India’s emissions have been historically low when compared to large countries and developing nations alike. The per-person emission in India is 1.8-tonnes per capita compared to the 4.8-tonne global average; doubled since 1990, it is still one of the lowest globally. Despite having such low emissions per person, India has jumped to the third-largest carbon emitter in the past decade. To make amends, India has pledged large sums to renewable energy and promised to double its forest cover among a myriad of other sustainable practices during the Paris Summit of 2015. 

Why India’s approach to the climate crisis is dangerous

There has been much debate about the role of wealthier nations in facilitating and then fighting climate change. Euro-centric nations bear more of the responsibility but less of the afflictions that come with the on-going climate crisis due to their choke-hold on the global economy; The surge in temperature affects the Asian subcontinent and Africa disproportionately. Even ignoring historical responsibility, it is nearly impossible to compare the coping capacities of such diverse and financially burdened nations with the same yardstick as Europe or the Americas. 

Be that as it may, coping with the fiscal aspect of mitigating rising temperatures is one of a plethora of concerns that plague the nation. India’s multiple climate zones, agro-based economy, diverse population, and uneven distribution and density make it a unique target. India’s monsoon reliant economy is already suffering at the hands of errant weather as early storms decimate crops and displace large swaths of the coastal population. Droughts are swallowing states in whole – adding to rising suicide rates in our most vulnerable populations.

The fight against climate change in India is following the same approach as in most European countries – corporations lead the fight. Petroleum and Industrial giants, the authors of our climate crisis, are in charge of stopping the surge at 1.5-degree Celcius. This top-down approach is noticeably hazardous in a country that largely relies on community-led movements, grassroots organizations, and cooperative ownership. Purloined agricultural land, the privatization of public facilities, continuous resource exploitation, displacement of tribal populations due to encroaching conservationists are only a handful of the problems that corporations have granted the country.

Tribal communities have been at the forefront of forest preservation and sustainable agricultural practices. Their holistic approach is sustainable, affordable, and inclusive. The dangers of adopting a top-down approach to mitigation involve silencing the leaders of this movement who have spent generations protecting the land. Their voices fight against not only climate change but shed light on the plight of the millions of people affected by it. 

Conservationist groups cut off the access local communities have to their land to preserve forests. Farming populations migrate to unwelcoming cities that are bursting at the seams to support their families. Governments do not acknowledge or make investments in civic infrastructure or affordable housing for internally displaced climate refugees. When the majority of people exist in communities that live in co-dependency with their natural environment, the lobbyist’s silver bullet is lethal. With less than a decade left to cut our carbon emissions in half and prevent a peninsular perimeter worth of refugees, no money-grubbing agenda is tolerable.

Corporations bin a collective approach only to replace it with individualistic action; The corporate leaders encash their profits while individuals buy their metal straws and hope it will change the world. Their propaganda for individualism creates lone and helpless warriors in a fight that requires unprecedented action at a united and global scale. Even significant climate change activists side with corporations that pay their green taxes on time and promise to plant trees in the front lawns of their Headquarters. 

A change of this magnitude cannot rely on people who buy their way out of accountability. The grotesque over-funding of these industries follows the flailing philosophy of the trickle-down economy – that if the rich have enough, we can survive on their crumbs. Those who have polluted our air and rendered our waters undrinkable cannot be at the forefront of change. Tribal communities and others on the front lines of polluting industrial activity should be first to receive public support for their conservation and clean energy projects. 

Tree-huggers must urgently make the time for a great many anti-imperialist, post-colonial thinkers because, without that knowledge, there is no way to understand how we ended up in this dangerous place or to grasp the transformations required to get us somewhere safer. By invoking the most avaricious among us, we silence the de-growth strategies that take the spotlight away from GDPs to shine it on human survival. Amplifying the voices of grassroots revolutionaries is the primordial step towards fighting the metaphorical and literal wave that is climate change. 

If the climate movement is not inclusive or bottom-up, we leave the fight to powerful corporations, nationalists, and supremacists. At the most critical point in human history, our leaders and their henchmen offer us divisive politics, gimmick-riddled geo-engineered cover-ups, and attention-grabbing distractive stunts. When this happens, we risk continuing the same legacy of eco-fascism, anti-population narratives, and green colonialism that plague the cultural climate today. 

To add to our distress, while the one percent finds new and politically correct ways to line their pockets, we run out of the little time we have to stop the warming. Sacrificial agendas cannot be at the forefront of our fight. Large swaths of our populace are not expendable to keep stock prices up. The only way to survive the climate crisis is with collective action, with the most vulnerable among us leading the movement.


Aasiya is an aspiring creative professional with a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University GSAPP. She is an avid feminist, climate change activist, and an amateur guitarist. The excitement of knowing that proper design will help meet an individual’s requirements is the only sentiment she holds as her own.