Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Sunita Narain


The right right

The world’s cheapest car, the Nano, rolls out in India this week. Manufacturer Tata Motors says it will change the way Indians drive, for the inauguration places the personal car within the reach of people who once could only dream of owning one. Indeed, the Nano has been marketed as an ‘aspiration’—the right of every Indian to a car. No quibble here. There is no question an affordable car is better than an expensive one; or that a small car, being more fuel efficient, is better than a big one.

Not rebuilding for tomorrow

The global meltdown led to expectations governments would use money to reinvent economies for climate change. The plan was simple: spend obscene amounts of public money in infrastructure and other projects, to stimulate national economies. If this money got spent on all those things which would improve the environmental sustainability of countries, it would go a long way in building the foundation for the new-age world. It would make us climate-proof and insure us against the excesses of an out-of-control market.

Our smaller future

A year ago, in this very column, I discussed the myopia of budget 2008, which did not touch upon events then beginning to unfold. Since then we have seen the world collapse and, perhaps, even change forever.

Climate lectures don’t make lessons

There was a jamboree in my town recently, a gathering of the powerful and famous, to discuss the climate change agreement the world must carve out in Copenhagen by end 2009. But what happened was rather discomforting: We Indians were publicly lectured, castigated and rapped on our knuckles for being bad boys and girls by one and all. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told us developing countries must make more efforts to address climate change and get on-board with industrialized world for solutions.

The Satyam in our oil

Which cooking oil is best for us? Why do I ask? Are we not bombarded with advertising messages telling us there is a healthy oil that is good for the heart? They talk of monounsaturated fatty acids (mufa), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (pufa) and of course, catch-us-words like omega properties. I am sure you, like me, try to understand this scientific jargon and conclude that any oil that has all these elements, must be good.

The Satyam in our oil

Which cooking oil is best for us? Why do I ask? Are we not bombarded with advertising messages telling us there is a healthy oil that is good for the heart? They talk of monounsaturated fatty acids (mufa), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (pufa) and of course, catch-us-words like omega properties. I am sure you, like me, try to understand this scientific jargon and conclude that any oil that has all these elements, must be good. Then we presume if we are being told the product is healthy, somebody must have verified the claim.

The public relations republic

Let me dare to predict how regulatory and corporate India will resolve IT major Satyam’s scandal/saga. The government will stand tall, its arms and branches spread out in never-ending enquiry, to provide tactical cover. Some fall-guys might be found: now-disgraced chairman B Ramalinga Raju could be sentenced, as could the auditing company official who signed the accounts; but it takes time to prove guilt, so that they will probably live a retired life in the comfort of their homes, out on bail. Meanwhile, the media will bray for blood.

2009 is full of promise

I spent a week at the climate change conference in Poznan, and realized the world is in deep trouble and deeper denial. Worse, the denial is now entirely on the side of action. It is well accepted that climate change is a reality. Scientists say we need to cap temperature increases at 2°C to avoid catastrophe, which means capping emissions at 450 ppm. We know global average temperatures have already increased by 0.8°C and there is enough greenhouse gas in the atmosphere to lead to another 0.8°C increase.

The tale of 21st century’s dinosaurs

Have you noticed how the mighty automobile industry in the US is beginning to sound like the now infamous tobacco industry at the time of its collapse, taking cover behind the people it employed to whitewash its inefficiency and perhaps its sheer inappropriateness? The tobacco industry, in its last days of conviction, when it became clear that the science of toxicity of this leaf was real, hid behind farmers who grew it.

The newer deal for a newer world

After months of downward spiral, the dreaded r-word must be uttered. The world’s major economies are into a recession. Equally recessive is the response of leaders who, after working extremely hard to privatize and deregulate, are falling upon a Keynesian idea, first applied after the 1929 Great Depression in the us, requiring governments to spend huge amounts of public money to bail out the economy.

Follow us on 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
gobar times