Editor's Page | Centre for Science and Environment

Editor's Page


Food for nutrition, nature and livelihood

What societies eat reflects their position on the modernity trajectory. Poorer countries have health problems because of lack of food. Then as people get rich, they end up losing the health advantage of food availability. They eat processed food that is high in salt, sugar and fat, which make them obese and ill. It is only when societies get very rich that they rediscover the benefits of eating real food and value sustainability.

Promise me the monsoon

Why this weird weather? Why have western disturbances—the extra-tropical storms that originate in the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas—been lashing us again and again, with devastating impacts on agriculture? Is this normal? Or has weird weather become the new definition of normal?

How to plant trees for development

Today, in India, forest protection happens against all odds. There is no economic value seen in forests, but there is value seen in the development project for which forestland is required. Clearly, this is not the way to go. We need a value to be paid for standing forests; it needs to be shared with people who inhabit these lands; we need to grow trees in ways which bring money to the poor; and we need to learn how to protect, regenerate and grow trees, all at the same time.

How power can be cleaned

Coal is an environmentalist’s bugbear. The use of coal to generate energy is the key reason the world is looking at a catastrophic future because of climate change. Recognising this, global civil society has given a rousing call for coal divestment, asking companies, universities and individuals to stop investment in coal thermal power plants. They want coal to go, renewables to be in. And in the interim, clean gas, also a fossil fuel, to be used as a “bridge fuel”. In this scenario any talk of “cleaning” coal to make it less damaging is untenable.

Straw in the wind

What does the decision to save groundwater in Punjab or Haryana have to do with air pollution in Delhi? Plenty. We need to know this because many actions have unintended and deadly consequences.

Time for new environmentalism

 2014 has brought India’s environmental movement to a crossroad. On the one hand, there is a greater acceptance of our concerns, but on the other hand, there is also growing resistance against the required action. More importantly, every indicator shows that things on the ground are getting worse. Our rivers are more polluted, more garbage is piling up in our cities, air is increasingly toxic and hazardous waste is just dumped, not managed. Worse, people who should have been in the front line of protection are turning against the environment.

Real pride of ancient indian science

I write this with considerable impatience and one question. Do we really have the time to waste on controversies like what ancient India did or did not achieve by way of scientific discoveries? This is when there is the huge unfinished agenda to use the best of science to tackle current challenges and crises.

Walk the talk on carbon tax, Mr Finance Minister

Budget 2015, presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has a first. In it, India has accepted that it has a de-facto carbon tax—on petroleum products and dirty coal. Arguably, the only big green initiative of this budget is the increase of cess on coal—from Rs 100 per tonne to Rs 200 per tonne. But the question is: is this carbon tax, imposed on the carbon content of fuel, doing what it should—reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for climate change?

Last call to get climate deal right

The Indian government must not use “equity” to block climate change negotiations. It must be proactive on equity and put forward a position on how to operationalise the sharing of the carbon budget—accounting for countries’ contribution to past emissions and allocating future space—in climate talks.

I wrote this last year when the UPA government was in power. I am repeating this as the NDA government prepares for the next conference of parties (CoP) to be held in December in Peru.

Ozone-smart, climate-cool

One item on the agenda of the much-discussed Narendra Modi-Barack Obama meeting that has Indian commentators flummoxed is hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The joint statement issued after the meeting of the two heads of states says rather ambiguously that the two sides agreed to cooperate on “next steps to tackle the challenge posed by HFCs to global warming.”

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