This post is part of the Climate Action Fellowship, a 10-week integrated bootcamp to work on stories that highlight the impact of climate change on India’s most marginalized. Click here to find out more and apply.
To flower or not to flower? My broccoli plants are confused, and it is not their fault. It is not even mid-February, and my skin is burning. It is nearly 30 degrees. I ask my grandparents if it was always this hot in February? They say no. We dread how hot this summer will be. The broccoli plants will not live to face it. That will be the cucumber plants’ burden to bear.
I live in Gwalior, which typically has extreme weather; cold winters and hot summers with a short monsoon season. I also live in chronic pain because of fibromyalgia, which means I am more sensitive to temperature changes than most people, as most of my plants. I can feel the temperature changes from the level of pain that I experience.
A slight creeping cold, which most people do not register, increases my pain, and a little warmth does wonders as pain relief. When most people wear a light jacket, I am in combat mode through thermals, socks, caps, scarves, coats, etc.
In this context, a discussion that often happens in my house is about where I should settle down. When we discuss, we are thinking of a place that will afford a good standard of living and a better quality of life for me, pain-wise. I come from a place of privilege, which means that if I try hard enough, it would not be outside my possibilities to make these discussions a reality. But one of the trickiest things when discussing where to live is the climate, as no one knows with certainty what that place would be like in the next 20-30 years. It has become a morbidly fun guessing game.
While warm tropical climates would be ideal for me, coastal cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, etc., are at a higher risk from rising sea levels, extreme weather events, etc. Realistically, in the long run, traditionally cold countries like Canada, New Zealand, etc., might be good options, after all, if climate change continues the way it is going.
I would have considered colder places in the Himalayas but given their fragility and vulnerability as a young mountain system; it is not a good option. Most major cities in the world will also face severe water stress, so Canada might just be the best option since they have a lot of frozen freshwater. Unless, of course, Canada gets invaded because of a water war.
However, right now, I live in Gwalior simply because it is home. To make sense in a world seemingly headed towards doom, I learnt to grow my own food, first in a few pots and then on a field. The more I learnt, the more I realized that industrial agriculture contributed to greenhouse gas emissions through tillage (carbon dioxide) and fertilizers (nitrous oxide) while depleting the soil and the water table.
At the same time, climate change has also posed a major threat to food security and agricultural livelihoods. But I also learnt that plants and living soil are the most effective carbon capture technology as they naturally sequester and store carbon and fix atmospheric nitrogen. And carbon and nitrogen in the soil increase its fertility and productivity, eliminating the need for NPK fertilizers, etc. So could the solution be in the problem itself?
It is not that simple, but it is a start. Growing food for myself and others by understanding and working with the principles of nature and ecology (through permaculture) and experimenting with other ways to farm sustainably allows me to contribute to the fight against climate change. It is a minuscule contribution to the larger scheme of things, but it gives me meaning and happiness.
I find it meditative and therapeutic to work in the soil with my own hands and see the seeds turn into flowers and fruits. I cannot overhaul the consumerist capitalistic economic system that we live in currently, but I can make a difference one seed, one tree and one field at a time, and that is my master plan.