The ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022 organised thought-provoking discussions on sustainable development, building inclusive pathways to tackle climate change through three workshops
The effect of Pavagada solar park in Karnataka on local agro-pastoral communities, Dalit communities impacted by landfills, unjust developmental activities and several similar issues were reflected upon in three workshops organised for school children, college students by Environment Support Group (ESG) and Art By Children (ABC) - a Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022 initiative, recently. Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022 is on till April 10, 2023.
Held against the backdrop of floods, droughts, forest fires, and heatwaves, the workshops, "Building Imaginaries of Hope & Inclusivity in Tackling Climate Change", built on the notion of community as essential to tackling disempowering anxieties due to evolving climate crises and discovering smart and inclusive pathways to respond with resilient adaptations to impacts. They were interactive, educational, introspective, and insightful conversations.
The first session transformation to Sustainability – Can We Do It? had 100 students from the Government Law College and St. Teresa’s College in day long conversations about what entails transformations to sustainability. The experience of Dalit communities affected by landfills on the outskirts of Bangalore led to exceptional developments, according to Bhargavi Rao, Senior Fellow and Trustee of ESG. Not only were the landfills in Bangalore closed, but the Karnataka High Court also instructed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change to revise the regulations governing solid waste as a result of the initiative. It resulted in the birth of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.
The problem with the idea of sustainable development, according to Leo Saldanha of ESG, "is within the word 'development' itself. He emphasised on how many of the current kinds of developmental activities are extractive and socioeconomically structurally unfair.
One of the attendees described how the government and banks have made her condition worse while she is a victim of climate change. She described how her desire to pursue a degree overseas had to be put on hold since her family's home, which served as security for the loan, was rejected by at least four banks because sea level rise endangered it.
Afterwards, the students banded together to write a letter to the Kerala State Secretariat as well as to all the banks that had denied the student who had been affected by climate change. To turn this problem into a potentially transformative opportunity, the group organised themselves as the Kochi Climate Collective.
In another session ‘There Is No Planet B’, the students of St. Mary’s High School, Chellanam, lurched into a conceptual game to understand the impact of rising sea levels in coastal areas of Kerala.
Students then engaged in group discussions and analysis of potential causes and remedies for a variety of structural and systemic environmental problems, including waste management, biodiversity loss, air and water pollution, and climate change. They came up with transformational ideas for sustainability: they seemed relatable to them, like lessening the need for energy-guzzling air conditioners, swapping out old fridges that contain chloro-fluorocarbons for efficient ones that are CFC free, adding appropriate greenery everywhere, not just trees, making sure segregation of waste at source is practised in every home, advocating for a ban on consumer plastics, etc.
Building a Secure Tomorrow with Hopes from Today” , the third session held at The Art Room in Cabral Yard in Fort Kochi was focused on understanding struggles in securing environmental justice and building solidarity essential to tackle emerging challenges due to climate change.
Bhargavi Rao discussed the effects of Pavagada Solar Park, a mega solar park, on local agro-pastoral communities. Bhargavi noted that ESG is engaged in exposing the often ignored effects of promoting renewable energy, particularly on local environments and communities, and she asked the crowd to participate in the deconstruction of "clean energy". She argued that critical evaluation of such projects is crucial and gave the example of how fertile but drought-affected landscapes are now covered in solar panels covering more than 13,000 acres, as is the case with the third-largest solar power plant in the world, which is situated in Pavagada, Karnataka.
Saldanha highlighted the lack of any discussion on identifying who the so-called development is intended for and whether such development is actually needed. In this context, he shared the story of ESG’s efforts in questioning the expansion of Mangalore Airport, which was dismissed by the government.