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Climate of change

Updated on: 16 July,2023 07:14 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Paromita Vohra | paromita.vohra@mid-day.com

Yet, sometimes one wonders if climate change will become one of those phrases that invokes an act of nature beyond our control, obscuring the acts of mankind that make life precarious.

Climate of change

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraThe Yamuna has returned to its original course” laughed my friend from Delhi. The floods in the North, the way it has rained in places it rarely does, in times it never does, while it has not rained where it should as it should, have finally made climate change a household phrase. No one is denying it anymore. I think.


Yet, sometimes one wonders if climate change will become one of those phrases that invokes an act of nature beyond our control, obscuring the acts of mankind that make life precarious.


Every time there have been landslides and floods in Uttarakhand, it has been pointed out how untrammelled construction in floodplains and hillsides, renders the ecology ever more fragile. But nothing changes.


Cities have a different facet of this callous development. Some areas remain underdeveloped and under-served by administrations. Those are places that suffer chronically during calamities. But year upon year, administrations seem unconcerned about tackling these issues at a holistic level. This year, in Mumbai, the BMC assured us just before the monsoon: we cannot guarantee that the Andheri subway will not get flooded this year (it did). One does not know whether to call it honesty or callousness. Whether to laugh or to cry. Who can control the rain? it implies. And yet, who controls the preparation for it? The BMC is one of the country’s richest municipal corporations, for a city that often feels like a garbage dump. India’s claim to global stardom seems a little hollow when infrastructure in its star metropolises, to put it elegantly, sucks. In a state with two deputy CMs rain is king I guess.

Eco-anxiety is now recognised as a mental health condition. Although one imagines that a stronger phrase is needed for those who live on the environmental edge—fishing communities for instance or the poor, who have so little protection against the ravages of whatever crisis that sweeps over us. But it is an anxiety that builds on an existing anxiety and dread that are born from the deep disconnections of our time, the systemic individualism and the sense of being both singular and lonely that stem from these.

Yet the questions of climate change in the mainstream rarely reflect on the emotional and social worlds we inhabit. Some years ago, I attended a conference in Germany during an unbearably hot June, where the conversation about climate change was high pitched (it was the First World). Every panel was a picture of doom and despair. The overall political impact of these conversations seemed to be a sense of enraged helplessness. And hence bitter anger, even contempt at others—past generations, governments, countries that don’t control emissions.

Until I listened to a brilliant talk by a thinker, Jurgen Kuttner, about how past generations thought of the future, through a number of mid-20th century science fiction clips. Technology seemed to be a source of optimism and wonder. Over time these have been supplanted by endless narratives of dystopia. “That’s because” said Kuttner, “we can imagine the end of the world. But we can’t imagine the end of capitalism.” One of the most piercing truths I have heard. Can there really be a climate of change without an imagination of togetherness, so lacking today at the political and developmental level? 
Something to envision as it rains.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at paromita.vohra@mid-day.com

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