Green with confusion
Is there such a category as a “confused green”? Because if so, I fit in rather well. As I sit here waiting for the monsoon to hit Mumbai all those doomsday predictions about global warming sound quite plausible and not “nutcase” at all.
That’s mainly because my brain has melted in the heat and I’ve forgotten that the monsoon often behaves in this nasty manner. Three years ago it took a month to travel from Kerala to Mumbai.
And we all know that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can trigger freak weather patterns everywhere else. South America has a lot to answer for actually, one little boy current that means a good monsoon, one little girl current that means a bad monsoon and by the way, what did we ever do to South America? Anyway, I’ve filled my house with CFL bulbs in spite of their enormous cost and put off buying an air-conditioner for four years and even now, I try to use it sparingly, at most three months a year.
I use airlines about twice a year, so no carbon discredits. I don’t own a car and I work from home, so minimum fossil fuel use. If necessary, the transport I use runs on compressed natural gas. I walk as much as possible in my neighbourhood. I don’t have an LPG cylinder for cooking purposes. I have a large collection of cloth bags so no plastic bags for shopping purposes. The result is that when I actually need a bit of plastic (like for water-proofing) at home I am stumped.
My favourite film for cheering up purposes is The Day After Tomorrow and I laugh uproariously as half the world gets covered in ice mainly because of a wicked American vice-president. Even as Dennis Quaid mouths those embarrassing pseudo-scientific words: “We have reached a critical desalinisation point”, it sounds so reasonably reassuring and makes you wonder why Meg Ryan left him.
Mark Lynas in The God Species tells us that nuclear power is actually a good thing and confirms the way I’ve been feeling for a bit. Less damaging to the planet than coal and fossil fuels unless of course there’s some terrible accident. The universe, we might like to recall, runs on nuclear power. Accidents have to be countered by better safety protocols, not global hysteria. All factories are dangerous and the truth is, few of us want to go back to hunter-gatherer living. Not even environmental NGOs as they discuss these issues in five star hotels in holiday resorts. Nuclear weapons? Bad bad bad. Nuclear power? Not so much.
But when Lynas argues in favour of genetically-modified crops to save mankind, I get confused again. My limited understanding of Bt cotton use in India is that it has not been a happy experience. I see no reason why India’s large indigenous variety of brinjals should be sacrificed for a genetically modified version fighting an insect that is not a problem here. Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma is the most frightening book I have ever read, especially his expose on industrialised agriculture.
But what I absolutely cannot do is switch off my lights for 30 minutes on some designated day, propagated via the internet by breathless boys and girls. Gestures and gimmicks leave me cold. So do naked girls dressed up in lettuce leaves by animal rights organisations like PETA. Does someone eat the lettuce leaves after the photo shoots? Criminal waste of lettuce when people (and maybe even rabbits) are starving? Isn’t World Environment Day a gimmick then? Yes maybe and that’s why I’m as confused as I finish writing this as I was when I started. Should I go out and buy an SUV to feel better? Kidding!
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona