Climate change and the Indianenvironmental movement

Authored by: Sharachchandra Lele

Handbook of Climate Change and India

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9781849713580
eBook ISBN: 9780203153284
Adobe ISBN: 9781136521584


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Climate change has emerged in the past few years as the environmental problem at the global level, swamping all other environmental issues. Western environmentalists who focus largely on wilderness and biodiversity conservation have adapted easily, by showing how climate change will aggravate the problem of conservation – e.g., loss of polar bears, seals, penguins, or whales (see, for instance, Lovejoy and Hannah, 2006). But this kind of ‘climate centrism’ in the environmental discourse has been problematic for many environmentalists in the global South, as it threatens to divert attention from other more pressing local or regional issues such as water scarcity and pollution, indoor and outdoor air pollution, mining impacts, or solid waste management. Not surprisingly, many Indian environmentalists have been tentative and ambiguous about engaging with climate change, to the extent that this tentativeness has been interpreted in the North as ‘foot-dragging’ or even ‘hiding behind the poor’ (Ananthapadmanabhan et al., 2007). More recently, one sees an upsurge in interest and engagement and the emergence of some new groups and coalitions. Although some are focusing exclusively on climate change, most others are critical of blind engagement and are grappling with how best to integrate the issue into their overall approach to environmentally sound development.

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