Friday, October 12, 2007

Along With Al Gore, Rajendra Pachauri

As everyone has presumably heard by now, Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this morning for his work on climate change, in conjunction with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The head of that panel is an Indian scientist named Rajendra Pachauri, who formerly worked for the Tata Energy Research Institute. (As an aside, if you're the head of a panel that wins a Nobel Prize, do you get to say "you" won the prize? Probably not, I suspect. One would have to find a nuanced way to put this kind of thing on one's CV...)

According to the BBC, Al Gore and Pachauri had a brief conversation after the award was announced:

The two men spoke on the phone after the announcement.

"This is Pachy... I am certainly looking forward to working with you. I'll be your follower and you'll be my leader," Dr Pachauri said. (link)

(Pachy? Oy.)

In recent years, Pachauri has sharply criticized the general lack of action on climate change, though interestingly his name was originally put forward for this post by the Bush administration, because he was thought to be less passionate about the subject than his British predecessor:

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius this month that he personally believes that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive".

His comments rocked the Bush administration - which immediately tried to slap him down - not least because it put him in his post after Exxon, the major oil company most opposed to international action on global warming, complained that his predecessor was too "aggressive" on the issue. (link)

The backstory on Pachauri's initial appointment goes back to the controversy over the Bush administration's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol; more on that here. I'm a little puzzled as to why the Bush Admin. thought Pachauri would be a quieter candidate, especially since I gather he himself supported a boycott of ExxonMobil back in 2001.

Last year I wrote a post about Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, with specific emphasis on the potential impact on the Indian subcontinent. As I mentioned earlier, there is a very high likelihood of major population displacement in the Bay of Bengal due to rising sea levels. Also, the core of the water supply for the entire Indian subcontinent is likely to dry up, possibly in our lifetimes, due to the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers. Thirdly, the overall monsoon climate pattern may significantly change, though no one knows exactly how that will happen (people say there have already been changes in the pattern).


Monday, January 29, 2007

"Children of Men," anyone?

I don't have time to do justice to Children of Men, but both Joseph Kugelmass at The Valve and Mark at K-Punk have written long, excellent posts on the film, and I would recommend you to them.

The film is, visually, extaordinary -- it led to one of those rare nights where I couldn't sleep, not because the baby was waking up every couple of hours (though there was that), but because I was haunted by the film's spectacular cinematography.

My one reservation with Children of Men comes from the slightly-too-heavy Christian flavor of the humanism in the film. The filmmakers definitely distance themselves from fundamentalist Christianity (the ‘repentance’ cult is seen as deluded), but it’s very hard not to read the Birth of a Child as enabling the Redemption of the Human Race in anything other than Christian terms.

Perhaps it’s possible to deemphasize this because the film brings in so many secular progressive/liberal themes-—the totalitarian overtones of the War on Terror and the Department of Homeland Security, the persecution of immigrants/minorities, and the potentially devastating consequences of pollution on both the environment and on human health.

But all that couldn’t help me from feeling a little confused during the scene where Kee and Theo were walking down the street and soldiers were making the sign of the cross—as if the film’s ideology was shifting under my feet, and I was being offered a Communion wafer when I had thought I was eating Junior Mints.

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