The climate crisis has indeed hit India hard. Even if we chose to ignore it five years ago, it’s beginning to give us the shivers. The Indian government’s strong commitment at the Paris Climate Summit in April 2016 came as a big relief and hope.
Yet India’s ability to respond to the climate crisis appears too weak-kneed and even borders on carelessness. While visible progress in renewable energy and enforcement of standards on fuel is commendable, there’s little else to talk about. Civil society’s pressure appears still weak against a state apparatus that’s proving very difficult to influence.
The governments at the centre and states appear to focus on grand plans with massive investments but seem lukewarm to the way we manage our water, how we dispose our waste, how we educate our children and how we provide basic healthcare to a majority of our people.
The Media and activist authors have upped the ante to draw the attention of policy makers and uninformed or unexcited consumer. In recent years a few well-written and well-argued books have demanded deep and urgent action to fight climate crisis. Most of the books, while critical of most things Indian, are also optimistic about the medium and long term. Their big plea is to instill a sense of urgency so that the price Indian ecology and its people pay can be minimized.
Mridula Ramesh’s The Climate Action – India’s Climate Change Crisis and What We can Do About It (Hachette 2018) is the most recent. It speaks directly to policy makers and readers to re-imagine a greener, cleaner and a less unequal nation.
It’s a book that informs generously, inspires with hard-hitting facts and provokes readers to become proactive climate change warriors. For those who are lazy to scour many books or research papers for insights on India’s climate crisis, its adverse impact and also potential business opportunities, this book is very handy.
The author’s breadth of insights on the subject, including history and current technologies, is impressive. It reflects her professional expanse which is academic, entrepreneurial – all at a very high degree of engagement.
As the title suggests, through this book, Mridula fervently hopes the government, consumers and businesses leaders spring up from their seats as if they just saw a snake under it. She shares her personal anecdotes to lend credibility to whatever she is espousing in the book.
The author has covered good ground on start-ups and tech that are mushrooming in India only now. In this, Cleantech is a laggard but is expected to catch up. The chapter ‘Climate Warriors’ is truly inspiring – about how, given difficult circumstances, some find their way.
The crisis is global so India need not wait to discover the wheel to find solutions with speed and impact. It needs to act, now!
Mridula’s book joins a select few that offers readers access to well-researched and well-argued case for climate action. Readers will find Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement – Climate Change & the Unthinkable (Penguin 2018) highly absorbing. Interestingly, in the book, he chides fiction writers for their inability to grasp the scale and violence of climate change. He believes fiction has a great influence on society’s response to a crisis.
Prem Shankar Jha’s Dawn of the Solar Age: An End to Global Warming and to Fear (Sage 2017), as the title suggests, urgently demands policy action for shifting the Indian economy from heavy fossil fuel dependency to renewable energy. His powerful case for promoting methanol as not only a clean and cheap source of fuel but as a means for alleviating poverty and several languishing sectors like the sugar industry, is convincing.
Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh has been prolific and his book Green Signals: Ecology, Growth and Democracy in India. (Oxford University Press 2015), offers a ring side view of how the governments function and about the growth vs. ecology debate. It also offers insights into the debates, struggles, challenges, and obstacles to bringing environmental considerations into the mainstream of political and economic decision-making.
Naina Lal Kidwai’s book ‘Survive or Sink’ (Rupa 2018) is a collection of her articles on call for collective action to tackle climate crisis in India. The chapter on green finance and its intricacies is the best take-away from this book.
The book that has bowled me over is Paul Hawkin’s Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming’. (Penguin 2017). It’s painfully positive about the world’s ability to bounce back and reverse global warming by 2050 if it tries 100 solutions that already exist. The author writes about “revolutionizing how we produce and consume food to educating girls in lower-income countries. He writes how these solutions, if deployed collectively on a global scale over the next thirty years, could not just slow the earth’s warming, but reach drawdown: the point when greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere peak and begin to decline.”
With Monsoon lashing all over India now, it’s a good time to read about climate crisis and how to fight it.