[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] D [/yt_dropcap]onald Trump famously said, “I was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” when he announced the withdrawal by the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA). Pittsburgh is a city in the Rust Belt, which suffered from economic decline due to deindustrialization. It was purportedly the Rust Belt that paved Trump’s path to the presidency.
But what was the Pittsburgh mayor’s reaction? “We’re actually with Paris on this.” In fact, the majority of Rust Belt states are also. It just goes to show, climate change and global warming goes beyond politics (although pssst! For your information, Pittsburgh did vote for Clinton!).
Well, that’s the way it should be. If there’s one thing that people have in common, it is that we all live on this one fragile, precious planet.
Another thing we have in common is that we all eat. In the past 50 years, the number of people in the world has doubled, and so obviously, so has food production. Modern agriculture has relied even more on pesticides to get rid of pests and vermin which damage crops, but like anything, too much of a “good thing” can be bad.
Pesticides are for crops like chemotherapy is for cancer: in the same way that chemo kills the good cells in addition to the bad ones, pesticides tend to kill organisms that weren’t intended to be killed. Pesticides also affect the whole ecological system, leeching into the soil and water, and poisoning birds, fish and other small animals.
And the effect of pesticides on humans? An entry in Toxipedia says it has “neurological health effects such as memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior, and reduced motor skills.” Thanks, but no thanks!
Recently I came across a book called Krisis Pangan dan ‘Sesat Pikir’: Mengapa Masih Berlanjut? (Food Crisis and ‘Misguided Thinking”: Why does it still continue?”) published last year, which addresses a very important issue: food production in Indonesia.
Edited by Yunita T. Winarto, professor of anthropology at the University of Indonesia (U.I.), the anthology has eight chapters by six experts on topics ranging from climate, insects, marginalized farmers and, yes, pesticides.
There were two chapters on pesticides, one of them written by James J. Fox, professor emeritus from the Australian National University (ANU) and Professor Yunita from UI.
Jim, as he is usually called, is an old friend of mine from the 1980s. When I knew him then he was working among others to get rid of pesticides. He was lucky. He got help from none other than President Soeharto himself. Pak Harto issued a presidential decree (Inpres No. 3/1986) on Nov. 5, 1985 banning the use of 57 varieties of pesticides in response to a serious outbreak of brown planthopper infestation. At the time Indonesia had just achieved rice self-sufficiency – a source of great national pride.
According to Jim in his chapter, the Inpres had the immediate effect of reducing the brown critters and more. The reduction of pesticides for rice cultivation resulted in annual rice increases for 17 years from 1987 to 2002. Impressive!
As the lowest user of pesticides in any developing country, Indonesia was a shining example of effective biological control of pests for other countries. In any typical sawah (paddy field) there are 100 natural predators of threatening pests, especially of brown planthoppers who breed like rabbits.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. In 2002, there was a dramatic change in the pesticide industry. Hundreds of local companies were established relying heavily on supplies from China. Pesticides were promoted as obat (medicine) for growing crops, distributed by local agents to village kiosks throughout Java.
Stunningly, in one decade, from being one of the world’s lowest users of pesticides, Indonesia became one of the highest. Brown grasshopper infestation became endemic on Java. According to Jim and Yunita, “Twice in five years (2011 and 2014) national rice production declined because of significant crop losses on Java.”
What? Aren’t pesticides supposed to get rid of the brown planthoppers? Here’s the irony: The overuse of pesticides actually induces the population increase of planthoppers by killing their natural predators. Oh no! Then there’s also resistance: With each generation of pesticide, the planthoppers become more resistant to the pesticides.
There were also rice varieties that were resistant to brown planthoppers, but by 2011, Indonesia had none. Shifting infestations became endemic.
Jim and Yunita did a UI-ANU pesticide survey in the village of Indramayu in West Java to obtain comprehensive data on farmers’ utilization of a range of pesticides. The study is replete with scientific names of various types of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, which the farmers can’t distinguish. Given the lack of control in the form of government licensing systems, for example, the farmers are like kids in a candy shop, choosing between striking labels and the existence of “new products,” which could actually be old products with new labels. Does this sound like a familiar marketing ploy?
Other problems that the UI-ANU study identifies are spraying intensity and pesticide cocktails. The farmers believe that the more, the better, and just to be on the “safe side,” why not mix all the different products into a cocktail? Sounds yummy right? In a disastrous way.
