By Vinay Gahlot*
Belonging to the rural area of Kerela, John Paul Jose grew up in a mountainous region with streams flowing around. When he moved to the city, he got exposure to activism by working with NGOs. Motivated to protect the environment for future generations, he led his first protest for the Yettinahole river diversion project in Karnataka in 2015. He walked around 100 km across the coast of Goa, talking to deficient communities about how important it is to conserve the coastline. He has vast experience of collaborating with NGOs, the United Nations Environment Program, UN Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY), and the United Nations Convention on Combatting Desertification (UNCCD). Interview with John Paul Jose:
How have you started activism?
When I moved from my village to town in a hostel for studying, I felt that there is only 5% natural space there, the rest is material space there. I was trying to find ways to recover the kind of interaction I had at my native place. Initially, I started planting trees or finding some group in the city, then joining protests on issues like river diversion and cutting down trees with NGOs. As I was getting more involved with NGOs, I was getting more passionate about environmentalism. Then I gradually began to learn more about the kind of disaster happening across the globe that climate change is affecting worldwide, and its impact is much being worse. At the same time, when I got home during vacation, I was able to see the kind of ecological distractions happening elsewhere, coming to my place as well. There I realized that even if we are living in a remote corner, we are not safe. So that’s prompted me to look more into activism or something that should be an urgent need of the time. There was a peer influence for climate activism protests for environmentalism as it was a young movement, and I was protesting every Sunday. So that’s how activism began to be something important part of my journey.
What are some of the significant movements where you took part?
One of the major protests that I participated in was the Yettinahole project site, a river diversion project in Karnataka. In 2015, the government put forward a plan to move ahead with the river diversion project. It’s difficult to protest in different environments. There was someone, who has been organizing it, so I was able to join them and take it forward from there. I had the experience of traveling around 100-kilometer walking across the coast of Goa, talking to deficient communities about how important it is to conserve our nature. When I moved to Delhi, I began to work with Greenpeace and protested on issues like air pollution, river pollution, emissions from landfills .
The Indian government has set ambitious renewable energy targets, what is the ground reality of such sustainability projects?
The steps taken by the government are just greenwashing of Nationally Determined Contributions in the Paris Agreement. India pledged to reduce the emission levels of 180 gigatons in 2005 to 135 Gigatons, that things are not happening. Government should be protecting the forest but that thing is not happening across India. Forests are being cut down and why the forests are being cut down is another interesting story. Forests are cut down for fossil fuel industries, whether it’s for transmission lines or infrastructures built for fossil fuel industries, it might be for transporting fossil fuels or oil, coal, or gas. So that can be highways, or boards, or even a railway. The forest it’s something which has been there for millions of years, and the kind of functions that which will be which they do, we cannot replicate it in one year, five years already, not even in 100 years. If the government cut down like 100 acre forests, say it contains 1 million trees and say that they’re planning 2 million trees as compensation. It will take a lot of time to get that benefit of 1 million trees, which we lost, and to get the benefit of those things. Because for 2 million trees, they’re very young. So even the says that the benefits from the increase is very much less and even if they reach 100 years, the kind of benefit the 100 acre a pristine forests have been providing very much minimum.
When we look at all the things, the government is also in the wrong track, they have given licenses to 41 new coal mines and also we have been involved in projects like the Adani coal mine projects, for which they will import coal from Australia. They will burn it in the UP then export the electricity to Bangladesh. From these things, we are not only polluting ourselves, and we are contributing the global climate change.
According to you, what should be the strategy to tackle climate change?
Mitigation, resilience, and adaptations are the key things to contain climate change. Mitigation means we are not going to do anything to for the emissions, actually, we are mitigating the impact of climate change by not contributing to it. Examples of it are policies supporting electric vehicles, public transport, and installing solar panels. Then comes adaptation that is adapting within the existing technologies. For example, using renewable energy for electricity generation, carbon capture, and storage. Then we need to focus on resilience. That’s mainly what we need in coastal regions, where we should be ready to upkeep with all the technologies to face severe storms, flooding, all the things. When it comes to agriculture and coastal regions, those three things are very minimum. Those things are going to be completely hit. And our economy, livelihood lifestyles, in which most of the people that more than half of the countries invested in, it’s going to be ultimately affected.
*IIM, Ahmedabad – PGP Class of 2022