NDTV’s Greenathon is a model case study of how the media creates and circulates images to conceal conflicts in society and impose pretences as infallible truths. The Greenathon is a thriving instance of such an activity. It is a cleverly constructed media event that appropriates environment as an issue for attracting eyeballs and hence sponsors and advertisers. It plays around the largely uncontested arena of climate and environment in order to assume unassailability and hide purely commercial interests behind its veneer. It tries to recruit general interest persons to create a semblance of a civil society, getting them to sign registers along with their emails and mobile numbers and thus procuring a list of immensely saleable value for chain mails and promotional SMS. It helps assure young students and entrepreneurs whose high consumption and greed has in any case got the world as climate challenged as it is today that by wearing a T shirt, or signing in a roster or running a few yards in a marathon helps them fulfill their duties as responsible citizens. In all this, the Greenathon not only distracts us from the real issues behind environment but, which is more serious, makes us believe that such stunts can substitute for solutions.
Apart from marathon runs and signature campaigns, the Greenathon also has a component of flimsy film stars visiting villages in India helping them set up “solar power” systems. These systems are manufactured and sold by a company in the USA (that keeps sending me their promotional material so I know) and are used to light up villages. These systems only provide light, no fans, no power points and works worse than our electric supply in electrification drives. The idea that the Greenathon circulates is of the Indian villages that go dark as soon as the sun sets. This is far from true; almost all villages in India have some degree of electricity, but they do not have the required supply to run water pumps, fans, water coolers, refrigerators, computers and televisions those that make life a decent living. Solar power cannot do this, all it can do is to light a few solar lamps at almost three hundred times the initial investment of an electric bulb !! This is called to be going green !!
What such crude initiatives do is to distort the truth and herein lie their wickedness. There is no way in which the climate change can be reversed until and unless we reign in our consumption. We have to eat less of fast food, discard clothes less often, remodel furniture a little less, drive in cars with economy, use less oil, less steel, less glass, less cooking fuel, less water. Since all of the above define our very civilization today, we have to have a civilizational change if we are to reverse the clock ticking away to spell the end of the earth. In short, this is the first time that the human race must think of restraining itself in its pursuit of mindless and needless consumption. Environment is thus a politics of life style, a politics against ostentation, against a model of development that thrives on the pursuit of private gain against community regeneration. Until and unless such questions are addressed, there can be no environmentalism.
The NDTV has been among many others been a prime agent portraying environmental movements as being against development. It supported the Tata against Singur farmers, upheld Jindal against peasants in Salboni, portrayed adivasis fighting against POSCO as miscreants and dubbed protests in Kalinganagar and Dantewada as being Maoists. In every case of an indigenous people’s movement, the NDTV has supported the charge of arms of the State against protests that are actually to save the earth from being raped by marauding machines and greedy men. Such an NDTV now pretends to be a savior of the environment by selling costly solar lamps through Bollywood stars.