New book on environment shows the way forward

By Kushagra Dixit

Book: The Climate Solution; Author: Mridula Ramesh; Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 295; Price: Rs 550

Mridula Ramesh’s new book “The Climate Solution” presents a plethora of information, facts, figures and data on climate change in the context of India and provides a roadmap for the way forward.

However, for anybody who has keenly observed the increasing environmental perils and national politics and international diplomacy around it, is bound to be left disheartened as the offering is some sort of a compilation of widely reported material on the environment.

This is not to suggest that the title is not worth the reader’s time. The book does justice, or at least tries to, and highlight the topic of environment and climate change by subtly connecting them with some region-specific and some widespread social practices.

The chapter “Women in Peril”, for instance, picks a social evil from a small South Indian village and connects it to the larger narrative around women empowerment. Now Ramesh relates this example to convey that with the increase in climate change, the opportunities for women workforce in the agricultural sector will stand challenged.

Over the past few years, environment issues have gained voice and terms like climate change, global warming and even Paris Agreement are now a part of common knowledge, at least in the urban landscape. This change is particularly because of the efforts of hundreds of environmentalists, conservationists and activists.

And, anyway, at a time when 40 degrees celsius has become a norm in the Indo-Gangetic plains during the summer, any endeavour that tackles this piercing issue is a welcome move.

Simple narrative, easy-to-read language and parallels drawn from Indian scriptures make “The Climate Solution” a captivating read.

The book offers some great stories and peeps into the past for lessons we need today. Lessons are drawn from success stories like how cotton cultivation revived itself in Punjab. It also touches on an ongoing conflict between two lobbies and asks whether or not we need genetically modified (GM) crops. It manages to be fair, not giving the issue of GM an activist-like treatment but rather giving facts of its need and side-effects.

It quotes a lot of “experts”, some figures such as “six Indian cities produce 30,000 tonnes of garbage every day” and how the waste management industry can create over half a million jobs. However, these figures are like “known population of tigers” — always a rough estimation with huge error scope, often inaccurate, and need more clarity and research. This book, however, lacks it.

This perhaps is the reason that even though this book could be about perils of climate change and stuff around it for dummies, it cannot be a text book for the same.

Coming to the most important factor — “Solutions” — the book touches on many topics and talks about and and comments on solutions like electric vehicles, harvesting, power and others. The solutions are not new, they are already being worked upon. In fact, some solutions — like the one on water policy under a strong enforcing authority and common ownership — does make sense, but hardly in the Indian context.

India is unique, needs indigenous solutions and examples from across the world may inspire but cannot be replicated here, a senior UN official once said in an interview.

However, what is impressive is that Mridula Ramesh has made and honest effort to keep the ball rolling.

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