Climate Strike


Read our Print Editor’s take on entitled social media activism and its removed and elitist enforcement on ground.

A few weeks ago, the Global Climate Change Strike struck its momentum on the streets of Delhi, and organisations like Fridays for Future started marching to mobilise the population against the silence of Government authorities and policy-makers on environmental degradation plaguing our planet. Social media flooded with posters and invitations to partake in the various marches – at Lodhi Gardens, Faculty of Arts, Jantar Mantar, and any place in Delhi which could make the authorities in power take notice, and twist a little in their comfortable seats (on airplanes for some of them).

What appeared to be an excellent initiative and the righteous action in theory, however, raised unsettling questions when seen with a critical lens on ground. A security guard walked up to us during the march at Jantar Mantar, and he asked one of the protesters with sincerity, “Yeh morcha kisliye kar rahe ho aap logg? (What are you guys marching for?)” The person whom he addressed had been sloganeering a few moments ago, but fumbled to express the basic agenda of the protest. This is not to highlight that she herself was ignorant – which, in our millennial thirst for “wokeness”, may verily be an absurd possibility – but to showcase that she did not know the right words in the tongue of the guard (Hindi) to explain the enormity of the issue.

The slogans, cries, and popular references employed in these strikes are, if not monopolised by the English language, subservient to a mainstream understanding which is accessible to a rare few. The “rare few” does not refer to the number – these marches had plenty of people supporting what is a pressing cause – but the strata of the diverse Indian society this form of a movement caters to is, consciously or unconsciously, significantly English-speaking, upper/ middle class. In today’s time, social media has become the norm of propaganda and publicity, but there is an inevitable class and culture divide which makes it impossible for many to become aware, let alone partake, in the cause of the environmental movement.

There are many like the security guard in our country who do not have access to the Instagram stories of the English-speaking, highly privileged influencers, or even concerned educated youth, but that lack of access does not essentially translate to a lack of concern. The movement in India appears to take this language and culture divide for granted. When aspiring for the quintessential western values and standards of awareness, we often laugh at the typical Indian behaviour by equating it with callousness. Knowing at least a minimal level of the English language has become a prerequisite for being included within the ambit of environmental activism in India. The mainstream media and television channels’ non-existent contribution to a movement that is becoming the most threatening matter of survival to our generation, is questionable. While Indian politicians make statements in absolute disregard of science, facts, and anything logically acceptable to an informed brain, it is an unfortunate reality that informs the realms of knowledge for most Indians.

Mainstream media broadcasts the Prime Minister stating, “Climate has not changed. Our habits have changed,” or education ministers claiming that cows exhale oxygen. Media is no longer a vehicle for bringing in expert panels that dissect the threat of global warming and climate change. While Greta Thunberg is an inspiring figure for the movement, a Western icon cannot define the entirety of our understanding of the movement’s complex practicality in India. This becomes a tool for exclusionary caste politics of the movement, since Adivasis and other marginalised tribal communities have been on the streets, fighting for the cause before it became popular on social media. The movement for environmental conservation is not an individualistic fight, and it cannot be a successful one if we delude ourselves in believing so. As youth, these strikes and marches showcase the strength of collectivism and have the power to bring significant policy changes. However, all movements are rooted in the context of their times, or else they lose any real power of change. It is imperative for us, to keep our jargon aside, keep the banners down, and explain our cause to those who will then join their force with ours.

Anushree Joshi

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On 20th September, as a part of the Global Climate Strike, organised by Fridays for Future,  hundreds came to Lodi Garden and marched towards the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change as a movement against Climate Change. 

The Global Climate Strike is an international movement against Climate Change where students in over 150 countries have mobilized themselves to raise voice against Climate Change. On 20th September, as a part of this movement, hundreds of people gathered outside Lodi Garden to march towards the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC).

The crowd gathered at the meeting point at 3 p.m. where Environment enthusiasts could be seen talking about Climate Change in front of the crowd. “We want to question the entire world. What is the world doing?”, said a passionate student on the makeshift podium.

The crowd then did an impromptu rendition of Sing for the Climate, the Climate Change Anthem, set to the tune of Bella Ciao, the famous anti-fascist anthem. It was followed by a die-in, a form of protest where the protestors lie on the ground to simulate being dead, to emphasize the harm caused by climate change.

