For over a decade the coal industry has funded campaigns designed to convince Americans that coal can be burned without adverse environmental impacts. These campaigns raise troubling ethical issues. In fact, as we shall see, these campaigns have often been misleading and deceptive in several different ways. This deception is classic propaganda because propaganda presents facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information presented.

It’s that time of the year again. Climate change talks are heating up, with the next conference of parties scheduled in Durban in end-November. There is heat but no light. The negotiations are stuck despite the clear signs of climate change: dangerous and potentially catastrophic extreme weather events. Not much is expected in Durban, except the usual shadow-boxing. The European Union is leading the pack of climate champions. It wants the world to fast track negotiations for a single, legally binding treaty on cutting emissions.

Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act was enacted 15 years ago. Do you feel helpless because it has not yet been implemented?

As the minister of panchayati raj, my first job is to remind people about the existence of PESA. If need arises I can go for further legislation to ensure that states comply with the provisions of PESA. For this, I will talk to chief ministers and ministers in charge of panchayati raj activities.

Next year, in June, world leaders will get together in the joyful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to mark 20 years of UNCED—the Earth Summit (see Down to Earth, May 15, 1992).

On his focus areas as chairperson of Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)

I would like to focus on building capacity in developing and least developed countries. Most of them do not understand the Codex document, what it contains and what is there between the lines. So, they do not know how they are going to be affected by a decision of the Commission. These countries need to be supported and trained. A lot of hand-holding will have to be done if CAC is to be of use to these countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organisation are already engaged in a lot of capacity building and this effort needs to be further enhanced.

As the UN begins its meeting to devise strategies to tackle NCDs, Indian public health activists say it was a wake-up call for the health authorities in India. Some of them expressed concern that the meeting may be used to push industry agenda.

On many occasions monsoons have failed leading to droughts, but IMD did not predict them. Why?

We were standing at the edge of what looked like a swamp—grass and pools and streams. On one side was heavily barricaded land with high walls, barbed wires and armed security. A board read: East Coast Energy, Kakarapalli. This was where a bloody battle had taken place a few months ago. People protesting the takeover of their wetland were shot at and three lost their lives. Now the site of the 2,640 MW thermal power plant is under siege—locked and in court.