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7 Times Environmentalism Was A Practical Joke

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Pranks are hilarious - except when they are at the expense of the planet.

7 Times Environmentalism Was A Practical Joke illustration
Chutiya Baagh by Nivedita Bansal

“System Change and Not Climate Change!” is often visible and heard at climate rallies. We’d expect policymakers to listen to that. Instead, they have been playing the perfect pranks. Happy - aka - Climate Catastrophic April Fools Day!


Here are seven times environmentalism was a practical joke:


1) Downpour of Dissent

Dissent is a conscious expression of disagreement with a prevailing view, policy, practice, decision, institution, or assumption that is exacerbating climate change and other simultaneous crises. Over the years, dissent against reckless development and environmentally unsound policies has met with backlash and extreme measures. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has been complicit in undermining the right to dissent and a healthy environment. Youth participation in environmental and social movements has grown subsequently. In 2020, the MoEFCC released its amendments to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for public consultation. The collective campaign against ‘weakened amendments’ soared digitally because of the onset of the pandemic. Fridays for Future India was slapped with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act - UAPA. The websites of Fridays for Future India, There Is No Earth B and Let India Breathe were taken down after the Environment Minister received over 74,000 emails at the time. Communities that bear the brunt of the crisis and are on the frontlines face abuse and wrongful incarceration for fighting against destructive projects.


2) Inconsistent Public Consultation

The key to better policies is to accommodate wider public consultation, especially among the stakeholders who will be affected directly. Nevertheless, there has been a discordant and shaky public consultation on key environmental policy amendments. It is imperative to highlight that office orders have been used to bring about key changes. Such orders have no scope for public consultation. In EIA 2006, several changes had been incorporated via this sketchy course of action. Then, in 2020, public consultation over EIA was made inaccessible because of the Raging pandemic, the digital divide, and intentional linguistic barriers.


The initial public consultation period for Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 amendments was of mere 15 days, whereas there is a mandate of at least 60 days. After much rightful agitation, the period for consultation was extended. Moreover, there were inconsistencies with the medium of submission, which created ambiguity. Nevertheless, there is always a digital and linguistic divide making the process more exclusive.


3) Smog Towers

The World Air Quality Report’s index listed 35 Indian cities with the worst air quality tag for 2021. Two smog towers were installed in Delhi, each costing 20 crores INR. Over time, the efficacy and accuracy of the technology have been questioned by various stakeholders - experts, activists and retired officials. Investing massive amounts of public money in a distrustful technology to solve hazardous air pollution without acting on the root cause harms the citizens.



4) Weakened Environmental laws

Several environmental laws have been under the gun of reform during the pandemic. With a dwindling economy in need of ‘ease of business, the environment and people often bear the cost. Wildlife Protection Act, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, EIA and Coastal Zone Regulation have met with a possibility of amendments. Moreover, office orders that do not require public consultation have been detrimental to the dilution of the laws.

5) Underutilisation of funds

In a world that retains the power of money over the planet and people, funds for environmental conservation, protection, rewilding, and mitigation are key to surviving the crisis. It was reported by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that not even half of the allocated budget had been utilised. This budget also primarily finances the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which can be strengthened with such funds to deal with the national air pollution crisis. Research on environmental and ecological topics did not get enough attention. Only one-fourth of the allocated budget was utilised.



6) Missing Forests

Healthy forests ensure carbon sequestration, livelihood, thriving biodiversity and an economy in its prime. As per the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), the difference between recorded forest and forest cover portrays that 25.87 million hectares of forest are missing from India. The recorded forest area is 77.53 million ha, but the forest cover on these lands is 51.66 million Ha. These inconsistencies have not been accounted for, but such a large mass of forest cover must be regenerated.


7) Greenwashing in ESG Funds

ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance. ESG Funds imply that the three non-financial factors have been considered while investing in a venture. Greenwashing - using marketing tools to create a false impression of a company or fund being environmentally friendly is a worrying concern for investors and regulators. Companies with an image as a polluter often exaggerate eco-friendly claims for higher investments, given the rising trends in ESG investments.



References

O'Brien, K., E. Selboe, and B. M. Hayward. 2018. Exploring youth activism on climate change: dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Ecology and Society 23(3):42.


Aggarwal, M. (2022, February 15). How India dilutes its environmental laws to help businesses. Quartz. https://qz.com/india/2125317/how-india-dilutes-its-environmental-laws-to-help-businesses


Dutt, B. (2020, July 25). How UAPA Was Used On Young Environmentalists And Media Didn’t Care. TheQuint. https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/how-uapa-was-used-on-young-environmentalists-fridays-for-future-india-and-media-didnt-care


Kapoor, M., & A. Dinesh, K. (2021). Throughout the Pandemic, Environmental Clearance Law Has Been Under the Chopping Block. The Wire.


Narain, S. (2022). Missing: One-third of India’s recorded forests. DownToEarth.


Salil, K. (2021, March 12). India drags its feet in the face of climate catastrophe. The Federal.


Sirur, S. (2021, October 14). Delhi has two smog towers, but here’s why they are unlikely to help fight air pollution. ThePrint.


The Indian Express. (2022, March 23). World Air Quality Report: 35 Indian cities in top 50 of world’s most polluted list; here’s how you can fight air pollution.


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