On 9 August 2021, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest Report rather mundanely titled, ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’. Its contents however were far from mundane. It pointed out: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. (…) Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones.”
On 9 August, I found myself tending to a rather over dampened garden, emptying collected bits of water post heavy showers from pots and pans, sweeping the myriad debris that comes from a brisk shaking of trees. On a small dry corner was my upturned copy of Mary Oliver’s Upstream. This is how I have learnt to cope. Some people cry, some deny. I garden (yes, as a verb). Whenever news of a magnitude, shape and size that seems to overwhelm senses arrives, I potter about my garden for comfort, pause and slow ingestion usually in the companionship of a wiser soul.
It is predicted that rising sea levels threaten 12 Indian coastal cities which could find themselves under 3-feet water by the end of the century. A mere 80 years. These include Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi and others. I think of the college years spent wandering through the many lanes of Mumbai, of the millions who like bees in a honeycomb inhabit every inch of her space. I think of the flamingoes at the creeks and the coppersmith barbets which chirped and played in a nearby ficus tree. And I think of walking through knee high water during floods, the increasingly common threats of cyclones. “And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart,” writes Oliver. I pull out weeds that are sneakily tangling up the tomatoes. I stop to listen to the deep heavy guttural calls of the coucal emanating from the direction of the coconut tree. I stand feeling the dense monsoon wind against my skin. And I attempt to follow the poet’s advice and ‘stand within this otherness’.
The time for easy solutions, quick fixes and looking away are gone. As a Guardian article points out: “As a verdict on the climate crimes of humanity, the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report could not be clearer: guilty as hell.” Climate change is our collectively shared responsibility borne of our own disregard for the boundaries of the natural world. Yet the question that scurries us back into inaction, frenzied anxiety or into closing our eyes, continues to loom: where do we begin? Oliver writes: “In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” Maybe that time is here again. To start afresh with ourselves. As individuals and communities. Step into the otherness and from there map afresh our path to who we are, what we are and what we want to be?
Join us in our campaign spaces this month as we unpack the IPCC Report 2021 and speak to those who are responding and reacting to the climate crisis. As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and the actions you might be taking in your life in response to these issues surrounding our collective well-being.
We hope you continue to stay safe.