Whistleblower's musings... Then some trivia. Write to me at ranjanyumnam@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

AMADA and Global Warming

Going green and promoting environment consciousness is not the business of speciality NGOs alone. I mean not any more. Very few entities in the near future can claim to be socially responsible without espousing and embracing some form of green practices.

Climate change is real; it is no longer a fashionable term that we talk about to appear sophisticated and educated in cocktail parties, like AIDS used to be once upon a time among the elite circle. In many respects, it is even more dangerous than HIV.

We can avoid HIV if we take preventive measures and don't put ourselves in the harm's way. But with global warming, it's not that easy. It's hard to reverse the amount of heat trapping gases accumulated in the atmosphere if it exceeds a threshold, and that threshold is fast approaching.

Climate change is not their problem; it has become the common problem of humanity. And as the world has become flat—to use Thomas Friedman's distinctive phrase—we can no longer remain isolated islands of pristine air and be immune from the adverse effects of climate change sweeping across the globe.

My only grouse against AMADA—and here's the connection between AMADA and environment—is not with what they do with the drug peddlers and addicts, the twin parasites of our society, but with what they do with the contraband stuff they seize from them afterwards. Here's the reason for my disquiet.

AMADA's volunteers employ one of the most inefficient and dirty means of disposing their catch: setting them on fire. I suspect AMADA might have chosen this method as it guarantees a TV friendly spectacle and drama. PR is everything in a world increasingly defined by media created images and perceptions.

And by saying this, I am not implying by any stretch of imagination that AMADA is a rogue organisation that should be banned like the liquor it bans. I would be the last person to assert that burning a few litres of booze by AMADA's activists in Imphal could melt glaciers in the North Pole and raise the sea level.

On the contrary, I wish to see a perfect AMADA which is as passionate about environment as it is about its drive against drugs and alcohol consumption. Its crusade against substance abuse is laudable by any yardsticks. In a short period of time, it has demonstrated and set an example of how civil society can lead the way where the state, angels and meira paibees have tried and failed and now fear to tread.

Because it has spawned competition and inspired other organisations to join the anti-drugs movement, we may be now encountering fewer drunken slobs in the streets, in our homes, at the local tea-stalls and at our workplaces. Every alcoholic caught and chastised by the AMADA also means one abusive and irresponsible father/husband/neighbour less in the society, not to talk of increased productivity due to precious man-hours saved.

But strictly speaking, there is a flimsy link between this organisation and the global warming. Our concern, however, is not with the real effects of AMADA's activities on carbon density or their magnitude; the issue is how a mass-based organisation projects its sensitivity towards environment protection—the symbolic part that can influence people's attitudes.

The act of burning toxic materials as a way of disposing them is increasingly becoming obsolete, politically incorrect and morally pugnacious. So when some of our flagship civil society organisations tend to throw matchsticks at anything that is inflammable, there is a cause for concern.

The need of the hour is to set an example for our future generation that going green is not just Al Gore's fad, but a necessity if this planet has to survive. We can't do that by exposing our children to images of mobs setting up toxic bonfires every time they watch the ISTV news.

All these are not issues of mere academic interest. Already we are experiencing abnormal seasonal change, erratic monsoons, unprecedented level of air pollution and freak temperature fluctuations. Before we realise, the monster of climate change has reached our backyard, and its co-conspirators are our complacency and ignorance. Which brings us to the thought that if you are not worried by climate change, you are either a sadist or a very phlegmatic person.

Apart from that, our burning spree also reveals a little dark secret about ourselves. It is a manifestation of our obsession with violence and pent-up frustrations. As a society we need to introspect. We have developed a disturbing habit of setting ablaze to anything at the drop of a hat.

We raze down government buildings, our own schools and colleges, hospitals, vehicles and almost any public property—never mind the fact that it is the taxpayers' money, your and my hard-earned money, that is being annihilated.

We never ask ourselves, much less establish a deliberative culture: Will burning down an office property raise our salary; will turning our college into ashes confirm our part-time job; will petrol-bombing the library restore our linguistic heritage...

Did we ever question ourselves: Is natural justice being served to the family of a criminal when we burn their house for one person's fault; is putting the liquor on flames the only means of destroying it...the list is endless.
In most of these cases, the answer is no. Our fiery zeal for destruction reveals a vindictive psyche that pervades through all sections of society. It is not a healthy sign, nor a civilized behaviour.

So may I—as a well-wisher—suggest to AMADA that it adopt better, more peaceful and environment-friendly ways of disposing the bootleg that it seizes from vendors?

Can't it be just thrown down the drain? If this can't be done and if you are determined to kindle it anyway, then at least put the booze to a useful use, like using it as an alternative fuel to meet the energy needs of the AMADA's Mayai Loisang.

Making bonfires of liquor in plastic pouches increasingly looks like a primitive tribal ritual of spectacle, and a dirty one at that.