’Communities must be the subject of policy, infrastructure to build climate resilience’

Once the focus is on communities, their need for saving livelihoods and not just lives can be given priority, while their own climate solutions can be adapted by the government, said experts at Lit for Life

Updated - February 26, 2023 02:04 am IST

Published - February 25, 2023 09:44 pm IST - CHENNAI

Building Climate Resilience Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, Shawn Sebastian and Supriya Sahu in conversation with Sahana Ghosh, at The Hindu Lit For Life, Music Academy in Chennai on Saturday.

Building Climate Resilience Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, Shawn Sebastian and Supriya Sahu in conversation with Sahana Ghosh, at The Hindu Lit For Life, Music Academy in Chennai on Saturday. | Photo Credit: R. Ravindran

All infrastructure and policy developed to deal with the climate crisis will fail if communities become the object of pity, rather than the subject of interventions, Arunabha Ghosh, founder-CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said on Saturday.

Speaking at The Hindu Lit for Life event, Mr. Ghosh warned that the world today faced a greater crisis than climate change — which is the lack of empathy for humans experiencing the effects of climate change. 

Experts working in the climate space — including Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary in the Tamil Nadu Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Forests, and independent filmmaker Shawn Sebastian — participated in a discussion on building climate resilience, moderated by journalist Sahana Ghosh.

Saving livelihoods

Climate resilience is the agency that people or communities have to bounce back from the effects of a disaster due to climate change, Mr. Ghosh explained. “You could build climate resilience to saves lives. However, it is not the same as saving livelihoods. And that’s why we need to understand what communities are doing in the face of crisis,” he added. 

Stressing the importance of demystifying jargon such as ‘climate resilience’, ‘adaptation’, and ‘mitigation’, Ms. Sahu said that governments could adapt the work done by local residents to handle climate crisis at a community level. As an example, she pointed to Odanthurai, a village in Coimbatore, which not only uses wind energy within the community but also supplies power to the government’s grid. 

Documenting change

“Documentation of actions at village level is crucial to connect community with policymakers and government and to drive and shape the discourse of climate resilience,” said Mr. Sebastian, director of the ‘Faces of Climate Resilence’ project by the CEEW, under which he has made 16 documentary films on communities coming up with solutions to tackle the climate crisis. Mr. Sebastian noted that the mass media plays an important role in turning the focus from climate crisis to climate resilience, adding that he defined climate resilience as being about preparedness and not a kneejerk reaction. 

Mr. Ghosh, talking about the role of documentation in the policy sphere, said that while one aspect is to get granular data that can be leveraged to make policies, the other aspect is to work with data from the point of view of the people. To take sustainability mainstream, one should look at the problems that communities face and then decide on a business model, he said.

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