India’s Climate Catastrophe

Courtesy Indian ExpressCourtesy: Indian Express (for non-profit, educational use).

Reports from today, November 11, 2017. From: Newsweek, Bloomberg, and NDTV.

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New Delhi’s air pollution has reached levels so toxic that United Airlines flights to the Indian capital city until it improves.

UA canceled their flights between USA and India, after evaluations found the air quality to be around 40 times the World Health Organization’s safety levels. India’s pollution is so bad that the city has turned into a “gas chamber.”

United said the city’s air conditions were severe enough to be considered a natural disaster, and to be avoided like a hurricane or wildfire would be.

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New Delhi’s air quality consistently ranks among the worst in the world, but the city’s air pollution last week registered 10 times worse than the air in Beijing, which is notorious for its smog. Residents complain of burning eyes and itchy throats, and doctors said chest infections and respiratory illnesses have surged.

Authorities ordered 6,000 schools to close, trucks except those carrying essential supplies have been banned from entering the city for a week, and construction projects have been temporarily stopped.

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India’s environment minister Harsh Vardhan appears to question recent global studies that claim lakhs of people die in India due to pollution. Dr. Harsh Vardhan told NDTV in an interview that “to attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much”.

The Lancet Countdown 2017 last month said air pollution had claimed as many as 2.5 million lives in India in 2015, the highest in the world. There have been other estimates as well, putting a different number to the lives lost due to air pollution. 

The environment minister continued:

“Certainly if you have a diseased lung and if the pollution is continuously damaging your alveoli (air sacks) then one day when you die, you can attribute the cause of death, to some proportion, to maybe pollution. But I don’t think we can generalise and say that millions of people are dying only due to pollution,” Harsh Vardhan told NDTV in an interview.

Dr Harsh Vardhan’s comment is in contrast to his response in February this year when another global study that estimated 11 lakh (1.1 million) deaths due to air pollution in India in 2015. He had then called air pollution a “silent killer” and a “slow poison” that could kill people, particularly children. “It can be a killer also. It can be like a slow poison. Which keeps destroying your alveoli in the lungs at a slow pace,” he had then said.

But Dr Harsh Vardhan wasn’t the environment minister in February. He is now.

And that is another example to show the people in power do not work for the ordinary, suffering people. We know who they work for. They don’t care if millions of innocent children, women and men die of carcinogens in a man-made, toxic environment. India is dying of a toxic environment.

I rest my case. You judge.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Courtesy Indian Express 2
Courtesy: Indian Express (for one-time, non-profit, academic use.)

New York Terror, and the Era of Post Reason

Courtesy Daily Express
Photo Courtesy: Daily Express (one time, academic, non-profit use)

An Islamist fanatic yesterday drove his van, and ran over eight innocent people to death, in broad daylight in Manhattan. It happened close to where terrorists blew up Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, and killed thousands of men and women.

Sometimes, we are so stunned by violence and terror that it freezes us. We don’t want to function. We don’t want to wake up from bed. Worse, we don’t want to think. Yet, thinking is the most precious, God-given power we have when something like this happens.

One month ago, a white terrorist man used his weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and killed 58 innocent people in Las Vegas. But American media neither called him a terrorist, nor was there any serious discussion on the dark-age gun violence across this country. Big politicians, particularly those supporting Trump and National Rifle Association (NRA), asked us not to “politicize” on the genocide. Now, after the New York terror, their rhetoric has changed 180 degrees.

When in June of 2015, Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old, self-proclaimed white supremacist killed nine innocent black worshipers in a South Carolina church, media neither emphasized on his white supremacist rhetoric, or his use of the gun to kill. They hardly mentioned that he worshiped Hitler, and repeatedly said he believed whites were superior race, and that blacks deserved to die.

Yesterday, here in New York where we live, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, the suspected Islamic terrorist with a possible ISIS connection chanted “Allahu Akbar,” and ran over eight innocent people with his truck. And it is getting explosive media coverage everywhere. Trump is talking about sending the perpetrator to Guantanamo Bay, and talking about much more repressive measures to “deal with terrorism” his way.

I have no problems to condemn this gruesome violence, or with the way media is covering the act of violence 24/7. But then, there is a serious problem built in the way big media and big politicians cover, exclude or undermine other acts of terror. It creates more hate against Muslims and the religion of Islam per se, even though that hate is politically motivated by the people in power — to divert attention from other critical issues relating to our lives. Look at the way Trump is capitalizing today on the NYC violence. And he has his Fox TV, his New York Post, and his Alt-Right, and his racist radio talk show hosts on his side. 

Most people — whether American, Indian, or European — don’t have the awareness, information, or analysis to understand this serious dichotomy and double standards in media coverage, or the way populist politicians such as America’s Trump or India’s Modi capitalize on such barbaric acts of violence, and create more division, hate, repression, or war. And they exploit on this very deep ignorance and political illiteracy.

Since 9/11/2001, when we saw the Twin Towers blow up right in front of our eyes, the world has become a very different place. I call it the Era of Post Reason. The 1%, their corporations, politicians, and media have successfully managed to make sure we the 99% do not use our reasoning power anymore. They have made us push back into a time when ordinary people fought against each other, hated each other, and bit off food from each other’s hands. 

Unless we come up with a viable strategy to come together, and actively engage ourselves into thinking, reasoning, and analyzing — to realize who are doing the violence and war, why they are doing it, and how they are making the world a more violent, divided, hateful place — only to the benefit of the extremely rich and powerful people at the top, it is a lose-lose situation for all of us.

I hope we reflect on the causes of terror, violence, repression, and war, and bring ourselves back to the time, when reasoning was a normal, natural, intelligent human way of life.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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