The Indian Question

At a time when liberal condescension is an important issue in domestic American politics, we shouldn’t forget that it is extremely important in the global warming issue as well. An excellent post at The Breakthrough Institute by Siddharta Shome sums it up:

Last week, the New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin blogged about the World Bank’s decision to finance a major new coal fired power plant in India. Revkin ended his blog with a question: “Is all of this bad? If you’re one of many climate scientists foreseeing calamity, yes. If you’re a village kid in rural India looking for a light to read by, no.”

In response, the famed environmental writer Bill McKibben asked his own question:

“The really interesting question, to follow on the last sentence of the story, is: what if you’re an Indian kid looking for a light to read by-and also living near the rising ocean, or vulnerable to the the range expansion of dengue-bearing mosquitoes, or dependent on suddenly-in-question monsoonal rains.”

McKibben may think he knows better but I think the answer for that village kid would probably be the same. Take the electricity and the light to read by and worry about malaria and monsoonal rains later.

Indeed. Read the whole thing. It makes good use of the “maybe the horses will learn to sing” story so often misattributed to Herodotus. The only thing missing is some mention of the inevitable result of satisfying the material needs so rightly identified as a precondition for “the modern appreciation of the nonhuman world.” Not just value attached to the environment, but a more resilient society that is affected far less when the nonhuman world changes for the worst.

Cross-posted from The Really Inconvenient Blog.