Anger has been the starting point of many a great world changing movement. Take 22nd April 1970 for example. The 20 million people who protested on the streets of America that day were an angry lot – they were angry about the polluting factories, toxic dumps, oil spills, loss of wilderness and a host of other environmental scourges that were destroying their land and their lives. And their angry demonstrations not only led to a swift slew of environmental legislations, but it also saw the birth of what we now celebrate annually as Earth Day. And yes, 22nd April 1970 marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
The past several months have seen an angry India. Angry about corruption. Angry about rape. Angry about child abuse. Angry about price rise. Angry about political callousness. But environmental concerns? No anger. No passion.
At a recent workshop I attended, the speaker – the Mumbai bureau chief of one of India’s leading newspapers – pointed out that environment news rarely finds space in the media, since it is considered “soft news”. So does this also imply that those who engage in environmental issues are ‘softies’? Now that’s not just embarrassing, it’s downright insulting. But the frightful part is that it may be true.
Environmental activism has today been largely reduced to symbolic gestures or even to mere tokenism. Joining candle light processions, organizing beach cleanups, making a feeble attempt to segregate waste – that often seems to sum up our entire environmental effort. Soft solutions to tough problems. Obviously much is not being achieved. And so, environmentalists are hardly ever taken seriously.
As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s definitely a good moment to recapture some of the passion of the seventies. And to get angry again!