Politics of Climate Change
As climate scientists fine-tune their climate change models and advocates of the corporate interests devise ways to sustain their power and influence, those who will ultimately pay the highest price for climatic disasters are conspicuous by their invisibility and voiceless-ness. They are also among the least informed. One reality that clearly emerges from all the high decibel cacophony at international forums is that “The burden of climate change is disproportionately high on the poor – and among them poor women are the worst impacted.”
The messages from the most deprived and poorest people may appear too meek and too far from thedecision-making centers around the world, but they need to be taken note of, if the world has to respond to one of the biggest humanitarian crisis confronting it, and do so in a sane and humane manner. Lack of voice should not be interpreted as lack of wisdom. Quite likely the reverse is true.
Voiceless and Helpless Poor
It is all the more important for India where climatic disasters are expected to have significant impact, particularly on the lives of its poor people mostly living in the countryside. With minimal capacity to manage such risks,the vagaries of climate change have the potential to make their lives a high-risk-no-gain venture. And the “proof” is already there for everyone to see:
One can ask the people living in the Almora hills, or on the sandy spread of Nagapattinam; talk to the flood victims on the plain of Central India or survivors of Orissa drought who were forced to migrate in hundreds of thousands; speak to tribal people (popularly called Scheduled Tribe or ST) living in shrinking areas and Bakarwals from Jammu and Kashmir’s slopes, or slum dwellers of Dharavi in Mumbai which is perhaps the largest slum in the world – they all tell you the same story that the unpredictable weather has impacted their lives irreparably. They speak for the 76% of Indian population living on $2 a day or less, and more precisely for the unfortunate 42% who survive on less than $1.25 a day.
The overall impact of climate change event may vary with location, caste and gender but the ultimate result is strikingly similar. It has made the search for livelihoods tougher, created greater food insecurity, caused sharp declines in the quality of life, and triggered mass migrations.
Please be convinced that the current 8 – 9 percent GDP growth of India has little to do with its large poor population; that is the truth for just less than 20% Indians living close to the power centers in big cities and urban areas. Whenever the rich and powerful come to rural India they come for land, natural resources and minerals for their industries; not for people.