Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
Earlier this week, I was part of a congregation at Noida where the deliberations blew my mind – the climate change and global warming is very much real, and scary are its multifarious impacts. We the world should have acted yesterday, and since we did not are witnessing and experiencing extreme weather conditions and natural disasters. Given the fact that climate change means different things to different people, depending on their own knowledge and experience, making a common response to any given adverse aspect is that much more difficult.
For some climate change may mean floods, or heat waves and melting glaciers or hailstorms or unseasonal rain or any other natural geographical conditions that are unleashed in patterns that are not discernible ahead of their occurrence. Recently Delhi and NCR recorded temperatures hovering close to 50 degrees Celsius – and these are record high heatwaves that spread across much of north India. But at around the same time, deep south was battling heavy downpours that caused flooding in some areas–more due to our assault on mother nature as we encroached most water bodies and built dwellings and blocked the natural path of the water, and rainwater. And hence water logging, and in its intense form causes flooding in urban India–say like the one Chennai had in 2015 and a similar one six years later.
Pollution, poor air quality, heat, cold wave, and different weather conditions. Climate change does mean different things to different people, and it is immediate and affects most adversely the most vulnerable–the poor, women and children as noticed during several disasters, natural or otherwise, across the world. If we see the issue of urban migration, for example in India, migration happens mostly from areas of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal as the poor go out in search of livelihoods, and if lucky jobs, and eke out a living somehow. The migration takes place because of poverty, which in turn is the result of climate change and its impact on agriculture.
Primarily, the biggest impact of climate change is on agriculture, on which most of our population depends–directly or indirectly–and the unseasonal rain or natural disasters like floods and cyclones and extreme weather conditions have their direct adverse impact on farms, farming, and farmers. Their wellbeing has its own impact on the society, and more important, economy. If the farmers do not have spending money, it would depress sales of consumer durables, automobiles and in extreme circumstances could affect sales of biscuits and under wears.
As a famous economist Bo Soderstern noted–everything in the world is interlinked with everything else in the world – so that chain reaction of climate change means that we as the world will get affected by the mistakes that we commit and those others commit–and mistakes not just fresh ones that we made today or will make tomorrow, we are already paying for the mistakes committed by our previous generations.
It was a pleasure to hear our own environmentalist Vimalendu Jha holding the audience, comprising mostly young media students from different prestigious universities of Noida brought in for a workshop on digital journalism by the UNICEF in association with Amar Ujala Foundation and the Amar Ujala media group, spell bound with his ‘shocking’ painting of the scary picture of the present, and future of our environment. It is evident and clear that our understanding of environment and environmental issues needs a total overhaul. India is extremely vulnerable to climate change. We have an extremely long coastline and are susceptible to cyclones, and if there is a cloud burst in the hills, or Chennai gets flooded again, and again and again, and Assam too–we need to take a pause and ask ourselves the questions as to where we are going wrong and what we need to do.
Yes, there are huge environmental issues that we are confronted with. We can address those later, but what is more essential, and urgent to take care is of the immediate problems in our backyard–that garbage dump, that plastic we use, and the sewage lines if they are chocked and if the neighborhood river is clean and anything and everything that makes a difference in and to our lives.
Understanding where our water comes from and where it goes, and how, likewise with other services and if we are doing these activities in the most efficient of the manners. There is individual effort, and then there is collective responsibility as citizens. Unless and until we take responsibility and start to make things to happen, we will continue to only keep discussing things endlessly as the environment surrounding us continues to get more and more deteriorated.
Now, I tend to agree more with environmentalists and do-gooders like Sarabhjit Singh Sahota, Emergency Specialist, UNICEF, Aditya Patel, Assistant Director, DRDO, Ministry of Defense, and media colleagues Jaideep Karnik, Editor, Amar Ujala Web Services, that there is a greater and urgent need for the youth to understand, appreciate the issues connected with ecology, environment and study climate change and global warming in a focused manner so that they can educate, alert and guide the masses on these key issues. Of course, who better to do this than journalists and want to be journalists – students from mass media and journalism who formed part of the congregation on digital journalism.
Consensus was that being a medium of the future, digital journalism is the place to be – and already there is an army of independent public-spirited journalists running YouTube channels and websites for print and digital media spaces.
Top media practitioners from the Amar Ujala team became that bridge team to guide the youngsters, guiding and teaching them the finer aspects of practical digital journalism at the congregation on digital journalism.
Aditya Patel, Deputy Director, DRDO, said climate change has its adverse impact on everyone and more so on women and children. On them, climate change is disproportionate in its adverse impact, the civil servant working with the Defense Ministry said. He advised the budding journalists to question the Government, its policies, and programs as and when warranted, which is very often.
There are many public spirited, committed and concerned Government officials who could be tapped for the right information, about rules, regulations and the various legislations governing the various aspects–forests, lands, land use and the like, which often lead to environmental degradation or add to the climate change. As journalists it sure does become the duty of all of us in the profession to apply pressure on the Government to bring necessary changes.
Colleague Jaideep Karnik outlined the issues confronting the society and the role of the media and its functions in a lucid presentation highlighting the importance of practicing all the cannons of good journalism. Sure, there are challenges for the middle rung and yesterday’s media persons in that they should get used to the digital space and acquire new skills that matter the most in today’s digital journalism.
Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country. He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on [email protected]
, and Twitter handle @kvlakshman