As world leaders negotiate a climate action plan at COP26 in Glasgow, farmers, adivasis and common people gather in rural and semi-urban areas of Kerala to discuss the consequences of climate change on their lives – around a cup of tea.
These gatherings, called climate cafes, were initiated in Kerala by a publication, “Padhabhedam”, run by writer and social activist “Civic” Chandran.
“We don’t want to leave the debates on climate change to experts and politicians alone. Kerala has experienced frequent floods and landslides in recent years. This situation requires conversations at the micro level, in which ordinary men can freely express their views. Everyone has something to say about the climate and in fact it’s a topic where you can open a discussion with a stranger, ”said Chandran.
The Climate Café concept was launched in 2018 by Rebecca Nestor of the UK-based Climate Psychology Alliance, an organization that explores the psychological impact of the climate crisis.
Chandran said that so far, 30 climate coffee meetings have been held and another 30 will be held until November 12, when COP26 ends. “We have not set any subject for debate. Padhabhedam only hosted a few initial sessions, mostly attended by 15 to 60 people. From now on, citizens spontaneously come together to debate climate change, because they are now convinced of the importance… ”, he declared.
These coffee meetings are attended by a representative sample of people who are not experts. In a cafe in Wayanad, tribal people expressed their concern about landslides. In Alappuzha, participants discussed the flooding in the Kuttanad region.
Ajith Kumar, one of the Climate Café attendees in Alappuzha, said: “We discussed preparing a room for flood water in rice fields and wetlands to minimize flooding of large areas. Our discussion also highlighted the need for restrictions on the construction of houses… Our Climate Café will organize more planning sessions at the micro level… ”