What’s the politics behind it all? Political reformation in 1998, which led to regional autonomy. Inpres No. 3/1986 still exists and could be invoked, but it isn’t. The existence of a variety of incentive schemes from the pesticide companies certainly helped, in the same way that the 22 senators who urged Trump to withdraw from the PCA over the past five years collectively received US$10 million in campaign contributions from oil, gas and coal industries.
Rice is a “political commodity” and governments’ ability to guarantee rice production and supply earns them the people’s trust. In fact, raising the target of rice production is a main program of the Jokowi administration in 2014-2019. But the reality is that the sawah ecosystem on Java has now become very vulnerable. This trend cannot be reversed until the “misguided thinking” of the farmers and various interested parties is also reversed.
Given the recognized global dangers of pesticides, two United Nations experts have called for a comprehensive global treaty to regulate and phase out toxic pesticides. The movement for organic sustainable farming is in fact growing.
Could this be an opportunity for Indonesia to reclaim the Queen Bee status it once had for 17 years to lead this movement?
Blessing In Disguise: The Lockdown-Effect On Environment
Authors: Deepanjali Jain and Prateek Khandelwal*
From one Wuhanese to over 4 million humans, the coronavirus has shackled pillars and institutions of our civilisation. The pandemic has socially distanced humans and spread fear which could be gauged from any nook and corner of the world. Though it seems, nature can finally breathe after decades, the signatures of which were visible from space.
As the factories and vehicle closed, dirty brown pollution belts shrunk over industrial centres in the country within days after lockdown. After decades of relentless exploitation, the human footprint on the earth has lightened. The persistent denial by the industrialist got an answer that climate change is real and that it is a reflection of human ‘exploitation’. The overexploitation of nature is fuelled by human greed, where consumption increases production and vice-versa. This vicious cycle depletes the natural ability of environment, which can be sensed in the lockdown months, to balance itself and so disrupts ecology.
COVID-19 is not only a pandemic; it reflects a broader trend that more planetary crisis is scheduled for upcoming years. While we muddle through each new crisis, with the current economic model, then the repercussions will eventually exceed the capacity of financial institutions to respond. Indeed, the “corona crisis” has already done so. For just climate transition, new economic reforms should have a blueprint for “planned degrowth” that emphasizes on the wellbeing of people over profit margins.
The initial move towards this is assuring the incentives that governments are announcing across the globe are not exhausted on bailing out corporations. Instead, the funds should be allocated to decentralised renewable energy production to implement the ‘Green’ New Deal and create meaningful jobs for ‘the Great Depression’ post-COVID-19. Along with this, the state should enact on the provision of social welfare such as universal healthcare and free education for all vulnerable populations.
Though set for 2025, by G7 and many European countries, elimination of perverse fossil-fuel subsidies can be done amid the recent oil-price plunge. It is the appropriate moment to deploy renewable energy technologies, which are now globally accessible without any economic barrier and phase out age-old fossil fuel.
A shift from exploitative industry setup to regenerative industries is immediately feasible. Also, it would allow us to sequester carbon emission spread by the current economic framework at a rate that is ample to reverse the ongoing climate crisis. This will have a positive impact on the environment and improve global wellbeing; also, it would turn to be an economically profit-enhancing model.
Though defined with differences and demarcated with boundaries, the planet with various species, nations, and geopolitical issues are ultimately interconnected. COVID-19 narrated that crisis does not observe national or even physical borders; the same is the case with climate change, biodiversity loss, and other environmental problem. Collective actions to curb these from becoming a full-blown crisis can only help in managing these issues. The current rescue plan for battling COVID-19 could usher these changes, as we are getting accustomed to the lifestyle and economic pattern that minimise consuming.
With the idea of sticking with this development structure, Governments can succeed in curbing the Corona epidemic. But we should move a step ahead to do a greater good for society and nature. The use of science can be moulded to construct an economy that will not mitigate the threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics and other challenges. A green economy should be laid down that has a preamble of nature-based solutions and is geared toward the public good.
Obviously, the circumstances are not ideal, but the rapid reflex actions and response to the virus of mutual aid also illustrates that human society is capable of controlling and working collectively in the face of a grave pandemic. The phase of development which humans are at, they are entrepreneurial and capable to begin again perfectly. If we learn from our failures and embrace this moment of upheaval as an opportunity to invest in shared prosperity, planetary health, and green economy, we can build a brighter future than the one we are heading towards. We have long since exceeded our natural limits; it is time to try something new.
*Prateek Khandelwal is a 2nd Year student pursuing B.B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) from Chanakya National Law University, Patna.
