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An activist at the intersection of social justice and climate activism

Interview: John Paul Jose

By: Alessandra Bonanomi

The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has warned that India could face multiple climate change-induced disasters in the next two decades. We spoke with John Paul Jose, a climate activist from Kerala, India, who is concerned about the unequal effects of climate change on his home country.

John Paul first began to understand the impacts of climate change living in an agricultural community vulnerable to natural disasters. Thus, he felt compelled to become a climate activist. Since then, John Paul has participated international projects like the New York Times Generation Climate. He also started Livelihood Trust, an initiative to pioneer environmental and livelihood security, which will be registered soon as an organisation.

Citiplat: Why did you become a climate activist? Since childhood, coming from an agricultural family in a country with social and economic issues, my main focus was social justice. I saw human oppression of nature and the existence of patriarchy too. For instance, my mom used to be a designer. But, after getting married, she had to stay at home. My focus was also on shifting from a colonial type of agriculture to a more traditional one.

Then climate change started to exacerbate the situation in our area, and we began to experience its impact on our livelihoods. Our generation - especially in the Global South- is suffering because of climate change. Even if we focus on our careers, we cannot stop thinking about the climate crisis especially because we cannot leave our lands and go live in a place in which we are alien. So I became a climate activist, because if we want to move forward, we have to fight this climate crisis.

The effects of the climate crisis go beyond just impacting our physical environment. They also exacerbate social and economic inequalities. In response to this, people have started talking about climate justice.

Citiplat: What does climate justice mean to you? The meaning of climate justice changes depending on the region someone is based. Climate justice means protecting my livelihood, achieving environmental security, and mitigating and adapting to climate change for me. As I come from an agricultural community, our environment is important and needs to be protected. But for people living in coastal areas, their idea of climate justice is related to protecting the sea, fish populations, and marine habitat. For people living in cities, climate justice could mean reducing the gap between rich and poor, addressing pollution, et cetera.

There are different ways to define climate justice but generally, the impact of climate change is worse on the Global South or formerly colonised and exploited countries where people are connected to nature and depend on it. Climate justice is important because we need to protect people and their livelihood. Millions of people losing their livelihoods means disaster management, refugee camps, people relocation, post-disaster funding, and a huge cost. Like in my case, the safest place to stay is where we live now because we know the place, even though we need some assistance.

Citiplat: COP 27 is scheduled for November 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. What do you expect to happen?

The location itself is significant: it is in the Global South, and it makes it easier for people from this part of the world to join the event. The COP in Glasgow was difficult to reach because of vaccine rules, quarantine, and travel costs. An easier place to reach could platform everyone, including youth from poor countries. At COP 27, people can focus more on people from the Global South and can shift the climate action leadership to developing countries.

Citiplat: In your opinion, what role does social media play in the environmental movement?

Social media is playing the role that the media should have played. The media filter news or content in general based on political interests or the level of richness. However, on social media, we can show what people should actually see, such as real stories of struggles related to climate change. In fact, I think climate change should be covered like sport. At the end of the news, there is a sports section where we can see highlights of the game played that day but there should be a part dedicated to climate change too.

Traditional media shows up when the climate crisis is particularly bad and thousands of people die. However, on social media, we can share almost everything: impact on people’s life or injustice using a video, a photo, or audio.

Citiplat: What’s your favorite social media app?

There is a new social media app that, together with a group of activists and content creators, we are testing. It is called Curv and it will be launched soon. People and content creators can post any actions relevant to the environment with sources so that people cannot doubt it anymore. It is an important tool to drive action and people can contribute to the change. Every post informs about the reality of the world and gives the audience the possibility to be involved and even make a donation. When it comes to traditional social media, my favorite one is Instagram because it is easily reachable.


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