The cartoon appeared in the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian in response to the Paris climate conference. The cartoon shows an emaciated Indian family breaking up solar panels and one person trying to eat them with ‘mango chutney’. The climate deal was clinched with the approval of India, China and the US, after days of tough negotiations with the legally-binding pact seeking to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and committing $ 100 billion a year from 2020 to help developing nations.
India had bargained hard on behalf of developing countries and demanded that developed countries take on more responsibility and provide financial support to developing nations so that they could make a switch to green technology.
India also mooted the International Solar Alliance initiative, which was launched during the Paris conference. The cartoon sparked furore in the social media and academic circles with many slamming it as racist.
Amanda Wise, an associate professor of sociology at Macquarie University, said in her view the cartoon was shocking and would be unacceptable in the UK, the US or Canada.
“This cartoon is unequivocally racist and draws on very base stereotypes of third world, underdeveloped people who don’t know what to do with technology,” Wise told Guardian Australia.
“India is the technology centre of the world right now and has some of the most high-tech industries on the planet in that part of the world. The underlying message is that people in developing countries don’t need all these technologies to do with climate change — they need food,” she said.
The cartoon was widely condemned on Twitter, with many users drawing attention to India’s rapidly developing sustainable energy sector. Deakin University Professor Yin Paradies, whose research includes the economic effects of racism, also took the view the cartoon’s message was clearly racist.
“The message ... is that India is too stupid to handle renewable energy and should stick to coal,” said Paradies.
“Suggesting that ‘developing nations are stupid’ is racist given that such nations are invariably associated with specific racial groups (i.e. non-whites),” he said.