At the UN Climate Summit, could India become a champion, not just a casualty, of the crisis? – Raghu Karnad

(Raghu Karnad is an Indian journalist and writer, and a recipient of the Windham–Campbell Literature Prize for Non-Fiction. This column first appeared in The New Yorker on October 26, 2021)

  • In “The Ministry for the Future,” published last year, the science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson imagines a course by which the world might arrive at a new sort of utopia, on the other side of the climate crisis: a “good Anthropocene.” It’s a hard road, and many dystopias are glimpsed along the way. The novel opens in a town in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, as it is hit by a “wet-bulb” heat wave, in which high temperatures and humidity combine in a manner that makes it impossible for bodies to cool without air-conditioning. Then the power grid collapses. Twenty million people in the region die, including nearly every inhabitant of the town. The scene is dreadful and vividly described, yet it stirred me less than what happens next: India abandons its apathy and half-measures, and becomes the first large country to truly revolutionize in order to meet the demands of the climate crisis. “Time for the long post-colonial subalternity to end,” Robinson writes. “Time for India to step onto the world stage, as it had at the start of history, and demand a better world. And then help to make it real.” A national workforce sets about refurbishing the national grid and building wind, solar, and free-river-hydroelectric plants to replace coal-burning stations. In the next five hundred pages, the country leads the world by example in the defining challenge of the twenty-first century…

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