that was a joke!)

Seriously and simply put,  any system will collapse if pushed beyond its limits, and if that system involves people, it is a good bet the results of that collapse will be brutal.  I suspect most world leaders know this, but so far very few have been willing to act on that knowledge.  That's why Copenhagen failed.

Mr. Ramesh's mandate may not include "saving the world or humanity," but he is our Minister of Environment. Can we not at least expect him to look out for us and the environment we depend on? I'm sorry, but from where I sit, a business-as-usual, India Inc.-approved approach is not going to cut it. That does not, of course, mean we should let the developed world off the hook!  They caused the problem in the first place, and we need to stand up to them, even if it affects our short-term bottom line. Unfortunately, political leaders the world over seem happy to put their own short term interests above all else.  They will give us nice-sounding words from time to time, but they aren't yet ready to take the risks we'll need to take to insure our long term survival.

OK, back to our subscription drive! 

If you are new to the Green Light Dhaba, take a minute to check out out our top dozen posts of 2009, at the bottom of this page. In addition to in-depth coverage of the anniversary  of the Bhopal disaster and the Copenhagen fiasco, you'll find all kinds of things you normally don't see on an environmental blog.  Schools, space flight, atomic bombs, and ceiling fans are just a few of the topics we've covered--always from an uncompromisingly green point of view.

Unlike a real world newspaper, we can't afford TV advertisements or posters at bus stops. We're doing well so far, but we know we can do better.  And without a lot of real readers, what's the point of working so hard to produce first-rate environmental writing? 

We do have one great advantage over other media: our subscriptions are free! And just for fun, we are offering some really great virtual prizes this week.  No, you won't get an ipod or even a coffee mug.  But we guarantee you won't be disappointed!  And really, what do you have to lose?

Here are our three levels of support and the prizes that correspond to each:

1.  Green Light Subscriber:
  • Subscribers subscribe to our feed through some kind of blog reading machine, like blogger, google reader or whatever.  You can grab a feed at the top left of our page or here.  There are probably other ways to do this, and we'll trust you to figure those out.  Once you've got our feed, you simply let us know you've done it so we can send you your prize! (Instructions below).
  •  The Subscriber Prize Package includes: links to three hilarious videos and one serious essay--all on the politics of food!   
2. Green Light Supporter:
  •  Supporters are people who not only subscribe to the Green Light Dhaba but they do something  to help us grow our readership.  This might include posting a link on Facebook or twitter; blogrolling us; or sending around a link to friends by email.  Being a supporter could also includes publicly following us through Google or Networked blogs (you can do that to the left of this post).  It's up to you how much you do!
  • The Supporter Prize Package includes everything in the subscriber package, plus links to two more hilarious videos that deal with important geopolitical and environmental issues. We'll also send links to a few poems that every green should read.
3.  Green Star Club!
  • Green Star Club members really go the extra mile.  This might include a shout out in a blog or magazine; it would also cover anyone who hung a banner from a flyover at rush hour.  Use your imagination if you want to get into this exclusive group. To get an idea of this might look like, you can take a look at what others have said about the Green Light Dhaba:  Verveonline;   Known TurfAnindita SenguptaBhagwad; PlasticGraduateYuva Magazine.  (There are more, but we haven't kept good track of links.) 
  • The Green Star Club Package includes everything everyone else gets, plus we will periodically publish your name in a list of other "Green Star Club members."  Upon request, we will also provide Green Star members one "mini-guest-post" (100-500 words) at their blog on a topic of their choosing (conditions apply). 
To claim your prize
To claim your prize, you just have to drop us a line by email ( ), by facebook, or in the comment section telling us what you've done.  We'll email (or FB message) your prize within 72 hours! No, we don't want your mobile phone number or your bank account details, as we are not planning to transfer $10 million from an somewhere account in Iraq to your account.  But, like we said before, you won't be disappointed!

And so this post will not be completely devoid of substance, here is our list of top dozen posts of 2009.

Green Light Dhaba's Best of 2009


  1. Didn't Jairam Ramesh go to the Union Carbide place, pick up a handful of dirt and declare, "See? I'm still alive!"
    His statement about 'defending India's national interests' doesn't surprise me. It carries the same tone of disdain.

  2. pRiyA, yes. actually, the Telegraph quoted him as saying, "“I went inside, touched toxic material and I am still alive. I am not coughing." It's hard to believe what comes out of his mouth sometimes. His remarks about development make it clear that his mandate was to 1) protect the bottom line of India Inc. while 2) not coming across as an obstructionist on the world stage. Protecting the environment that we all live in was very far down on his list.

  3. I had the opportunity of meeting him at a conference and he seemed more interested in signing his name with his signature PINK PEN rather than addressing the gathering. When he did address the audience (mostly made up of local people from the Himalayas) he strongly spoke of the 'myth of receding glaciers' which caused quite an uproar (of course it was hushed, he IS after all minister ji).

    I really like this blog (yay) and will opt to become Green Light Supporter :) happy new year.

  4. Chandni,
    What a great story! His attitude about the glaciers is beyond me; as for the pink pen? Who can say! So glad to have you stop by. I'll send your Green Light Supporter package via facebook--but give me a day or two--you won't be disappointed!

  5. I think the Indian public and media has a share in the blame for Ramesh's statements. In the past, whenever he has so much as hinted that India must do its share, he's been lambasted in the press and by his fellow politicians. Being a politician himself, he will obviously listen to what is expected of him. The PMO also must have been breathing down his neck.

    Now he's accused of the opposite. I'm not sure it's anyone's fault as such. India is a democracy and this is the way things work. But for urgent crises, we need strong authority and quick action. After all, he's the minister for a reason. But it's probably asking too much to expect him to disregard all the criticism. No real solution here...

  6. @Bhagwad,
    The problem is that most politicians respond to political pressures, which is what you are saying--and you are correct. And the worst part of climate change will happen after most politicians are out of office! So it's a big problem: democracy is not so good at dealing with long term problems that are difficult to understand. So the only answer I can think of is to continue to put as much pressure as we can on politicians to do that right thing. Something like that! Hope you are well as the new year approaches :)

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