What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Inspiring Action through Art – ft. Niharika Rajput

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On World Sparrow Day, we had caught up with Niharika Rajput,  a bright young artist/entrepreneur who is using her passion and art for spreading the message of bird conservation through her initiative ‘Paper Chirrups’. On the occasion of World Migratory Bird Day, we share her journey off the beaten path and what inspires her, in her own words. Read on !

 

 

 

 

“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark” – Rabindranath Tagore

Birds are intriguingly referred to as God’s messengers as they traverse all the five elements that constitute life: Water, Earth, Air, Fire and Space, literally and in mythological metaphors. They traverse the length and breadth of this planet without having to acquire a passport or visa. Nationality doesn’t define their colour, race or character, whether it be the tiny Humming birds flying from Alaska to Mexico or the Black-necked cranes flying from Tibet to Ladakh, they all become bearers of diverse nationalities.

My love for the winged species is not recent, I’ve had a deep admiration for birds and wildlife in general since I was young. Growing up, life caught on to me and I didn’t realize when I stopped observing them, until I saw a flock of 10 to 12 Red Billed Blue Magpies in Himachal Pradesh. The idea of doing something creative always made me feel very comfortable. At the time, I was struggling to find the subject I connected best with to build my pieces. After my sighting of the Magpies, I was certain that Birds will be my focus. However, it didn’t end there. That was just the beginning.

Black necked crane workshop

Black – necked cranes workshop, Druk Padma School,  Ladakh

The more I delved into it the more I learned about what was happening to them. Climate change, loss of habitat, hunting, poisoning, illegal trade to name a few, really opened up my eyes to the plight of birds. So I started using Art as my channel of communication. With the support of many conservationists and nature centres, I have been successful in conducting Art for Wildlife Conservation projects in India and all over the world. From Delhi to Ladakh to British Columbia my focus has been various species of birds.

Birds of Ladakh , workshop , Satho Govt school , Ladakh

Birds of Ladakh Workshop , Satho Govt School , Ladakh

I’ve conducted workshops with almost 1500 children, men and women through my projects which tend to be educational, entail discussions, hand building activities, bird watching trips and introduction to Bird Guides. These workshops are a step towards getting people excited about the birds found in their region and help train them to be ‘bird sleuths’ and ‘citizen scientists’.

Birds of Paradise workshop, Alan Brooks Nature Centre( British Columbia)

Birds of Paradise workshop, Alan Brooks Nature Centre, British Columbia, Canada

“From being a farmer’s best friend for protecting the crops against pests and insects, to helping in cross pollination and proving to be true custodians of the environment by cleaning up most human waste, birds are capable of doing it all”.

I have always believed that the natural world has the most magnificent and sophisticated mechanisms. Every creature big or small has a significant role to play in the ecosystem and in our survival. From times immemorial birds have played a significant role in preserving and balancing various ecosystems. From being a farmer’s best friend for protecting the crops against pests and insects, to helping in cross pollination and proving to be true custodians of the environment by cleaning up most human waste, birds are capable of doing it all.

However some of these chirrups are rather feeble and perishable. For example, the humble Sparrow (also the state bird of Delhi) holds great significance in our lives. They have always nested in our homes, helped study Earth’s magnetic fields and are great indicators of climate change. Modern infrastructure lacking the curves and crevices, change in climate, habitat loss and lack of adequate food sources are some of the many reasons why the House Sparrow is on a constant decline.

We should work together to keep the natural world alive, whether it be birds or our oceans or our forests. They need us the most now, to fight the battle of survival for them.  Choosing this path has its ups and downs but the cause also motivates you to keep at it because the eventual result is always very fulfilling.

To read more about her projects, you can visit the ‘Campaigns’ section of her website.

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India Struggling Between the Juggernaut of International Image & Equity @Climate Talks

Dispatches from COP 20, Lima. 

Indian government delegation is warming up for a test match like scenario at COP 20 in Lima. Last blog-post looked at couple of expectations shared by the delegation members. Those were elaborated further today at an informal chit-chat with civil society. It seems that India in coordination with other developing countries will push for Adaptation, Adaptation, and Adaptation at par with mitigation in Paris, 2015 climate deal. The equal parity between mitigation, and adaption in the mandate of Global Climate Fund was appreciated in the interaction.

While the need for inclusion of adaptation is understood well, there is no visible clarity on the nuts and bolts of framework for adaptation. According to Mr. Sushil Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), there is a benchmark limit like 2 Degree Centigrade for mitigation purposes, similar yardstick is yet to be devised for adaptation. To initiate an identical framework for adaptation, scale or some sort of index quantifying vulnerability is necessary, and the talks for the same are yet to take place. Informally Inter-governmental panel on climate change like body is being proposed to do the job quantification of vulnerability and adaptation.

