Climate change rollback! ‘Coz we’re protesting.
Climate change is real. It’s happening. Now that we realise it, we can’t keep on shouting on the streets asking it to slow down. Even crying after a tree has fallen won’t help. Planting another 10 will. We need to make a behavioural change. And it starts with the individual. We need to give up the luxury of selfish living for our future, for the next generations. As not caring is no more an option, we have to choose between protesting and doing. And we know that the latter will make us better ancestors for future.
In 2009, some 1000 men, women and children from Bhil tribe of Jhabua district, Madhya Pradesh gathered in Jhabua town on the call of ‘Halma’. Halma is an ancient tribal tradition of solving problems through community participation. The call was given by a Jhabua-based organisation. The purpose was water conservation. The tribal people rallied in the town, with Gaiti & Fawada (Pickaxe & Spade roughly) on their shoulders, giving a message that these agricultural tools are as important as guns of soldier and farmers should be proud of it in the same way soldiers are proud of their guns. With slogans of water conservation in loud voice, they marched the streets intending to create awareness on water conservation among the audience.
The program, by its standard, was successful. Whole town took leave of everything for a few hours to join the lines. Whole town witnessed something they had not seen yet. The organisers were happy. The town people were happy. There seem to be some doubt in the tribal population though. They went to the organisers and asked that they responded to the call of ‘Halma’ for water conservation. How come any amount water got conserved by whatever they did so far?
It was a moment of some realization for the organisers. They had made a mistake. Their program didn’t stand against the spirit of tribal people. They needed a retrospection and they did.
Next year, again ‘Halma’ was called. Even more people responded. This time also there was a march. But the march didn’t end at just far side of the road. It went ahead to a local hill — Hathipava. More than 1500 tribal pairs of hand, worked relentlessly for 5 hrs to make contour trenches and rock bunds on the hill.
10 years since that incident, and today there are 111 thousand contour trenches on the hill. Since then Halma is being organised on that hill every year. Consequently, groundwater increased in the villages at foothill. The large pond in the middle of the town, which used to be a dry playground, is now brimming with water throughout the year.
Today, Halma is a big event for the tribal people. Halma’18 was participated by 15000 plus tribals from more than 1000 villages. Around 1000 outsiders — students & professors of eminent colleges, professionals, urban residents of nearby cities — also joined the effort and returned overwhelmed by the dedication and devotion of tribal people for nature.
The organisation and the tribal people didn’t stop there. With the revival of the ancient Bhili tradition of Halma, the urge to quench the thirst of JameeMata spread in more & more villages with time. In the last 10 years, they have constructed 67 water reservoirs (earthen dams), with a total capacity of 5000 million litres. Along with it, they have also planted 75 thousand trees. All in 10 years.
Now, why this little extended story is relevant here?
I came across a news a few days back — 6 million people protested demanding actions on climate change. And that people claimed this was just a beginning. 6 million people protesting is almost like Hyderabad city on feet.
6 million people stood for saving earth or fighting climate change, yet ‘zero’ ground impact. Some thousands of tribal people came forward to save their ‘Jameemata’ and millions of water has been conserved, thousands of trees planted. Considering their much low carbon footprint, they are acting as ‘carbon-sink’, against those protestors who’re among the population with the highest carbon footprint. It is all about behaviour. The tribal people didn’t go home with the satisfaction of serving mother earth after rallying the streets. We do go. And that makes all the difference.
Even if the 6 million planted one tree each, it would have countered 130 thousand tonnes of carbon per year. If they decided, just to drop the use of plastic water bottles it would have saved 12.5 million tonnes of plastic per year from polluting our ocean.
Anyone, with any real intention of making some ground impact, has to understand that the planet can only be saved by change of individual behaviour. The masses can’t be out on streets asking climate change to roll back. We have to ask ourselves — what are we ready to give up…time, energy, comfort, money? The activism is not going work. Not really, until it has coordination with those working on the ground. This is a reality which masses of the west don’t seem to accept.
In India, there are organisations, individuals…working silently, serving the mother earth, making an impact. We come across such stories very often. We need to embrace it, this culture of making a change without seeking anything. We need to take traditions like Halma to the world. Imagine 6 million people doing Halma, imagine the impact it could have.
For that, we must refrain from being one in that 6 million. We got our ways, let’s do it, learn it and take to the world.
The tribal people of Jhabua and the organisation — Shivganga, are once again ready with Halma ’20. At least 20 thousand people are expected to participate. Many will go. Many won’t. Many will choose to protest on social media, express disgrace and enjoy the 16°C temperature in same scorching summer when tribal will be putting their sweat into earth for generations to come. We know what will really do any slow down to climate change. We know who will be called as better ancestors in future.