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East vs. West | India in the Environmental Age

Posted By Sarah Backhouse On May 25, 2010 @ 5:00 am In Green Report / Media | 2 Comments

Most of my friends are halves. I didn’t seek them out. It just turned out that way. One of my nearest and dearest is Nikki Bedi, half Indian, half British, a voice of the BBC and perfectly positioned to provide insight on the differences between East and West, developed and developing.

Take recycling. This concept has only really been around in the West since the ‘70s. Nowadays of course, we’re actively encouraged to recycle, to think before we toss something into the ever expanding landfill of our disposable society. We still have a long way to go, but at least recycling is a choice. In India, it’s a necessity that results in almost everything imaginable being recycled, from bottles to newspapers – even toxic metal from the World Trade Center.

Next up: global warming, the effects of which have been felt around the world, including on the Indian sub-continent. Heavy monsoon rains have caused severe flooding (which brings with it disease and hunger), and glacial retreat has been recorded in the Himalayas.

It’s true that developed nations currently bear most of the responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions, which is why treaties like the Kyoto Protocol are so important. India was exempt from the framework of the treaty as the government rightly points out that “India’s per capita share of emissions is one-twentieth that of industrialized countries” and that restrictions on emissions would stunt economic growth. However, a population of over one billion combined with rapid industrialization could result in significant greenhouse emissions in the future. But how do you hold a developing country accountable when its main focus is get millions above the poverty line?

This is one of the many challenges that’ll need to be addressed we enter the most important period in the planet’s history, the Environmental Age.

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