John Paul Jose, 24 years old, is an activist from Indian region of Kerala. After his homeland was hit by extreme and unusual climate changes, he decided to raise his voice against global warming. He kindly agreed to talk with us to share his experience and opinions.
A sleeping giant
China, the United States, Europe; when we think of climate change these are the highly polluting giants that come to our minds. Future projections, though, show that a new name may soon be added to the list: India.
India is we can call a “sleeping giant”: a country with an immense potential of growth and development that has not yet realized itself. It combines two almost unique characteristics: a huge population and a growing economy. Indians, in fact, will soon be the most numerous populations in the world, even within a couple of years. By 2050 India will reach 1.7 billion people. Economic performance bodes well too, with an impressive expected growth rate of 9.5% in 2021 and around 6% for the following years.
This is good news for the country, that will inevitably become increasingly more powerful and wealthy. But when it comes to climate change… will India’s polluting levels skyrocket as well?
We discussed this with John Paul Jose, a young activist from India fighting for environmental issues in his country.
Jose agreed to tell us his story, from when he left his home in the countryside to go study in the city to when he decided to take a stand and raise his voice against global warming.
“I wanted to maintain the connection that I had with nature,” he said, “but in the city that was difficult, so I began to cofound civic groups and to engage in tree plantation for forest conservation.” The more he understood about the problem, the greater was the sense of urgency and the call to do something. “One of the major projects I was involved in was against river diversion that was happening in Southern India. At the same time, I was also learning new things about climate crisis and how climate change is impacting across the globe.”
Living extreme events
His experience of climate change comes from direct observations. Until a few years ago global warming was something that many of us did not directly see, but Jose’s story testifies how this is increasingly turning out to be false. More and more communities are being hit by violent and unusual events, and Kerala is no exception. “Natural disasters have always happened in India,” he said, “the issue, now, is the frequency. There was a major flood in 1924 and after that in 2018. But then there have been extreme events in 2019, 2020 and 2021”. Despite this, many still struggle to see the connection with global warming. “People know climate is changing but are hardly able to connect the dots. Public opinion links these events to local environmental issues, not to global warming.”
A new path for economic growth
Since the industrial revolution, economic growth has always been indissolubly linked to an increase in pollution levels. Western countries have grown emitting huge quantities of CO2 that have caused the scary situation we live in today. India is now facing a fundamental choice between following this destructive model or engaging in a new, clean energy-based path. Consequences will be very meaningful for the success of humanity’s mission to reduce emissions: if India will develop relying on fossil fuels it will become a huge problem for our planet’s already precarious stability.
Jose thinks sustainability to be possible. “When US and Europe developed, they had no other way to industrialize other than polluting. We have cheap alternatives now, like solar and wind energy. There is no longer a need to use fossil fuels to the extent that Western countries did. Using their old model would be a sort of imitation game based on copy-cut, which doesn’t consider the different landscape we are in now.”
Alternatives exist. Will India exploit them? We will see in the next years. For sure, Jose and the activists like him will keep raising their voices: “It’s depressing to see all these environmental changes happening in our area. But we will keep protecting our ancestors’ land and the species that live on it. We need to root our foundations back to nature.”