How video games are joining the fight to save the planet
As bush fires were raging across Australia in December 2019, players of Space Ape video games reached out to the company and asked what they could do to help. The London-based firm quickly put an in-game purchase into several of its mobile titles, with all proceeds going to either a wildlife or humanitarian charity working in the area.
In just four days the company raised $120,000.
“That just speaks to how much people want to do good,” said Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, former Head of Content at Space Ape Games, who now runs her own consultancy focused on using games for social impact.
Now, the video game industry is poised to roll up its sleeves and do even more for the planet. In August 2020, some of the biggest names in mobile gaming unveiled a series of environmentally themed missions and messages that will be integrated into popular titles, such as Angry Birds 2, Golf Clash and Subway Surfers. The additions will encourage players to do things like combat climate change or protect endangered wolves. The initiative is part of a push by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to work with game developers to raise awareness about pressing environmental issues.
“Video gaming is one of the biggest communication mediums on the planet,” says Sam Barratt, Chief of Education and Advocacy with UNEP. “We aim to support the industry to encourage gamers to be educated, inspired and activated around the wider environmental agenda, and so far it seems to be working.”
Globally, 2.6 billion people play video games and a growing number are taking an interest in the environment and conservation. A 2019 UNEP report, Playing for the Planet, found that video games could engage billions to contribute to solutions to social and environmental challenges.
The video game industry has yearly revenues of $140 billion—more than Hollywood, Bollywood and recorded music sales combined. In 2017, 666 million people watched other people play games on YouTube and Twitch – more than the combined audience of HBO, ESPN and Netflix. According to the UNEP report, channelling even a small portion of that attention and the industry’s revenues towards the planet would create tremendous impact in the real world.
Playing for the Planet
Space Ape is one of 25 members of UNEP’s Playing for the Planet Alliance, an initiative that aims to harness the power of gaming to encourage action on climate change. The project, which launched in 2019, has reached more than 970 million players. In joining the alliance, game companies make commitments, ranging from integrating green activations into games to reducing their emissions to supporting the global environmental agenda.
The alliance held a Green Game Jam earlier this year which saw 11 mobile game companies compete to add a sustainability element to one of their existing games, a so-called “green nudge.” The objectives included asking players to make personal commitments, like skipping meat on Mondays or biking to work, or designing green environments, solar panels or electric cars into games.
Space Ape, whose game Transformers: Earth Wars contains environmental themes in the original storyline, picked renewable energy. For the updated release, it brought both good and evil Transformers together to find a new technology to harvest Earth’s energy resources more sustainably.
Mensah-Bonsu says that the company also wanted to give players a call to action, so it asked them to take a pledge to switch their lightbulbs from incandescents to LEDs.
California-based Pixelberry Studios focused on climate change in its title “Choices.” The game centres on a young woman who returns to her coastal hometown where there has been a large fish die-off. The girl’s younger sister is convinced the die-off is connected to climate change, despite skepticism from local politicians and business owners. The player’s role is to help their young sister rally others and raise awareness about climate change.
Saran Walker, one of the writers at Pixelberry, said the team had read dozens of articles about younger generations experiencing anxiety around climate change. (A recent survey of millennials — 30,000 individuals under the age of 30 from 186 countries confirmed this — finding that climate change and destruction of nature were the most critical issues for them.)
“We were all really inspired by Greta Thunberg’s story,” Walker said, referring to the young Swedish environmental activist. “Anyone at the company who has kids is thinking about what kind of world are they going to leave to their children. We wanted to show people that they can actually do a lot as an individual.”
A shift in the industry
The gaming industry is also considering how it can become carbon neutral, or in some cases carbon positive – a welcome move for a sector that has been scrutinized for its environmental footprint. Currently, 50 million tons of electronic waste is generated annually, with that number projected to reach 120 million tons by 2050.
Supercell, which makes mobile titles, recently committed to going entirely carbon neutral and offsetting the carbon dioxide used by players when playing their games. Rovio and Space Ape aim to take similar action.
The Playing for the Planet Alliance will share guidance with its members on how to decarbonize, with Sony leading a working group that includes other console makers. The alliance will help devise a new carbon calculator for the industry, develop fresh guidance on offsetting and forge new collective commitments around the restoration of forest landscapes, which help absorb carbon emissions.
“When we set out on this journey we wanted to help others in the industry too,” said Mensah-Bonsu. “If we all do our part, we can make a change in the world.”
