Earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for India to continue to be a leader in international conversations on climate change. Next week, U.S. President Obama will travel to India to meet with Indian Prime Minister Modi, where he will likely explore how the two countries might collaborate on climate change efforts in advance of the much-anticipated UN climate talks taking place in Paris at the end of the year.
This focus on India highlights the pivotal role the country will likely play leading up to the negotiations: despite the fact that India has not historically generated high per-capita carbon emissions, the country’s massive population and rapid economic growth mean the country’s development path will have environmental consequences both for India’s citizens and the rest of the world.
And as energy demands rise, India faces the singular difficulty of continuing to promote its impressive economic growth and raising its people out of poverty, while simultaneously playing a critical role in avoiding the worst effects of climate change, which—if unchecked—would put more than 60 percent of its citizens at grave risk.
The good news is that India is already taking important steps toward sustainable economic growth. India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change includes measures to increase energy efficiency and install significant solar capacity in the near-term (100 gigawatt by 2022), helping to meet its goal to double its total renewable capacity by 2017, all while reducing the country’s carbon intensity by 20-25 percent by 2020. These efforts demonstrate that India is taking the threat of climate change and the promise of renewable energy expansion seriously, which is an important step forward on the Road to Paris.
Yet there is far more to the Indian climate story than the Indian government’s efforts leading up to the international negotiations. There are more than one billion people living in India, many of whom are not waiting for international debates in order to take action on climate at a community level.
It is the energy from these types of community activism and engagement projects that we at Climate Reality look forward to seeing next month when we host the 27th Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in New Delhi (Feb. 22-24). There, we will convene scientists, decision makers, leading businesses and representatives from all sectors of Indian society to equip them to understand climate change and its solutions, communicate effectively about climate change and organize their networks towards action.
This training is part of our goal to help give community leaders all over the world the tools they need to effect change in their networks. Through these trainings, we have met inspiring activists and trained more than 7,000 Climate Reality Leaders from more than 100 countries.
Will you be the next?
To become a Climate Leader by attending the training in India, apply to attend by Jan. 30.
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By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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