22-year-old climate activist, writer, and global peace ambassador John Paul Jose provides a commentary on the environmental crisis through an Indian lens. From discussions on the impact of flooding and landslides in Kerala, to examinations of the link between capitalism and global warming, Jose is one of the most passionate voices in the youth-led effort to address the climate crisis. Follow John Paul on Twitter @johnpauljos and Instagram @johnpauljos
My name is John Paul Jose and I am a youth climate activist from Kerala, India. Those who live close to natural or semi-natural landscapes have the advantage of building an intimate relationship with nature from childhood. I have had that privilege. I grew up surrounded by lush green, able to explore the beauty of nature around me. I observed everything I could find, from insects to stars--a budding young naturalist. Those who live in cities can only know true nature through reading and travelling, but, is that enough?
I used to enjoy the monsoon rains of Kerala and stare in awe at the natural floods along the floodplains that could sink the floors of my school, and the streams that flowed all year. But, since 2018, I see that things have changed. Out of nowhere, flooding has become common. After a few hours of rain, streams that have dried up have turned into waterfalls and gradually begun contributing to the flooding of our town. Now, the monsoon season has become the flood season. As I live in a hilly region in which quarrying and cutting down the hills has become common, landslides leave shockwaves of fear. Our summers have become hot enough to dry up the trees, forcing us to stay home to avoid heat strokes. It's not just us: the world is also facing similar events, though I believe that my state is facing one of the worst effects to date, but it is being normalized. We have to fight this newfound normalization, as well as the floods and the pandemic.
My relationship with nature, beginning at a young age from planting trees and engaging in agriculture, is the basis of my environmental activism. Learning about the climate crisis through sources ranging from academia to journalism, I began to work to protect the natural landscape I’ve become so connected to as an activist. I had already been involved in environmental and social activism, but, gradually, I began to expand more into climate activism, as repeated warnings by the scientific community highlighted the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. All life on this planet, including humans, will find it difficult or impossible to adapt to the environment created in the wake of ecological and societal collapse. Social issues can be changed through the medium of politics, but the climate crisis has become much bigger than politics, and more urgent. Knowing all of these unequivocal facts, yet finding a plethora of ignorance and inaction, has made young people like me raise our voices to demand action.
After learning about the climate crisis, I began to participate in local protests. My first protest was to prevent an urban forest from being cut down to make room for new roads and buildings. After that, I protested against a mass river diversion project. Through my initial activism, I met various adult environmentalists who have been working on the ground for years, ignored by authorities. Gradually, I began to join NGOs like Greenpeace to engage in more climate advocacy. I also did research on the climate crisis, and finally began striking with Friday's For Future. Since becoming an activist, I have engaged with various NGOs, communities, and institutes in confronting the widespread ignorance of the climate crisis.
Perpetuated ignorance regarding climate change in mainstream media, educational curricula, and political discourse has nurtured this crisis, allowing it to slowly morph into a catastrophic crisis. As a result, we are left with only some time to avert the crisis or to adapt to certain irreversible changes. Those that put people over profit must recognize that there is profit in doing the right thing for the planet and its people. Until they do not, we must act.
There are various ways to make our voices heard and bring about change, either from within the system or from the outside by working with communities and generating a movement. Planting trees and striking are effective ways to make your voice heard as an individual. Collaborating or volunteering with community groups or national organisations will make you part of a collective cause. Gradually, as you gain courage, you can directly confront destructive developmental activities and call out the actions of corporations and those in positions of authority. Together, we can step in and lead social change to build a better future. The meaning of the future has changed for me. Before, it was about advancement over the years and starting a family, but now, that future is grim.We must first secure the foundation of our home before living in it as we should. I and other activists might never start living, risking time with our family to make our voices heard, so that at least future generations will be able to live on this earth.
(Flooding in Kerala, India, February, 2020)