Climate Change Narratives
the last few years, discussions on climate change in many global,
national and state level summits and conferences have mostly been around
what the experts understand and believe. Understanding of climate change
from communities’ angles and perspectives has been somewhat limited.
Climate Outreach, CANSA and other civil society organisations like
Development Alternatives have done a collaborative research on the topic
and tried to create an understanding about climate change through the
narrative of climate affected communities in rural Bundelkhand in
The drought prone
Bundelkhand region comprising of 13 districts in Madhya Pradesh and
Uttar Pradesh is one of the most climate vulnerable areas in India. The
participants in the two workshops were mostly farmers and all were men
of varied age groups and low levels of education. The sessions were
conducted in Hindi.
Methodology and Approach adopted for the Community-led Narrative
The research approach
followed was participatory. It allowed the two groups of participants to
talk about climate change impacts according to their understanding and
what they had witnessed in their own lives, not on the basis of complex
and abstract science regarding climate change. The process gave emphasis
on exploring the participants' own values, concerns and aspirations
rather than a particular policy proposal or technological response to
The narrative workshops
followed a script which was developed by Climate Outreach. The script
began with getting the participants to talk about their values and
attitudes based on a series of questions around personal, national
identity and concerns regarding the future. Discussions on climate
change and renewables came later.
Following are different
parts of the script:
• Values - What do you
care about? What do you like and dislike? What makes you proud of who
you are as an individual?
• National identity -
How do you feel about India and your place in it?
• Changes - What changes
have you noticed and what concerns do you have for the future?
• Climate change - What
does climate change mean to you and what do you think causes it?
• Climate change impacts
- Have you witnessed any impacts related to climate change in your life?
How have you coped with them?
• Renewables - What do
renewables mean to you and can they replace fossil fuels?
These conversations led
to the final activity of the narrative workshops, in which the
participants examined and discussed specific climate change narratives.
Findings of the Narrative Workshops:
All participants of the
two narrative workshops expressed a strong sense of Indian identity and
national pride. Most of the participants also shared that they felt
proud of India’s diversity, harmony and togetherness.
they make India better?
“50 years back outsiders
came and asked us to put fertilisers in our agricultural land. We just
abandoned our traditional farming practices”, one participant shared.
The farmers see outsiders as a threat to their traditional knowledge.
The participants felt that this generation can work together for the
betterment of the country and their future generations by planting
trees, practicing organic farming, conserving water in agricultural
lands, using solar energy and using less diesel and other fuels.
Politicians should play a more pro-active role in improving the country
The participants shared
that the government has done very little for the betterment of the
farming community. They were of the opinion that the government can play
a major role in providing renewable energy technology to rural areas at
change is man made
The farmers and
development practitioners who participated in the narrative workshops
agreed that humans are only responsible for whatever climate disasters
that are taking place. They could relate the changes in rainfall
patterns and disasters such as repeated droughts that they have been
witnessing over the last few years to climate change. They felt that due
to over use of water, forests and lands (Jal-Jungle-Zammeen), the
natural balance has been adversely affected because of which human
beings are now suffering.
change is seen as happenings of unnatural things
All the participants
shared that extreme weather patterns, untimely rain, less number of
rainy days, no fish in the ponds, shrinking winter and frogs
disappearing are the unnatural things happening due to climate change.
between nature and man
The groups understood
the importance of bringing back harmony between nature and human beings.
Everybody agreed that India’s ancient civilisation is based on values of
balance and harmony between the people and the planet. The groups
advocated that climate change should be described as damaging the
balance and harmony of nature, and negatively impacting forests, water
and other living things. The causes of climate change should be
presented as unstable and destructive, and solutions should be presented
as balanced and those that create harmony.
Communities understand climate change as change in the water and air
around them (Jal-vaayu Parivartan)
The participants were of
the opinion that if we want to build greater understanding of the rural
communities with respect to climate change, other core vocabulary terms
such as such as fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, sustainability,
renewables, climate change emissions, adaptation and mitigation should
be created in Hindi and other Indian languages in more creative and
Focusing on carbon emissions as the main cause of climate change
Most of the participants
were deeply concerned about air pollution which they perceived to be a
threat to their health and that of their future generations. They were
of the opinion that using solar power as a source of alternative energy
could help to reduce pollution. Some participants were confusing climate
change with pollution. More information sharing on causes of climate
change would be useful. Participants shared that due to deforestation,
climate change is occurring but actually in a country like India,
deforestation is a minor source of emissions but it is always worthwhile
to communicate why we need to protect forests and plant more trees.
However, this must not distract people’s attention from the main sources
of greenhouse gas emissions in India: electricity generation, transport,
cement production and heavy industry.
and apply faith based narratives
Most of the participants
in the two workshops were Hindus. They gave importance to the values of
interconnectedness and respect for natural harmony. These values are
grounded in their faith principles. The participants felt that working
with different faith and religious leaders would help in developing
distinctive faith-based language around climate change for rural and
forward: Language for climate change communication
The climate change
language has been developed on the basis of what the global north and
developed countries think and that is the reason why many people in
developing countries cannot relate to the language. Climate change
communication should describe reducing energy use and emissions as a way
towards personal evolution for the better. It should also demonstrate
that people in different countries all over the world are also taking
actions to reduce their carbon footprint to enhance a sense of shared
purpose. Finally, a focus on local impacts and local cultures, ideally
communicated in local languages can solve the climate change
communication narrative gaps.
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