Green activists must work to reduce carbon footprint
In the last five years, the environmentalism of the Indian middle class has been significantly amplified. You will see this trend on social media and in many mainstream news reports. The question I ask is this: how do these campaigns turn the needle to reduce climate change and harness social justice?
Research by Jemyung Lee and others, and the Japan Nature and Research Institute, published in the Journal for Environmental Change, suggests that middle-class environmentalism will better serve the planet by reducing its own carbon footprint. The document examines 203,313 households in 623 districts of India. Consider this finding: “There is a nearly ten-fold difference between the district with the highest carbon footprint, Gurgaon (2.04 tons of CO2 / capita), and the district with the lowest carbon footprint, Baudh (0.21 tons of CO2 / capita) “
Today, Gurgaon’s most privileged residents fight to protect the Aravallis and prevent a waste-to-energy plant. Both are important campaigns. However, this demographic likely causes incalculable damage elsewhere in maintaining lifestyles. This is likely to harm the poor whose access to clean water, open land for grazing and other resources is often compromised by projects to serve the rich.
Gurgaon is not alone in its excessive consumption. “The residents of Mumbai (1.76 tons of CO2 / capita), New Delhi (0.98 tons of CO2 / capita), Bangalore (1.13 tons of CO2 / capita), Chennai (1.11 tons of CO2 / capita) or Calcutta (1.56 tons of CO2 / capita) have a carbon footprint higher than the national average (0.56 tons of CO2 / capita) ”, highlights the research.
Charity begins at home, they say. The contradictions of middle class green action must be addressed by consuming much less, at scale, quickly.
The writer is the founder and director of Chintan Envronmental Research and Action Group