Disha Ravi is taking part in a digital strike this year. Photo courtesy of Disha Ravi
With wildfires ravaging the American landscape, heat waves ravaging western Canada and the United States, and flooding flooding German cities, climate change awareness has reached an all-time high in recent months. But for 22-year-old Indian activist Disha Ravi, climate change has been a reality for years, if not decades.
As one of the founders of Fridays For Future India, Ravi denounces this ignorance. For her, like many others from the Most Affected Peoples and Regions (MAPA) – a term that emerged to center the narratives of those most affected by the climate crisis – becoming a climate activist was not so much a choice than a necessity.
Spending his early childhood in the coastal town of Mangalore, Ravi remembers his house regularly filling with water during the monsoon. It only got worse over the years, but was considered so normal that she didn’t question it at the time. When Ravi then moved to Bangalore for college, she found the words to talk about her experiences: the culprit was climate change.
Even in Bangalore, a landlocked city, she was unable to escape the floods. Heavy rains and flooding have severely damaged public infrastructure and endangered communities, especially in recent years. “I live in an area that nobody cares about. People here are generally from marginalized communities and we are not well off economically. The drainage system is so bad, and yes the government refuses to do anything, but it is also flooding because it is raining so much that the drains just cannot take it, ”she told VICE World News.
“We once woke up in the middle of the night to spray the desk I’m sitting on right now. Now, every day that we wake up, we pray that this won’t happen again. It is really scary.
For Ravi, it feels like half the year is spent in the monsoon, while the other half is just unbearable. “We have had the hottest summers in the country for years in a row,” she said, adding that in addition to the sweltering heat, the air quality is never good either, India ranking as the most polluted country in the world. “Living in India… we suffer from all climate disasters. ”
Similar to monsoons, summers got worse because of climate change in a place where resources were often scarce. Ravi remembers having water crises as a child. “[My grandparents] didn’t have enough water, so they had to carry it in buckets. It got better, to some extent, but even today, when it rains, they still filled every bucket in the house, to the brim.
Her grandparents were one of the reasons Ravi was drawn to climate activism, as the water crises deeply affected them as farmers. Today, Indian farmers are still struggling to make ends meet, and climate change is one of the reasons: As temperatures rise, rainfall becomes more erratic, which means more droughts. long on the one hand and short periods of flooding on the other.
But as Ravi became a climate activist, she realized that the voices of those most affected, such as the herd and that of her grandparents, were not being heard. To her, this explains why many mainstream reports on climate change boil down to headlines like “the climate crisis is here”, blatantly ignoring the long-standing realities of communities around the world. “It’s not like we haven’t spoken,” Ravi said, “it’s that we were very intentionally deleted. We weren’t heard.
Ravi said journalists, businesses, governments and residents of the Global North – a term often used to refer to the most privileged of Western countries – are aware of the reality of the suffering of those in the Global South. Still, she thinks “they choose to ignore it, and they kind of think it’s okay, because it doesn’t affect them.”
“It’s environmental racism,” Ravi said. “Climate justice shouldn’t just be about the future of the white child. It should also be the gift of the brown child.
Even the name of the movement she is a part of, “Fridays For Future,” she said, is proof of the problem. “Why isn’t it called Fridays for the present and the future?” It’s about our future, yes, but it’s also about the fact that millions of people are living it now. This frustration was part of what motivated Ravi and other activists when they conceptualized Fridays For Future MAPA. MAPA, a less pejorative alternative to the ‘Global South’, was applied by some young activists in the Fridays For Future movement, who sought to change the way stories about the climate crisis were told.
“Journalists and the media mince their words so much,” Ravi said. “They’re supposed to be impartial, but they’re not. Citing the example of Indian multinational conglomerate Adani, which continues to be criticized for its coal projects, Ravi said that despite “clear evidence and data” that coal kills, the media is not doing enough to report. account of the problem.
The lack of truth around the climate crisis also has tangible impacts on climate action. Although countries agreed to keep global warming at a level of no more than 1.5 ° C six years ago, recent analyzes of climate policy show that none of the world’s major economies are is on the right track. “I think the fact that they see 1.5 ° C as ambitious is ludicrous,” Ravi said, further noting that there had been 25 COPs, the global climate summits in which the UN almost brings together all the countries of the planet. “If all the climate conferences have been held in a heated room, up to the temperatures we have experienced and with the quality of the air we have breathed, then we can reconsider whether this is ambitious or not. ”
According to Ravi, centering MAPA’s voices at climate conferences and allowing them to tell their own stories would likely change the course of climate action. “The COP is full of world leaders, big companies and even Big Oil, but where are the people directly affected by these decisions? ”
Meanwhile, those arriving at the COP, and those who can change the narrative, should “talk about us, our stories and raise our voices,” Ravi said.
Ultimately, she said, “MAPA has to be the one leading the climate conversation because it is our right. “
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