There are a few issues with the public discourse on Environmental issues. Environment matters are essentially political as they are backward integrated in to public values. Environmental issues are livelihood concerns for native communities off the economic grid. The retinue of ‘Quality of Life’ Indicators is contingent upon the environment. Free Market Capitalism and Environmentalism since the days of Rachel Carson, are always at odds. As the pioneering Environmental economist Herman Daly once quipped that what will a saw mill be worth without a forest captures the paradox of the relationship between the scent of money and the fresh breeze of the forest. Robert Costanza’s 1997 paper on Valuation of Ecological Services was a watershed moment, in academic circles but incorporating these lessons in mainstream policy frameworks is all together a different cuppa. Valuing and taxing Greenhouse gases through CDM and other market oriented vehicles have resulted in a mixed bag. These instruments have been appropriated by neo-liberal forces to extract money out of multi-lateral institutions rather than catalyze foundational transformations which take longer timelines. My environmental policy professor at grad policy school at the National University of Singapore was right when he meant that it is only money that prompts people towards normative ends and not good intentions alone.
The real issues regarding the metastructure of Environmental Governance get drowned in the cacophony of the rhetoric between Growth Fundamentalists and Ecological Activists. The price here at stake is usually quite basic; clean air and water. Investment Bankers drinking beer on a Friday evening at a South Bombay Pub will like to breathe cleaner air, as a person cannot buy clean air in a can. The Bottom-line matters but the biosphere does count slightly too.
This seems very simple but political will backed by resources along with active community engagement is the key. I can visualize another pitfall. The policy community is good at theorizing problems, but activating those ideas in to concrete action is the chink in the Developmental Architecture. There is a slip between the cup and the lip. Civil Society, Industry and Government all have their own agenda and there is no synergy in thought processes for concrete action.
The National Advisory Council of celebrity academics and activists are bent towards entitlement welfare legislations. Environmental and Social Justice go hand in hand, and the writer of this post would suggest the esteemed body to focus on incorporating Environmental issues while designing welfare mandates. The Environment Ministry has been tainted with the tag of being the fore-bearer of a new Green Tape License Raj regime. While the perception exists, statistically it’s in correct.
Our focus ultimately needs to be re-calibrated to solve real issues, and embedding environmental drivers in to policy design is a good way ahead.