At 3:30 pm, the march towards the Ministry began. The protestors marched down the road holding catchy posters, shouting “There is no earth B!”. While the movement was headlined by students, it was joined by people from all walks of life.

“Have you ever seen such a large group of people walking for the climate before? The climate change movement has begun, and young people are coming forward because they know it is their future. We need to save the planet, and rightly said by the activist, it’s not you or me who’s saying it, it is the scientists who are saying it.” Said Sanam, a protestor at the march.

However, the march wasn’t without roadblocks. After covering a distance of 100 metres, the police put up a barrier made of ropes and tried to stop the movement. Despite having proper permissions, the police officers asked the crowd to walk in that 100-metre space saying it is just a walk anyway. But, the enthusiasm of the crowd did not wither. On being told “humein aage nahi jaane diya ja raha hai (they aren’t letting us go further)”, the crowd replied with shouts of “jaayenge (we will go)”. The police eventually removed the barriers and the march continued to the Ministry with added vivacity.

“We are not here only based on emotions. We need data to be published by the government of India. Millions of people die in India due to pollution every year, it’s just that the government does to disclose. We are not going to sit silent. Due to this climate change, droughts and floods will increase, especially in the Indian subcontinent. Millions of people will become refugees; unemployment will increase, social unrest will increase. Enough talks have happened, enough articles have been submitted. It is time to act now… The question is what the government is doing. That is why we are standing here in front of the Ministry of environment, forestry and climate change.” Said Mr. Chitranjan Dubey, an activist present at the march, while addressing the crowd.

On reaching the Ministry, the crowd settled in front of the roadblocks set up by the police. While a few activists, went inside to meet the minister, different groups could be seen chanting slogans outside. In one corner students were sharing poetry and expressing their thoughts, while in the other they were playing music and dancing. “At the end of the day, Climate Change has still not become a priority for a lot of nations. We are hoping slowly and gradually, well, not gradually, faster, we can influence the Government”, said Vaishnavi, a student present at the march.

“This is happening around the world, and Delhi is just one bit of it. I hope we are sending our message loud and clear- we want change and change is coming.” said Nimrat, another student at the march.

However, when the activists went inside, it turned out neither Mr. Prakash Javedkar, the Minister of MOEFCC, nor Mr. Babul Supriyo, the Minister of State of MOEFCC, were present. They, then, met Ms. Richa Sharma, Joint Secretary, MOEFCC. “Agar seedhi bhaasha mein bolun to humein ek tarah se fool banadiya gaya (to be frank, they made a fool of us). Like the US, which is a country which got developed exploiting the natural resources, we should also follow the same path- This is what the Ministry is saying.” said an activist who went inside.

Jeevesh Gupta, a member from Extinction Rebellion India, in conversation with DU Beat, said, “the two movements have come together today – Extinction Rebellion India and Fridays for Future – because the goal is common. We just went inside the ministry, but both the ministers were not here. We met the Joint Secretary. They did not commit anything. They took the letter from us addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji and said they would speak to the minister- We don’t think anything will happen. But we would keep fighting for this and we would come back again, very soon.”

However, the energy of the crowd did not ebb. The activists were met with cheers despite the ministry’s response. “What I really want to say is that this energy is really amazing and what we are doing right now is something that we have never done before. What we need to do now is come in more numbers and do the strikes more often. Iske baad hum fir aayenge, har mahine aayenge, har week aayenge! (We will keep coming, every month, every week)” said the activists.

Feature Image Credits: Rishabh Gogoi for DU Beat

Satviki Sanjay

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Under the shadow of the Global Climate Strike and the increasingly popular students’ movement, Fridays for Future, the Delhi-based revolutionary student group, COLLECTIVE organized a discussion on the climate crisis at the Faculty of Arts on the 20th September.

The slogan of the event was “System change not Climate change” and through the discussion, the group sought to educate and invite people to join the movement against climate change.

