Adapt & reform: The guide to climate-change survival

The fact that this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival had three panels on or around climate change demonstrates how this issue has finally begun to preoccupy everyone, the public and governments included. Now, however, comes the hard part – doing something about it. Because, civilisation now comes with a sell-by date. In the session, ‘Uninhabitable Earth’, on day four of JLF, panelists spoke about the policy, politics and psychology of climate change. “We’re all living in unprecedented times. For as long as humans have walked the earth, the planet has never been as warm as it is today,” revealed David Wallace-Wells, author of a work (‘Uninhabitable Earth’) that has injected urgency into the conversation on climate change. “It’s like we’ve landed on a new planet, with a new climate.” In other words, humans must accept that much of the life of old can no longer be saved, and that a new world would have to rise from the ashes of the old – literally, in the case of Australia. “We need to have a sense of urgency but our actions shouldn’t result in a global, North-South blame game.” According to Navroz Dubash, a professor at the Centre for Policy Research who has researched and written extensively on climate change, what is different today is the pace and scale of the changes, which very few had predicted. “We have to think of development in the context of a warming world,” he informed. Of course, climate change is also impacting our psyches; some of us would rather not think about it. “There is a paralysis at the level of policy makers and citizens. And there’s also a defensive pushback, where people are saying, ‘It’s not a problem of our making, we don’t have to deal with it’,” explained Wallace-Wells, who admitted he’s happy to be alarmist. “We need to focus not on climate denial but on climate complacency. I woke up to this issue out of fear, and we can use this language to talk about climate change.” Yet, hope floats. Through its wind farms, Texas, a traditionally conservative state, is playing its part in promoting sustainable initiatives. “There has to be innovation, in how people move and how they live,” shared Marcus Moench, who has for 38 years spoken and written on adaptability to climate change. It is, stressed Wallace-Wells, about making the right choices today, so that future generations can live in a world that’s more inhabitable than the one we are leaving behind. “We’re at a consequential hinge point in humanity, and we must take dramatic action both in terms of decarbonisation and creating a resilient social infrastructure.” It is also about encouraging behavioural change, at the level of individuals and, also, of institutions. “It’s not about changing the trajectory of development, it’s about a deeper change; how we live, what our footprint is,” maintained Moench. Maybe we could start by handing over charge to women. For, as Moench asked: What has an all-male dialogue achieved in the last four decades?

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