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Why declaring State of emergency in India would be a disaster.

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

We have been striking for more than six months with set of agendas majorly inspired by the demands of our fellow strikers who are striking in different parts of the world. The main theme that tops the list is establishments declaring climate emergency. For India specifically (also may be for other countries as well, but for our sake limiting to India only), declaring a Climate-change “STATE OF EMERGENCY” would be a disaster.

Such calls as, declaring climate emergency are understandable, but “very disturbing". The planet is on track to blow past  the ambitious 1.5 degree Celsius warming target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement by 2040, thanks largely to fossil-fuelled economic growth. Storms, droughts, floods and other disasters are growing more deadly as a result, and they’re mostly affecting the poor and dis-empowered. Eric Schewe, an expert on authoritarian regimes says,“If there’s an emergency, you create a set of security rules that are supposed to suppress politics." The history of such emergencies shows that they result in the expansion of repressive state power, short-circuiting political debate in favour of urgent, often militarised action to protect narrowly national interests, permitting governments to selfishly marginalise affected people even further. Alex Gourevitch wrote, an environmental state of emergency would entail "the suspension of politics — there is no political choice, no constituencies to balance, nothing to deliberate. There is no free activity, just do or die.” And a politics of “do or die” is bad for ordinary people. Emergencies overwhelmingly shut out the people who suffer the most, and we still have a chance to help everyone with systemic change. While global warming's many horrors — rising seas, crippling drought, species loss — sound apocalyptic, they are actually existential threats that are as systemic as they are urgent. Climate change is an intensification of inequalities in the present, a blow to the world’s poor delivered by a growth-based economic system that depends on fossil fuels for its survival. As Mike Hulme puts it up,a professor of human geography at the University of Cambridge, “The broader concern about emergency framing of climate change is whether it’s even appropriate way of thinking about what climate change is, It presents climate change as external threat or enemy to be conquered,” when in fact “there’s no identifiable external enemy here; it’s not something that can be conquered or defeated through that kind of marshalling of national resources.” James Lovelock, who first proposed the “gaia hypothesis,” wrote that climate change “may require, as in war, the suspension of democratic government for the duration of the survival emergency.” Reading Lovelock, it’s not hard to imagine climate change becoming the ultimate national emergency (after all, what’s more urgent than impending extinction), authorising a curtailment of democratic politics on a scale not even the War on Terror achieved. Right-wing populism is spreading across the globe, and much of its power derives from the ability of leaders to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria. Climate emergency might prompt lawmakers to further militarise national borders. And in an increasingly populist political climate, the kinds of emergency responses likely to gain traction in the long-term are those that ignite the right's xenophobic fears. Instead of proactive long-term measures to cut planet-warming emissions — like stopping oil drilling or restricting car use — a government equipped with “emergency” powers would more likely target what it sees as  immediate, tangible “threats.” One such example might be shooting aerosols into the atmosphere to cool the climate, according to Hulme, who has shown that geoengineering proposals tend to be linked to emergency rhetoric. Yet such projects are not only dangerous; they also give fossil fuel companies permission to keep drilling as the world burns. Indeed, given that the everyone seems to be quietly coming around to the reality of climate change (despite some high-profile acts of denial), “national emergency” rhetoric and policy could easily become a conservative strategy for dealing with climate change by building “big, beautiful walls” to exclude various Others from the relative stability of developed Nations or even states in our case. The real tragedy of treating climate change as an emergency, rather than an uneven distribution of physical and social harm,  is that it would worsen the inequality that brought us to this point in the first place. Refusing a national emergency logic is not a call to "do nothing;" it is an insistence that climate change demands the resuscitation of democratic politics, not its suspension, according to Schewe. It means rethinking political action on the basis of popular mobilisation, not using and then defending the state's most repressive tools. Even in best case scenarios — namely, planetary warming levelling off at 1.5 degrees Celsius — the effects of that warming will shape human societies long into the future. At what point would a climate emergency be finished? Probably never.

“It’s much easier to enter into an emergency than to end one,” Hulme said. “At what point is the emergency finished? If you’re going to declare an emergency that means you have committed yourself indefinitely to a future of emergency life, and it opens up the suspension of certain norms and democratic protocols.”


Lakshay has edited and re- organised the data from the article to make it more suitable to the target audience of India. Here's the link to original article

Here are different links to sources.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. About Casey Williams He is pursuing a PhD. in literature at duke university.His work focuses on discourses of natural disaster and environmental change. drawing from Marxist cultural studies, critical geography, and science studies, his work considers how representations of human and nonhuman environments condition effective and political responses to contemporary environmental decline -- global climate change as well as local pollution, contamination, etc.


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