Green issues as poll cards

The new Australian Prime Minister Kelvin Rudd has a budget to protect the Great Barrier Reef, one of the greatest natural wonders of our times.

| Updated on: Nov 26 2007, 01:50 IST

Kevin Rudd's victory in Australia raises important questions. Have the voters in developed world become conscious of their environment? Environment was an important electoral issue during Australian elections. In part, it had to do with the fierce manifestation of global warming through droughts, hurricanes and floods. Australians felt their own vulnerability mirrored in these.

Rudd has a budget to protect the Great Barrier Reef, one of the greatest natural wonders of our times. He has opposed nuclear power previously and seems to take global warming seriously.

While, John Howard had refused to acknowledge the relevance of environment as an electoral issue. Rudd rode the popular groundswell.

In England, Tony Blair spoke about these issues passionately, but did little for these issues. Earlier this year, the candidates in the French elections debated controlling their greenhouse emissions. Sarkozy was open to creating fiscal disincentives for products with a large carbon footprint, though he defended France's large nuclear energy sector. That said, he's not known to be particularly empathetic to environmental issues.

In sum, every victor, and most losers, have a well-discussed green agenda these days. A shift from just five years ago. There is no doubt that voters here are trying to force their governments to act. We do have the activist voter, clearly. But to me, the equally important issue is whether such voters will go a step forward and agree to pay for the carbon economy they thrive on? Responsible voting must be followed by responsible action.

Toxic baby freed

You've seen it, but you wouldn't have recognized the harm it can do to an infant. The baby-feeding bottle with toxics like Bisphenol. A chemical that causes cancer, and is found in plastics. Commonsense dictates that every time science offers us such evidence, we should withdraw all the products and replace them with better alternatives. That's hard, given the logistics of disseminating another product and creating new user behaviour. In Canada, a public campaign has resulted in the government recognizing the problem, and setting up a panel of experts to suggest the best way forward. This is not only sensible for policy making on toxics everywhere, but is relevant for India, which hears news about products all the time. We know of lead in paints and dioxins in eggs, and huge build ups of toxics in animals. None of this has ever resulted in a public discussion with the government involved and finding a solution. Governments like Canada show how new science impacts their decision making to safeguard public health. We should learn too.

If you feel for Planet Earth, then write to bharati.

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First Published Date: 26 Nov, 01:43 IST