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Climate Change and Why it’s a privilege issue in Today’s society

Looking at and talking about climate change through the lens of privilege we are awarded.

Climate change is an undeniable reality of today. A range of factors influences our climate, namely pollution, overpopulation, unfiltered emissions by companies and giant conglomerates, and the most significant of these – the rapid increase of CO2 in the atmosphere as a result of the Greenhouse effect. Climate change effects are not only limited to the weather we experience, but show a great influence over ocean levels, food and water supplies, and individual health.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND AGRICULTURE IN INDIA:

Climate change also has a grave impact on agriculture, a reality which makes the agrarian economy of India an unfortunate scenario. Agriculture in India is highly dependent on rainfall and groundwater irrigation, something which has proved to be disadvantageous in recent years. 

Image via food business news

Groundwater is not only a major irrigation source in agriculture but also makes up around 40% of domestic usage. However, the focus on water-intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane proves to be quite harmful to the existing (and rapidly decreasing) groundwater levels. Moreover, in places which face a lack of rainfall in monsoon months, decreasing groundwater is yet another hurdle for lower-income families to overcome.

However, it’s not just agriculture which is faced with this problem. A lot of us are not very mindful of our water consumption and quite a few remain blissfully unaware of the water crisis we are undergoing. The reality, however, remains that over 21 Indian cities are projected to run out of groundwater in 2020, affecting approximately 100 million people and 40% of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030, according to a report by NITI Aayog, a policy think tank of the Government of India. 

Furthermore, any unpredictable changes in weather conditions (such as droughts or excess rain) can ruin crops, causing incredible loss to farmers. As a result, a majority of lower-income families who are already facing incredible difficulties are subjected to the brunt of the repercussions of climate change. It’s a sad reality that the people who contribute the least to climate change are the ones who face its harshest repercussions.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND COASTAL CITIES:

As icebergs continue to melt, owing to the increase in global temperatures, the sea level rises accordingly, posing a danger to coastal cities and towns. In addition to the rise in sea levels, climate change has a huge impact on weather, causing fluctuating temperatures, floods and droughts. 

People walk on a flooded road during heavy rain showers in Mumbai. via deccan herald

Coastal cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, in addition to having a high susceptibility to flooding also face the brunt of any tropical storms or hurricanes which hit the coast. 

While this may pose a minor inconvenience to some of us, this is not the same for people who don’t live in high-rise buildings and are faced by the daunting possibility of their home being flooded or washed away by torrential rains.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL MIGRATION:

As mentioned earlier, the effects of climate change differ from community to community. it was early in August 2020 that Mumbai recorded the second-highest rainfall it had received (since July 1974) at 331.8 mm, a fact which might only slightly inconvenience a lot of us (more so now that we are staying indoors). However, it’s not the same case for the people who live in kutcha houses and find themselves displaced as a result of the torrential rainfall and resulting flooding.

It is a similar scenario which meets a lot of the people who used to live in recently flood-affected areas and find themselves without a home — they then turn to cities to look for affordable housing, an impossible feat if there ever was one. With cities already lacking in affordable housing for the urban poor, the rural-urban migration will only serve to increase the urban poor population while lowering their access to clean water, health and housing facilities.

Since a majority of the immigrants will turn to unskilled, labour-intensive jobs, the only way for them to thrive in cities would be to put in place policies which would allow for (and actively support) their access to affordable housing, clean water, and sanitization facilities, healthcare, and education.

WATER SCARCITY AND COVID-19:

As Covid-19 cases began rising in India, citizens were instructed to sanitise and wash their hands regularly, for 20-seconds at a stretch, to protect them from the virus. However, what was not taken into consideration at all was the plight of people who had access to a limited amount of water per day, to begin with. Washing hands for 20-30 seconds uses up around 2 litres of water and that is, although I hate to say it, somewhat of a “luxury” to some people. 

With a decrease in groundwater and their only supply of water being extremely limited, it is hardly difficult to ascertain what would be people’s priority when forced to choose between using water to drink/cook or wash hands.

The rapid rise in global temperatures is a growing problem as well — while most of us who have the luxury of sitting in our air-conditioned homes, drinking our purified water and having easy access to food supplies do not realise the brevity of this matter, the people who go without said amenities do, more so now than ever before. 

Image Source: Getty image

Climate change is inevitable but the rate it is taking place at is not. While majority responsibility falls upon big corporations and governments, it is our civic duty to oppose any actions which are undoubtedly against the environmental good of all — this includes paying attention to any amendments made by the government to pre-existing environmental laws, such as the draft Environmental Impact Assessment 2020 which favours the project proponent (people who are responsible for construction projects) over the general public consensus and possible harmful environmental impacts. It also seeks to allow for some actions that are currently categorised as violations, such as starting construction without any valid clearance.

Additionally, we can be more conscious of the chemicals we use on a daily basis, present in our body wash, shampoos and cleaning detergents which inevitably make their way into our water bodies or seep into our groundwater, leading to groundwater contamination. This water then becomes unfit for our consumption.

The most effective long-term solution would be to switch to more natural products in lieu of the products we use right now. Some such brands include The Body Shop, Kama Ayurveda, Lotus Herbals, Forest Essentials, Bare Necessities and Khadi Essentials, to name a few. If you’re looking to be more pocket-friendly, you can always make face or hair masks at home, from day-to-day ingredients. Additionally, we can also turn to white vinegar, baking soda, borax, citrus fruits to use as natural cleaning products. Of course, it goes without saying that we shouldn’t waste water by being more conscious of how much water we use in a day and fixing any leaky taps as soon as possible.

Just because we aren’t the ones facing the brunt of the climate change crisis at the moment does not render it moot — it is very much real and tangible. And it’s about time we start taking it seriously.

Written By

A second-year English Literature student with a penchant for procrastination and long walks.

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