There are more questions than answers about it.

India has been a champion of ‘equity’ in the convention. There is growing fatigue around the equity argument. There are apprehensions of it blocking or derailing the prospective deal. For new government in Delhi, international image is very important and also they don’t want to lose their flagpole of ‘equity’. The juggernauts of equity, international image and other pertaining questions have forced the government to open its floor for wider participation of civil society. And this has brought in new players like the think tank of prominent journalists and former bureaucrats in the game. In the interaction, it was very visible that the Indian delegation is heavily dependent on their opinions and understanding, and is waiting for their final verdict on the same.

The lack of clarity on government’s part has opened many doors for civil society to intervene and liaison. But it also leaves us in dismay as many in the delegation are not as prepared as we were made to believe.  We hope that Indian delegation, with little understanding and preparation is not going to make a fool of itself in the negotiations. Whatever said and done, one thing is very clear that Lima has inflamed desires for stronger agreement and it is not going to be a pass over as many were making us believe.


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Climate crisis: An appeal to the governments of Pakistan and India

By Rina Saeed Khan and Kabir Arora

With Jammu and Kashmir inundated and Punjab in Pakistan flooded, the time bomb is ticking away. Climate change has been declared to be the greatest threat facing mankind this century.

South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar are all vulnerable today.

We have not yet resolved the basic issues of poverty, hunger and inequality, which breed discontent and terrorism. And in these troubling times, we are forced to face the brunt of extreme weather events because of growing climate variability.

Recent scientific research shows near to virtual certainty of linkages between climate change and extreme weather events.

Climate change is a potent threat multiplier that will make all our problems much worse.

The investment on constructing Asia’s largest solar thermal power plant in the Cholistan Desert and subsidies to buy solar technology for households and institutions in India are good starting points for sustainable growth pathways to mitigate climate change. However, a lot more is expected from the South Asian leadership.

In India and Pakistan, we have popularly elected strong governments, who now should show pragmatic leadership to tackle the climate crisis.

Already a proposal has been submitted to the Pakistan government to request India, as part of the current “flood aid diplomacy” to establish a system for the real-time exchange of hydro-logical (rivers flow and reservoirs level) data between the two countries….

The article is originally published on dawn.com and can be read at here.


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Indian Youth on Climate Change

Climate Catalysts 2014

Climate Catalysts 2014

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ‘climate change is a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that  alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which occurs in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time and periods.

Climate Change builds elevated levels of insecurity about our future and amidst this uncertainty; there is only one thing certain. We shall leave our planet to our children, the future generations – today’s youth. The swift environmental changes demand humanity to not think in terms of years and decades, but across centuries and generations, where choices made today shall have a spillover on climate across the coming years. This recognizes the high need of making the youth aware about the challenges and opportunities that shall come along the science and policy of climate change. Undoubtedly, it is a must and the right of the youth to have a say in their future, not because of the anticipated impacts but it is their ingenuity, ability to define and bring upon answers with outright determination, that can make a significant difference in evading the catastrophes of climate change.

India is a powerhouse of the youth; not only for itself, but also for the world. By 2020, India is said to be the world’s youngest country with 64 percent of its population to be below 35 (United Nations IRIS Knowledge Foundation Report 2012). Think the quantum of change such millions minds can bring out. But battling with huge population, high poverty rate, weakening Indian rupee and weak governance coupled with its unparallel development schemes, India is a fragile landwhen it comes to impacts of climate change. The techno-economic solutions, financial incentives and political regulations are not enough. Education is the most powerful tool that has the potential to bring about a fundamental change in the way people think. It requires extensive makeover of the conventional education. It calls for learning and knowing climate change, about risk mitigation measures, biodiversity and innovative alternatives.

