Islamabad’s Choohon Ki Majlis about climate change

Did not hear was a single word about carbon tax or governmental policy targeted at transitioning from fossil fuels


Imran Jan October 24, 2021
The writer is a political analyst. Email: [email protected] Twitter @Imran_Jan

I was once at a masjid in Texas. The Imam was giving a speech about the deep reach and the wide tentacles of the western liberal culture, corrupting the minds of the Muslim youth. While listening, I happened to look to my right where I saw many young American born desi teenagers glued to their cellphones. I turned toward the window to see if I could catch a glimpse of the western culture’s pied piper on his way out informing his superiors, “our work here is done”. I didn’t see anything.

That was many years ago. I had a deja vu last week in Islamabad. The Swedish embassy in Islamabad had invited me to this 7-Day Challenge campaign to create awareness about climate change and how to tackle it. It was held at the residence of the Swedish ambassador. Business executives, social media influencers, and some political leaders were also in attendance.

The entire focus of the event was to remind us of our bad habits such as eating beef, cutting trees, the usual. People went above and beyond to make the single point that we, the people, must carry out jihad against our lifestyles. The fossil fuel deep deflection campaign had already manifested its presence. The people were very similar to those masjid teenagers 8 thousand miles away. One of the most sinister tactics the fossil fuels propaganda uses is deflection as pointed out by Michael Mann. Deflection was at full display that night.

Representatives from different social work organisations talked about keeping the trails and streets of Islamabad clean and avoiding unnecessary driving. At one point, I almost felt as if I was attending a sanitation drive campaign. Business industry representatives talked about changing their product packaging to ensure a lower carbon footprint. Every time words such as people, habits, lifestyles are used just remember it is the fossil fuel propaganda machinery in full swing.

Talking about altering personal choices and habits as the key to solving the climate crisis is exactly the kind of mindset the fossil fuels industry would love to inculcate because such rhetoric keeps the focus away from them and prevents the formation of a unified front against these real culprits of climate change. Tapping ourselves on the back thinking we have done enough by planting a tree or reading on Kindle instead of a paperback might help get a good night’s sleep but doesn’t make a dent in carbon accumulation in the sky.

One girl from Chitral spoke about how she started thinking about climate change when one day she was travelling to her hometown where she was stranded on the road for hours due to a massive flood blocking the roads. She said the floods were the result of a warming world. She was right. But she attributed the problem to the cutting down of trees entirely. I wonder if she had any clue that she was sitting inside the real reason behind that flood: the vehicle. A whopping 76% of global carbon emissions come from the energy sector, which includes transportation.

Amid the English language conversations even among the local Pakistanis and their fake accents, what I did not hear was a single word about carbon tax or governmental policy targeted at transitioning from fossil fuels toward solar and nuclear energy by subsidising the latter. Actually, I did not hear the phrase fossil fuels at all. Not a single phrase that said: let us all come together and pressure the government to only allow electric cars and generate clean electricity instead of by burning coal and oil. The event could have been rightly labeled as ‘climate change — beating about the bush’.

In 2012, three philosophers S Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg, and Rebecca Roache proposed “human engineering” to fight climate change. The idea was to make humans smaller so that they would consume less food and energy thus lowering our carbon footprint. I saw it myself, small humans make things worse.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2021.

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