Green Politics: The hope for a better tomorrow
Authors: Anurag Mishra and Aaditya Vikram Sharma
Green Political Parties in India
To pick from the last instalment, the culture of Indian environmentalism is indeed ancient and quite veritably primitive. For the record, India has various Green parties. The prominent one is of course is the India Greens Party which runs as an offshoot of the Global Greens and is a full member of the Asia Pacific Greens Federation. To take a measure of how green politics fares in the Indian context would only require us to take a quick visit to the Indian Green Party’s website. The events calendar for the IGP is blank for the month of July as well as the previous month. The last press release made by the IGP was in the month of March. A google search doesn’t even yield a Wikipedia page for the IGP because there isn’t one.
The Coronavirus pandemic poses a grave danger to humanity but also throws open an opportunity for laying the path which the posterity will tread. It is however disheartening that the response to the pandemic has more or less remained limited to desperate search for a vaccine. A vaccine nevertheless is the acute need of the hour but what is of no less importance is a future plan for humanity which is closer to nature and yet at a safe distance.
Global Green Political Parties
Here, we look at the contemporary Green parties around the world. We primarily focus on North America and the Asia Pacific. In North America, Canada got its first Green parties starting 1983. Being a federal country, Canada has such parties present on provincial as well as the national level. The provincial parties include the Green Party of Ontario, the Green Party of Prince Edward Island, the Green Party of British Columbia and the Green Party of New Brunswick. The parliamentarians who get elected are colloquially known as “Green MLAs.” In the United States of America, the Green Party of the United States happens to be the primary such entity. It should be noted that as of April 2018, 156 Greens held elective office across the US in 19 states. The states with the largest numbers of Green elected officials are California (68), Connecticut (15), and Pennsylvania (15). Titles of offices held include: Alderman, Auditor, Board of Appeals, Board of Finance, Board of Selectmen, Borough Council, Budget Committee, Circuit Court Judge, City Council and so on. The Green Party has contested six U.S.A. presidential elections: in 1996 and 2000 with Ralph Nader for president and Winona LaDuke as vice president, in 2004 with David Cobb for president and Pat LaMarche for vice president, and in 2008 with Cynthia McKinney for president and Rosa Clemente for vice president. In 2000, Nader received more votes for president than any Green Party candidate before or since. Jill Stein ran for president on the Green ticket in 2012 and 2016; the vice-presidential candidates were Cheri Honkala in 2012 and Ajamu Baraka in 2016. Stein, who received over one million votes in the 2016 race, led unsuccessful attempts toward 2016 election recounts in three states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
On the other side of the planet, the Asia Pacific Greens Federation is of prominence. It is a federation of national Green parties, social and environmental organizations in countries in the Pacific Ocean and Asia, and is one of the four federations that constitute the Global Greens. 32 Parties from 30 nations got together in February 2005 in Kyoto, Japan, to found the network. There they elected a Membership Panel, and delegates to the Global Greens Coordination (GGC). The federation has a presence in countries such as Australia, India, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Korea etc.
A Common Agenda?
The Agenda of these parties overall can be derived through their principles and policies- a list of such guidelines available on some websites of the Green parties. Overall these can be divided into the following headers- Ecological Wisdom, Social Justice, Participatory Democracy, Non-violence, Sustainability and Respect for Diversity. Overall, the idea seems to be in conformity with international treaties and upcoming practices for environmental governance. The agendas also seem to comply with global requirements for climate commitments, such as that of the Paris Agreement.
However, environmental policies are just one part of international relations. Thus, it is not clear what the other policies of green parties would be. Thus, their agenda needs to more well defined and encompassing.
Netflix released the second season of its popular school drama The Politician last month. Where the first season of the series had focused almost entirely upon the protagonist’s political ambition and his run to the office of school president, the second season centred around his political campaign based entirely upon environmentalism. A strong movement requires novel instruments of mass mobilization and symbols which people can relate to and take to. The Global Green Movement needs to make itself ‘catchy’ to generate mass participation without which it is bound to remain a fringe movement even after fifty years since the United Tasmania Group coming into being. What seems to be the only way forward is mainstreaming of the Green agenda and making it “cool” and part of the popular culture.
However, it is not just awareness that would suffice and thus the scientific developments in the areas of energy, agriculture and food among other things need unprecedented attention and investment. In the food industry, the way Veganism has caught people from diverse range of countries is an example how an idea can travel far and wide and can bring about even the most difficult and unimaginable lifestyle changes. The technology has tried keeping pace with companies like Impossible Foods and Green Meat Co. coming up with vegetable based meat etc. The growing popularity of EVs and renewable sources of energy have steadily moved in the direction of creating a global ecosystem based on the idea of sustainability and environmentalism. All we need is a huge push and unrelenting spirit.
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