Mausam 4
Talking Climate in Public Space

by India Climate Justice Collective

first published 30 April 2015

An editorial in the fourth issue of Mausam, a magazine published by the India Climate Justice collective, draws attention to a June 2015 statement from Pope Francis that lucidly identifies and weaves together the many causes of contemporary ecological crises. “The problem,” says the pope, “is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels” and by a throwaway culture, reckless consumption and persistent inequality.

An article drawing on several years’ field research with coffee growers in south-western Karnataka and south-eastern Tamil Nadu explores how climate change is affecting their everyday life. Because the coffee plant is so sensitive to weather conditions, coffee growers have long kept detailed daily rainfall records. In South India, they’ve found that most of the monsoon rains now fall within two months rather than five, often in sudden downpours that lead to soil erosion, make coffee plants more fragile and facilitate the spread of pests and diseases. Conversely, the dry spell is no longer entirely dry, affecting coffee flowering and fruiting. Because of the growing number of unprecedented weather variations such as these, growers are switching coffee varieties and/or relying on other sources of income.

Another article highlights draws attention to how areas affected by sudden “natural” disasters and ongoing climate change are increasingly becoming targets for human traffickers. For example, after a severe cyclonic storm along the West Bengal coast in May 2009, thousands of people were left without homes of livelihoods for several years. Human traffickers descended on the area, tapping into what remained of village and other local networks to enslave, with a growing use of force, vulnerable women, men and children into bonded labour or the sex trade.

Several prominent self-identified environmentalists now advocate the increased use of nuclear power, particularly fast breeder nuclear reactors, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This article highlights why such an approach is so misguided, not least because the reactors’ multiple problems, particularly with meltdown and waste, make them such a dangerous form of nuclear power. The article concludes: “any strategy based on rapid construction of these untested technologies is very likely to suffer from setbacks. There is simply not enough time for us to go down these blind alleys.”

When forests are destroyed, people’s compensation is invariably measured and quantified only in terms of monetary value, ignoring their livelihood links and cultural associations with forests. Less attention is paid to compensatory afforestation – establishing plantations on non-forest land, perhaps far away, to make up for (supposedly) the forest loss. The article shows how compensatory afforestation, instead of strengthening forest habitats, legitimises their destruction, representing a continued assault on forest communities.

Given the dismal experience of compensatory afforestation throughout India, a detailed critique of a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, introduced earlier in the year in the Indian Parliament and now being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, concludes that it must be scrapped. “The Bill stands on legally as well as scientifically questionable premises,” it states, and excludes most of the stakeholders whose agreement for using forest land for different purposes and establishing new plantations is mandated by law.

Other articles in this fourth issue of Mausam explore whether global warming has stopped because of a recent 'hiatus' in changing trends (answer: no); the role of agro-ecology in tackling climate change; a statement from the Climate Space section of the March 2015 World Social Forum held in Tunis, and an interview with climate justice activist Jutta Kill highlighting how growing campaigns against fossil fuels facilitate the linking of climate justice with economic and social justice.