Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Kantian perspective on Tata Nano

When the whole world is going ga-ga over the Tata nano, there are a few voices raising concerns over the pollution, traffic jams and the increase in the oil imports that would be the consequence. Some have even called for an extra tariff for small cars. As if this is the fault of the Tatas. 

I give credit to a Slashdot comment for opening my eyes - it asked "why should the rich have any more right to jeopardize the human and environmental health" ? 

A simple application of Kant'ian philosophy unravels the criticisms. Roughly put, it asks "what would happen if everybody in the world does this" ? The application of Kantian philosophy didn't arise so far in automobiles (except for a subtle influence on nobel-winning "Market for Lemons"), because there was no way that a sizeable number of people could own cars. Now that this is possible, the in-built hypocrisies become apparent. If you can travel by car, so can anybody else. If you don't care about pollution, why should (or would) anyone else.
For all those environmentalists who are "having nightmares" hearing about the new car, why didn't they have nightmares before when people were travelling in cars (though in small numbers) ? Do they plan to stop travelling by car from now on - as an example of non-polluting living ? Are they also going to eschew travelling by air - since per capita pollution is more than by car ?  

Now for the safety.  Anyone who has been commuting in Bangalore understands the vulnerability of two-wheelers in the traffic especially in bad weather conditions. People have been counseling me to buy a car, because it is "safer" (as in you don't get hurt, the other person does) than a bike. To say that safety is a private domain of a few people is probably the most outrageous thing that I want to hear. 

But why isn't anyone lobbying for the solution that can solve a lot of problems - good public transport ?
I know it has become quite fashionable to pretend to be "green". While it is pretty easy to burn effigies or march holding placards or publish articles in journals, it is difficult to put things in practice.

Update: An excellent article on above theme.

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At Wednesday, 5 March, 2008 at 7:03:00 PM IST, Blogger Sridhar Narasimhan said...

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