Australian cartoon depicting Indians eating solar panels slammed as racist

Bill Leak cartoon for the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, drawn following the Paris climate conference, sparks outrage at its "provincial ignorance"

Tom Brooks-Pollock
Monday 14 December 2015 09:49
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A cartoon in the Australian newspaper depicting Indians eating solar panels, published in response to the Paris climate confernece, has sparked outrage, with critics branding it provincial and racist.

It appeared in the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper on Monday, after the conclusion of the COP21 talks in the French capital which agreed to limit global warming to less than 2C by the end of the century.

The cartoon was condemned in India and by academics in Australia, with one branding the cartoon "unequivocally racist" for misleadingly showing the country as underdeveloped and ignorant of technology.

Amanda West, associate professor of sociology at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the Guardian: "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.

"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.

"But actually it is people living in poverty that will suffer the most through food security, sea level rises, dropping of the water table."

She added that the cartoon was less likely to have been published in the UK or the US because it would have provoked an "incredible outcry".

“India has not only been a sophisticated negotiator on climate change, insisting ‘developed’ nations pay their dues for destroying the planet, it has also voluntarily started adopting renewables like solar energy in hundreds of villages. It has not needed to be browbeaten into climate intelligence or consciousness, unlike many developed nations.

"In truth, the bewildered farmers in Leak’s cartoon could probably teach him a thing or two about solar panels, while treating him to the indisputable pleasures of mango chutney.”


The Indian journalist, Shoma Choudhury, editor-in-chief of Catch News, said: "India has not only been a sophisticated negotiator on climate change, insisting ‘developed’ nations pay their dues for destroying the planet, it has also voluntarily started adopting renewables like solar energy in hundreds of villages. It has not needed to be browbeaten into climate intelligence or consciousness, unlike many developed nations.

"In truth, the bewildered farmers in Leak’s cartoon could probably teach him a thing or two about solar panels, while treating him to the indisputable pleasures of mango chutney."

Twitter didn't respond well, either.

Clive Mathieson, editor of the Australian, confirmed he edited Monday's paper but declined to comment on the cartoon.

Mr Leak also reportedly declined to comment.

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