GEORGE W Bush won, and won quite emphatically at that. John Kerry, his Democratic Party rival, lost. But the greater loss is that of the US electorate: it has abdicated all rights to scrutinise its government's ability to manage the environment. In fact, the US election results are symptomatic of an even greater loss: the environment is no longer a significant electoral issue in the North.
Bush whipped up two emotive issues to bolster his campaign: religiosity and terrorism. Kerry braced up his by arguments centred around the right form of religiosity and the wrong place to fight terrorism. Words such as 'homeland security' and 'family values' abounded; all other issues faded into oblivion. And environment -- a central motif in George Bush senior's campaign back in 1992 -- was totally obliterated from the election agenda.
Why do societies in the North believe that environment is not a political issue anymore? Because, they have begun to feel that their governments are doing quite fine on critical environmental issues, confronting their respective countries. We know that's a delusion. But the chimera of super-efficient Northern governments has been sold too well, at least in the industrialised world. People here have been lulled into the false belief that their governments are always on their toes, when it comes to the environment.
But we know better. The Kyoto Protocol was one feeble chance for the North to make amends, but it has been severely abused and bashed by vested interests in the industrialised world. These countries now contrive to keep their own backyards spic and span by dishing out waste to other countries (much like the Indian middle class). But the Third World cannot afford the luxury of exporting its troubles or postponing solutions to a graver tomorrow.
More importantly, it cannot afford people in the North to forfeit rights to evaluate their governments' performances on real issues.
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