This key role to the involvement of the young in the matters of climate change was recognized by the United Nations Systems which works in collaboration with the United Nations Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth and Climate Change (Joint Framework Initiative). Through this, the youth has a decisive role of raising the national ambitions, which would result into an established new climate change regime by the year 2015. The COP13 (Conference of Parties) at Bali witnessed a paradoxical absence of the Indian delegation. Despite being one of the most vulnerable nations with the leading youth population, there was only a mere representation at the conference. Thus, to empower the Indian youth with a voice and to facilitate communication with the Indian parliamentarians, the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) was born. Such a formulation gave a platform to Indian youth to participate and contribute to the Indian climate dialogues on climate policy and agreements at national and international levels. The onset of COP20, to be held in Lima this year in December, will have IYCN play a very important role as it will take the climate change movement of India youth from the grassroots level to the global arena. A flagship programme called the IYCN Agents of Change, will train hundreds of youth across India around climate change. Through its workshops Agents of Change programme will lay a favorable ground for the Indian youth to formulate their voices for the future international policy on climate change. Selected youth from these workshops will be taken to Lima in December this year to attend COP 20. Agents of Change programme will expose youth to ongoing international climate discussions and gear them to participate at the local level negotiations. The programme will also help in harnessing the youth as a nation’s asset, driving them towards sustainable development where they shall formulate, work and lead the change.

The increasing impact and presence of young people in the climate talks in not only because climate change is inter-generational, but all because climate change doesn’t discriminate between with respect to age. Youth bring a different voice, energy and determinations. A youth attending the Regional Workshop on the Implementation of Article 6 of the UNFCCC in Africa, 2010, rightly said, “Fighting climate change is not about polar bears. It’s about me and about us; it’s about love and about trust.”

Youth can build effectual partnership with printing and social media to exponentially spread public awareness on youth action on climate change. They can produce documentaries, movies and science fiction on anticipated consequence of climate change on the ecosystem. Through networks like IYCN, the youth have immense opportunities to mobilize their ideas and imagination and develop them to drive India on the path of sustainable development. Al Gore in his new climate change awareness campaign, The Climate Reality Project, correctly highlighted the youth as ‘the advocates of the climate change movement.’ — By Dimple Ranpara, Project Survival Media

Agents of Change is a programme of IYCN and being supported by Germany India Cooperation (GIZ). The workshops are being conducted in 8 cities- Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Vizag and Chandigarh. The workshops are open to youth from all walks of life. Please check the schedulebelow to participate in your city. There is no fee for attending these workshops.

SCHEDULE

Date

City

August       23, 24

Hyderabad

                 30, 31

Bangalore

September 6,7

Pune

                 13, 14

Ahmadabad

                 20, 21

Chandigarh

                 27, 28

Delhi

October     11, 12

Kolkata

                 18, 19

Bangalore

November   1, 2

Vizag

 

 

 


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A Journey to Remember: Climate Solutions Road Tour (Episodes 1 & 2)

In 2009, an adventurous team of young people gathered in India to undertake a 3,500 kilometer journey across the country in search of solutions to climate change.  This unforgettable journey in a caravan led by electric vehicles made quite a splash.  Five years later thanks to Solar Punch, we are able to share this journey with you in snippets.  For more on the tour, you can also visit the website.


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दलों का दलदल

(We are all trapped in the quicksand of political parties)

Elections have just concluded in 5 of the 30 states of India.  There has been a record turnout of youth and women voters this election season.  In Delhi alone, youth voters turned out in historical numbers pushing the total number of voters to 65% (the maximum before this was 61.8% in 1993).  While the allure of new political winds ushered in by the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) (The Common Man’s Party) may have driven some of the enthusiasm in a population beleaguered by poor governance and the false prophets of established political parties, let’s hope that these demographic shifts are here to stay.  And why shouldn’t youth be engaged?  After all, it is their future that is being whittled away by career politicians who are happy to sell the ecological wealth on which their livelihoods will depend.

So why do Indian political parties fail to acknowledge the need for environmental conservation in their campaigns? Article 48(A) of Part IV of the Indian constitution reads: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”  In no political party’s manifesto is it apparent that the political class has thought clearly about the matter.  If we can thank anyone for the protection of any ounce of our nation’s ecological capital (from a legal/governance perspective) it is the Supreme Court which has been cited as the greenest court in the world.

Why the empty promises of 30% reduced electricity tariffs which will only further bleed our utilities dry and leave them with no revenue to innovate for the future much less provide reliable access?  Why promise 700 liters of free potable water when you have a fetid and dead river that flows through your city (and there’s hardly any ground water left)?  Why promise new sewage treatment plants when billions of dollars have been spent on sewage treatment plants already and while we still have over 50% of our untreated sewage making its way to the river?  Who needs “Statehood” for what should be the most easily governed unit in the whole Republic of India?  You want to set up child-friendly courts for crimes against children?  How about one that will ensure that these children have their right to life and livelihood protected by having a firm foundation (environment) in place by the time they grow up?  You want a monorail?  Did you forget about the ring rail that is hardly used?  How about refurbishing that and integrating it with the metro system (and continuing to build the Bus Rapid Transit)?  These populous promises mean nothing.  Meanwhile Delhi and India at large are headed nowhere, very fast.  Think about that the next time you are caught in traffic and choking on the ever-increasing fumes while mantri’s whiz past you in their luxury vehicles.

