Activism vs Governance
How activists differ from the people that govern
If you've seen the movie "Up in the Air", George Clooney and Anna Kendrick have contrasting approaches to delivering the same message. In fact Anna's approach was supposedly a modern trend, in tune with the cost saving measures that every company incorporates, but the repercussions were severe. On the same breath, think about the message of the effects of Global Warming on the environment. The message is well known, but the way the activists vouch for it versus how governments implement them, vastly differ. An activist is selfish about their cause, people in governance need to care about all aspects. An activist is vocal, steadfast and gives it their all, but they do it solely for the cause that is near and dear to them. While in governance, you need to care about everyone, including those who didn't vote for you, then agree on a compromise that would work out to be the best. With Greta's picture profiled, you can argue isn't the environment for everyone? Hold on to that thought, I will definitely come back to it.
The COVID-19 crisis has indirectly exposed the solutions to the environmental problems we faced and the repercussions if these measures were to be implemented. Wasn't it just beautiful to see the environment rejuvenate during the lock down. The air was so clean, things appeared brighter and colorful, animals started reappearing in urban areas and the weather was a lot cooler in general. Autumn in Sydney this year has been colder than the winter last year. It was snowing in May in Boston. Chennai hasn't had the temperature exceed 38 C in peak summer. Looks like we have arrived at the solution for Global Warming and reversed the trend of the annual rise global temperature, all be it, inadvertently.
While the COVID-19 lock down has been beneficial to the environment in many ways, it has also exposed the economic hardship of having to be under the lock down. Jobs lost, businesses shut down, livelihoods destroyed. If things were bad in developed countries, imagine the situation in developing countries, who are yet to reach the financial stability which a first world country offers.
I'll take the example of the country that I was born in, India. India is a diverse country, but more than the diversity, it is a country of contrasts. The contrast between the haves and have-nots is so widespread, it would truly wake up your senses. You need to live the life of a normal citizen in India to experience this contrast on a daily basis. And then if you are fortunate enough to live abroad in a first world country, there won't be a day when you don't reminisce about how life was back while growing up in India.
You would've heard the news, seen the images and even thought about the plight of those migrant workers in India. The hardship of a daily wage laborer who just about makes enough to feed himself and his family for a day. That too, he relocated thousands of miles in search of an opportunity that enables him to make that living. But with the sudden and abrupt shutdown, even that is lost. Horrific scenes of people walking thousands of miles back to their hometowns, people dying on the road through accidents and others out of starvation and exhaustion, have all become an everyday scenario. I'm no fan of Prime Minister Modi, but there was very little that he could've done. You can argue that the shutdown was so abrupt that it left people in the lurch, but understand that this is a crowded country with a large population and less than adequate healthcare. The virus was already spreading there and today it has over 80,000 cases, despite the lock-down. There's hardly anything else he could've done.
India has come a long way in the last 30 years, seen massive growth in various sectors, but it is yet to offer the financial stability that a first world country does. The $266 billion rescue package is mostly loans, where the government stands as a guarantor, but you still have to repay with interest. EMI payments are only deferred and not dissolved. The Prime Minister has publicly asked everyone to contribute to his relief care, which can then be distributed to the poorest of the poor. Mind you there is no wage subsidies or unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs. A sharp contrast to what the Australian government offers, or for that matter, even the US government.
This is a scenario which gets played out all across South Asia, most countries in Africa and the impoverished regions across the world. India has about 1.35 billion people. It's now the 7th largest economy in the world accounting to about $3 trillion in GDP, largely funded by the growth it has had in the last 30 years as an outsourced destination for manufacturing and back office operations. I've been a beneficiary of this growth bubble. Oh by the way, it is also one of the largest polluters in the world.
You can draw parallels between India's growth and its increase in pollution, same is the case with China, but if you think nothing is being done about that and these countries are motivated only by greed, then you are sadly mistaken. Measures have been taken and put in place to safeguard the environment as much as possible, without sacrificing the growth. Of course you can argue and say the measures are not enough, but to what extent can you push them? The livelihoods of a large percentage of the population, are dependent on the factories running. I'm all for putting as much restrictions as we can on these polluting factories, educating as many people as we can about the environment, keeping the environment the cleanest that we can, avoiding the waste to the fullest extent possible, re-tool workers with other skills, and every possible measure that there is, but not crossing the boundary where populations are going to be left without a livelihood.
This is the dilemma that the people in governance face. Even for those governing first world countries, because when it comes to the environment, only if the developing countries come on board, measures would be effective globally. Now getting back to the earlier thought isn't the environment for everyone? Yes it is, it is for all the animals, the plants, the trees, the forests, the seas and the humans too. Including those humans living in third world countries. So when activists chastise humans for their behavior, spare a thought for those living in these tough conditions where their very survival is dependent on their livelihood.