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