Friday, January 11, 2008

Can the World Afford 'The Independent'?

So, The Independent is deeply worried about the effect of the Tato Nano, a new car available to India's "developing middle class" for a mere 100,000 rupees (or just over a thousand pounds). Their worry, of course, is about pollution - they imagine, with horror, hundreds of millions of Indian adults sending a pulse of billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year. This is surely the sort of hypocrisy that earns Western liberals so much scorn throughout the world. Leave aside the pressing moral issue of whether an Indian family are as entitled to drive a car as Simon Kelner or his staff are. Environmental justice is a more complex issue than even Monbiot's per capita calculations would suggest (his approach is too individualistic in this respect), and I'm not delving into it here. It's just that The Independent is constantly encouraging people to buy expensive cars, make lots of cheap flights, and so on. MediaLens does a good job of keeping tabs on this. I do understand that India's per capita pollution is not ideal, and that it kills hundreds of thousands of Indians each year. And I agree that a proper public transport system is a better solution than highly unsafe cars being purchased. But a newspaper that regularly gives rave reviews to the latest Renault or whatever, accepts advertisements for the most polluting forms of behaviour, publishes hit pieces denouncing the environmental movement as quasi-Stalinist, is surely not well-placed to launch a moral panic on this question.