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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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THE world is closer to apocalypse because of climate change and nuclear proliferation, Stephen Hawking and other prominent scientists have warned. As a result, the BAS has moved the minute hand on its famous “Doomsday Clock” two minutes closer to midnight. The concept timepiece, devised by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, now stands at five minutes to the hour. The clock was first featured by the magazine 60 years ago, shortly after the US dropped its A-bombs on Japan according to the BBC.  The decision to move it came after BAS directors and affiliated scientists held discussions to reassess the idea of doomsday and what posed the most grievous threats to civilisation.  Growing global nuclear instability has led humanity to the brink of a “Second Nuclear Age,” the group concluded, and the threat posed by climate change is second only to that posed by nuclear weapons.

Some scientists – even climate scientists – may not support the comparison of global warming to the catastrophe that would follow a nuclear engagement. But BAS argues that both the nuclear menace and a runaway greenhouse effect were the result of technology whose control had slipped from humans’ grasp. How seriously must one take the Doomsday Clock ?

The BBC chronicles how the Doomsday clock has moved backward and forward 18 times in the last 60 years.  It advanced to two minutes before midnight – its closest proximity to doom – in 1953 after the United States and the Soviet Union detonated hydrogen bombs. Its keepers last moved the clock’s hand in 2002 after the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and amid alarm about the acquisition of nuclear weapons and materials by terrorists.

While we in India have had our share of doom and gloom the mood of the nation has been refreshingly optimistic. The Indian Shining campaign of the BJP drew a lot of populist flak but the the optimism of an India Rising is hard to miss. The visiting British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, more popularly known as the man set to take over as Britain’s next Prime Minister addressing the delegates at CII’s 13th Partnership Summit said:

“As The Times of India has rightly said, India is poised: your time is now __ a pulsating dynamic new India is emerging. An India that does not follow but an India that leads. An India ready to embrace the right to an increased voice, side by side with the responsibilities of economic openness and the enhanced international cooperation that come with it.”

Interestingly enough neither Pokharan II nor the escalation of tensions following the December 13th terrorist attack on Parliament, were significant events to the Doomsday Clock. So what does one make of the doom and gloom cyncisim emerging from the west and the poised optimisim emerging from the east viz. India and China.

To understand these contrasting perceptions of the future one must get a level deeper into the underlying social and political dyanmics. This is not to deny that Nuclear Weapons can cause catastrophe or that global climate change is not without adverse consequences. It is more to do with why the west selectively trumps up or down global threats.

Western society and western politics is at a cross-roads. This was very much in evidence in Europe when overwhelmingly protectionist forces voted against the EU Constitution. More recently in France fierce resistance to changes in labor laws forced the French Government to rollback its position. Tom Friedman of the New York Times and Flat world fame, had summarized western Europe very nicely when he said he saw Europe as an assisted-living facility staffed by Turkish nurses. There is a civilizational senility that is slowly setting into western europe that should explain the heightened paranoia. This paranoia operates at a couple of levels.

At its most base and irrational level you fear anything that is a remote threat and hence all this talk of the “Second Nuclear Age”, dont be surprised if the Indo-US Nuke deal is mentioned in the same breath. At a higher level the paranoia takes a more xenophobic hue motivated largely by the changing demographic and economic dependence on the east. It is this paranoia that is making a big deal of Climate Change while doing practically little by way eco-friendly lifestyles or consumption patterns. The west would like the east to foot the bill on some of the costs of climate change as suggested by the Stern Report. So while the Assisted Living Facility continues to run on centralized climate control they would like to see the Turkish Nurse pay a tax on her gas bill.

Offstumped Bottomline: Doomsday or not there is no excuse for eco-unfriendly economic development in India. However a poised India must not let itself be cowed down by Doomsday Threats from the West to sign up for any unfair sharing of climate change costs. India must seize the opportunity to show the west how eco-friendly economic growth could be matched by responsible consumption for a more sustainable living. We must do this not because doomsday is nearing  but because this is who we are, this what we stood for historically and philosophically, this is what we believe in.

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