Climate cafés spark debate in rural Kerala on environmental issues

As world leaders negotiate a climate action plan at COP26 in Glasgow, farmers, adivasis and common people are getting together in rural and semi-urban parts of Kerala to discuss the fallout of climate change on their lives — over cups of tea.

These gatherings, called Climate cafés, were initiated in Kerala by a publication, ‘Padhabhedam’, led by writer and social activist “Civic” Chandran.

“We don’t want to leave the debates on climate change to experts and politicians alone. Kerala has been frequently facing floods and landslides in the recent years. This situation calls for micro-level conversations, in which common men can freely air their views. Everyone has something to say on climate and in fact this is a topic where we can open a talk with a stranger,” said Chandran.

The Climate Café concept was started in 2018 by Rebecca Nestor of the UK-based Climate Psychology Alliance, an organisation that explores the psychological impact of climate crisis.

Chandran said so far 30 climate café meets have been conducted and another 30 would be held till November 12, when COP26 ends. “We haven’t fixed any topic to be debated. Padhabhedam hosted only a few initial sessions, mostly attended by 15 to 60 people. Now, citizens are coming together spontaneously to debate climate change, as they are now convinced about the importance…” he said.

These café meets are attended by a cross-section of people who are not experts. In a café in Wayanad, tribal people aired their concern about landslides. In Alappuzha, participants discussed the flooding in Kuttanad region.

Ajith Kumar, one of the participants at the Climate Café in Alappuzha, said: “We have discussed preparing a room for floodwater in paddy fields and wetlands so that flooding of vast areas could be minimised. Our discussion also highlighted the need for restrictions on constructing houses… Our Climate Café will conduct more sessions for micro-level planning…”

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