  By Supriya Singh and Kartikeya Singh


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IYSoCC Just the Beginning

From debate paralleling UN climate negotiations to Mr. Narayana Murthy’s address to the youth and from discussion of India’s emissions targets to staying up till 3am discussing the future youth want to build: the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change was a milestone for India’s youth movement on climate change.

IYSoCC Participants in front of the Charminar in Hyderabad city

IYSoCC Participants in front of the Charminar in Hyderabad city

The aim of the summit was to come out with a youth declaration on climate change to unite the individuals and organizations that have a stake in climate change – which is everyone! The summit also aimed to create the framework that would then move on to produce the India’s Youth Action Plan on Climate Change, climate policy that will be proposed to the government over the next 6-8 months. The summit was organized by the Friendship Foundation, Global Citizens for Sustainable Development, Nature & Biological Sciences Society, the Indian Youth Climate Network, and hosted by Infosys Technologies Limited at their Gachibowli campus.

It was agreed that “young people have power” as mentioned by guest speaker Bittu Sahgal, founder of Sanctuary Magazine, who went on to say it was time for youth to use it to their advantage. Deepa Gupta, co-founder of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN), said, “There are so many young people working on this issue, and we won’t be listened to as individuals or as a small group of people, but mass united as the youth of India: we cannot be ignored. India has about 700 million under the age of 35. How can they not be represented in the decisions, when they are the ones that will be impacted the most by climate change?” This outlined the aim of IYCN, who have grown from a reach of 3 to over 200,000 people within 4 months of the inception of the youth movement.

Mr. Narayana Murthy, co-founder, non-executive Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies Limited, addressed the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change delegates. He encouraged all of the delegates to walk the talk, “I have always believed that the most powerful instrument that a leader has is leadership by example.” He further proved this by describing his sustainable living practices, including bathing with only half a bucket of water every day for the past 40 years.

Participants agreed that India needs to act urgently, commit to emissions reduction targets and renewable energy targets. They also agreed our actions need to be based on an international target of 350ppm concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. This was outlined by Mr. Will Bates from 350.org, as being the maximum safe upper limit for a safe and stable climate.

There was lots of discussion including a future India powered 100% renewable energy, international taxes to high carbon emitters, an independent GHG regulatory authority. There was also discussion on mandatory emissions reporting, all metropolitan roofs having rainwater harvesting systems by 2012 and adapting to the projected 125 million climate refugees in a business as usual scenario.

Youth presented on the climate impacts in their area, with representation ranging from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan to Meghalaya. They committed to actions in their states from organizing renewable energy expos, working with schools and colleges, lobbying their local government to implementing rural energy projects, organizing solar powered rock concerts and participating in the international climate negotiations.

The launch included all delegates from Hyderabad and AP signing on to the Hyderabad Climate Alliance Pledge, agreeing that they “understand that climate change is an impending global catastrophe… and believe that Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh will be particularly susceptible… and commit to contribute in earnest to mitigating climate change and helping the people and natural environment of Hyderabad to adapt.”

Other guest speakers included, Mr. Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations; Vandana Shiva, an eminent physicist, environmental activist, author and the founder of the Navdanya Institute; Amala Akkinani, film star and founder of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad, Gaurav Gupta from the Climate Project India, Dr Rajamani, Former Chief Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI, and speakers from CSM, Oxfam, Greenpeace and Sierra Club.

Other quotes:

Narayana Murthy

“We have a population of 650 to 700 million people under the age of 30. If we can mobilize this force, we will have enormous power for change to address climate change.”

Dr Rajamani:

“In your own group wherever you’re live, make the change”

“I think you’re on the ball, on the move, all the best”

Amala Akkinani

“I may not be a climate expert, but I am a concerned citizen. I love my planet; it is my only home.”

Bittu Sehgal

“Young people have power, and it is time to use it to your advantage.”

“If a lot do a little, a lot gets done.”

“If your house is on fire, you can’t go downstairs and have a debate on who started the fire and who is responsible to put it out. You all need to get some water and put it out.”

Ms. Farida Tampal

“Genetic diversity in our food crops means that we will be protected from a single climatic disaster.”

Natasha Chandy of Greenpeace India

“If we need to fight climate change, we – tomorrow’s future – need to create a revolution today. IYSoCC is just the beginning.”