Thursday, March 27, 2008

Excuse me....that's my family's meal you're driving

This is P. Chidambram, India's Finance Minister and my newest hero for saying it as it is. He highlights the inconsistencies and discomforts in the ways in which we live. He forces me to confront myself...and I hope forces others to do the same. Now *that* is rare for a politician don't you think?

If you were to ask most people if they were for the environment most of them would shrug and say duh, right? I am leaving out the "jury is still out" folks in the hope that the jury will come back as a tidal wave and sweep them out to sea. But I digress. Alternative fuel, you ask? You betcha! Want to lose your dependence on fossil fuel and drive your cute car on fuel made out of corn? Of course. It's cleaner, friendlier, good for farmers, etc. etc.

Then if you asked these same people if they supported the rights of the poorest people in the world, they would respond with a resounding yes. Feed the poor, stop kids from starving what's not to like. Coombaya damnit!

And that's where Mr. Chidambram comes in. When there are starving people in the world and kids are still dying of malnutrition at an alarming rate, should crops be grown for fuel so I can go to the mall in my car? Damn! Speaking in Singapore, he said that using corn and other foods as fuel is a sign of "lopsided priorities." And that such an "uncaring policy" has to be condemned. He said that countries like the US were doing so while the world's poor are struggling with surging food prices.

It is just that stark. Remember that petroleum that is evil now began as an alternative fuel. It was a cleaner alternative to coal and other fuels that destroyed people's health and led to heavily polluted cities and extremely hazardous working conditions. Petroleum was the wonder fuel of its day. If bio-fuel is the newest alternative will it also, decades down the road, be the new evil? When the interests of the poor come up against the interest of those who can afford vehicles we know who will always win. What will happen to the price of food when a bigger buck can be made by selling it for fuel? Will we make choices to drive our vehicles over the right of others to just survive? It makes me think. It makes me cry. It makes me wonder about our future.

Perhaps it is more complex and complicated than this. I know there are factors other than the mere scarcity of food that leads to starving people (wars and warlords, etc.) but the mere fact that I can put fuel in my car that could have gone to feed a child brings home the fact that perhaps it is as simple as that at some level.

From now on I will use my car only when I need to and will try and do Park and Ride as much as possible. Thanks Mr. Chidambram.


Sher said...

Worrying about the environment is a Western luxury. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned with what we do to the world, but the truth is the majority of the earth's inhabitants are too busy worrying if they are going to survive until tomorrow to worry about what the ozone is going to look like in 10 years time. Believe it or not I was actually going to start a 'pale green' category on how I'm doing my bit - rah rah rah.

Jawahara said...

Absolutely! Immediate survival trumps long-term survival of our species and others. A 'pale green" category. Do tell!

Jawahara said...

Absolutely! Immediate survival trumps long-term survival of our species and others. A 'pale green" category. Do tell!

Bina said...

My father owns and runs an ethanol plant. However, it uses molasses, which is a byproduct of sugar, so it doesn't take food away from people as corn- or maize-based ethanol does. This has created a huge controversy in the United States as they realize their food supply will be diminished.

This ethanol plant is actually a green project as the bio-gas that is a byproduct of the ethanol is used to run the boiler and furnace, and there are companies interested in buying carbon credits from it.

Jawahara Saidullah said...

Thanks Bina, that's really interesting to know. Sounds very promising as well.

Geets said...

hi jawahara, for a change, please do the tag...heyyyy, you are tagged