Carbon footprint – what a feat!

It’s that day of the year when everyone gets excited about their carbon footprint, only to have nothing to do with it when the day is done. So far, the hubbub was restricted to corporates who chose the occasion of World Environment Day to make a grand pretence of atoning for their misdeeds – clever shareholder communication, in other words. But now, our otherwise unapologetic government has also jumped in.

The tone of advertisements issued by government departments in India have always been a half-hearted, halfway effort between bone-numbing pedantry and pedagogic inanity festooned with mugshots of the irascible rascals responsible for siphoning off public money for their private interests. That’s a lot of superlatives, yes.

But consider this ad published today in The Times of India by the Karnataka Pollution Control Board:

  1. It says ‘Don’t leave your carbon footprint on the earth’. Ah, how evocative. Now, will they please suggest a list of places where we can leave it? And isn’t this whole business about reducing the carbon footprint since it’s impossible not to leave behind one at all. It’s clear that the gurus at the KPCB are latecomers into the talk. So don’t even expect them to walk it.
  2. Now, the only recycled material in this ad is the content, which is clearly lifted from any other public service noise that just anyone else in the world is making about ‘carbon footprint’, viz:

a) Use bicycles/ make cycling a habit: Cute, but the only cycling I get to do is in the gym. Because if I venture out into the real world on a bicycle, there is no guarantee of returning home alive riding it. Are there bicycle lanes anywhere in India? Of course, the KPCB can say that they are not the “concerned department”, in more than one sense of the term.

b) Plant and nurture trees: Try telling this to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which has to date connived with the state Forest Department to rid the city of its green cover under the pretext of development works. And in the place of our banyans and peepals have come fast-growing copper pods, rain trees and gulmohurs – introduced species that are ornamental but otherwise practically useless. And so easily felled by a good gale.

That said, it’s a good gesture. Even if the Board’s responsibility ends here.

Talking of pollution control, every month the Bangalore Traffic Police embarks on a conscientious mission to enforce discipline among Bangalore’s polluting vehicles. They stop vehicles (apparently at random) and demand to see an emission test certificate – you know, the ones issued by those shady little booths attached to fuel stations. It’s a High Court Order, they will tell you if you argue, and brandish in your face a faded photostat copy of something Devanagari.

Now, this certification is a mere formality for most Euro II and Euro III vehicles but somehow, something magic happens and turns the attention of our devoted men in uniform from the smoke-belching and utterly un-roadworthy trucks, buses and three-wheeled tempos grunting past you with impunity to your own uncertified but otherwise unpolluting Euro II vehicle. Of course, you don’t have to flex your cerebral muscles to deduce that the constables’ discretion extends only to drivers of vehicles who look like they are carrying the requisite amount payable as fine.

And yes, in the end everyone is fine with that and nobody raises an alarm. Such good citizens.

As for carbon footprint – I know plenty of enraged drivers who’d like to leave a nice sooty one on the faces of those cops.

It’s World Environment Day. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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