The event saw speeches from students and professors from various departments of Delhi University. The range was incredible, mostly because it was a very free and organic discussion. Everybody was encouraged to speak about their understanding of climate change and their battles with it. It was littered with informative statistics and unsettling personal experiences. The event was organized with the immediate goal of highlighting the United Nations Conference on Climate Change which is to be held on the 23rd September. Sourya, a member of COLLECTIVE, said, “If this conference happens like its predecessors, then we’re well aware of the positions that will be taken. Profit-making multi-national corporations are given leeway to abuse the resources in the name of development. Strong statements are never made and they continue to be pardoned”. He also stressed on the need for radical change in the way governments and citizens approached climate change. “Personal lifestyle changes are important, but when the situation is so grave that every year Chennai sees a severe water shortage, Mumbai sees forest fires and more of Assam continues to go underwater, radical systematic changes have to be made”, he added.

A thread connecting all these different speeches was about the importance of recognizing the politics of climate change. The issue can no longer be viewed in isolation, it’s marred with the politics of inequality. The first speaker introduced this by speaking of the Carbon Credit System, “the developed countries have devised this innocuous-looking and a very mischievous tool called carbon credit system. Instead of reducing their carbon emissions, they buy carbon credits from poorer countries which naturally do not release as much carbon. In this way, they technically exceed their emission limit and with the help of money, they pass on the worst effects of global warming to poorer countries. They bypass their own commitments to the international committee.” Richer nations and rich individuals even within poorer countries have massive carbon footprints, but ultimately they also have the resources to protect themselves from the effects of climate change. The brunt of higher temperatures and polluted water bodies is faced by the poor and the marginalized. “Social justice is inherently linked to aspects like these”, he added.

Only the rich can protect themselves in the war against climate change, the poor inevitably become casualties. To illustrate, Professor Debjani, from Indraprastha College for Women, spoke to the crowd about climate refugees. In her home state, West Bengal, the Sunderbans are increasingly being submerged due to rising sea levels. “These are people like us, ordinary people, thousands of people whose livelihoods and homes are being destroyed due to some effect of climate change”, she said. “If someone is doing something in North America, it affects all of us.”

The lack of Government interest in Climate Change was also pointed to. “The only thing our government has done to acknowledge climate change is to change the name of the Environment Ministry to ‘The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change’. Every year we witness the same events, water shortages and floods in the country, but we normalize it. It is never discussed in Parliament, we will not stop until the Prime Minister takes notice and makes climate change a national issue. In western countries, citizens are threatening to occupy Parliament if leaders do not introduce effective legislation, we need to do the same”, a speaker added. Statistics were discussed highlighting that India’s major cities like Delhi and Bangalore will become uninhabitable by 2030 because of zero groundwater levels and the quality of air.

While legislation points towards trying to bring change within the capitalist and neo-liberal global framework, some speakers spoke about a more radical change. Professor Sudha from Delhi School of Economics defined climate change differently. “Climate change is the inevitable outcome of capitalism. The essence of capitalism is to keep growing and keep increasing profits. This can only happen at the cost of resources. It’s contradictory to discuss a movement against climate change within the capitalist framework. We cannot be concerned about climate change without being concerned about capitalism. The system of production and consumption has to change.” She urged listeners to separate their ideas of happiness from that of materialistic joy. She left the crowd with a million-dollar question, “Is it better to live a life with more things or with more time?”

In that context, speakers also spoke about not letting corporations fool you. “The solution to climate change isn’t green finance or green economy. These are just more products created by the capitalist to sink us deeper into capitalism. The problem is with commodifying natural resources. Climate capitalism is about generating crisis to make more profit”, a speaker added.

A very powerful speech was made by a student who lives in Jim Corbett. He spoke about how capitalism is destroying his home. “Growth is a capitalist conspiracy. They pollute the planet, you get sick. You go to their hospitals and contribute to their profits. Cities become unbearable and they lure you out for a well-needed vacation. You leave Delhi and go to my hometown and stay at their resorts. We are hostages of this conspiracy and we are making them rich at every step while they destroy the planet.” He also spoke of a possible solution, “If each of you speaks to a few of your friends, in the next two years we can have a climate army. An Army so powerful that no politician would dare tread on this road in front of Arts Faculty.”

After the speeches, the organizers conducted a postcard campaign where all the attendees addressed the Prime Minister about the crisis of Climate Change. This event bought forth multiple important viewpoints and quietly but effectively spoke about the urgency of change. “Do we just want to preserve the status quo or do we want to change the system?”

Feature Image Credits: Noihrit Gogoi for DU Beat

Pragati Thapa

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