Clarion call for climate action in Chennai

With placards in hand, raising slogans calling for action, a number of youth organisations came together to host the Umbrella Rally to demand for climate change solutions. 

Published: 09th November 2021 04:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th November 2021 11:29 AM   |  A+A-

climate change, global warming

While the rally was a success, the organisations do not plan to stop with just that.

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Somewhere around 4.00 pm on a still Saturday evening, the clouds over Besant Nagar parted to offer a few hours of respite from rain; one that has not ceased since. But that’s all the relief it took to get the Umbrella Rally for climate change up and running.

While tens of thousands of protestors braved the elements to demand climate action in Glasgow, amid the ongoing United Nations climate conference, it was the youth organisations of Tamil Nadu that offered solidarity in this corner of the country. Responding to the call of the Climate Action Collective (that includes groups such as Vettiver Collective, Chennai Climate Action Group, Madras Naturalists Society, Zenith and more), over 60 organisations and hundreds of people from across the city took to the beach road, umbrellas in hand, sloganeering for real solutions to present-day climate change concerns. 

As chants of “Ooru full ah pollution, evlo vaanganeenga commission”, “Vendam vendam, poi theervu vendam” and “pasumai valarchi, pacha poi pacha poi” rent the air, umbrellas decorated with the realities of coastal erosion and declining biodiversity in our waters added to the proceedings. Placards called attention to the number of environmental disasters in our midst, from the government-sanctioned violations in the Ennore Manali region (Save Ennore Creek, Save Chennai), the erosion triggered by the Kamarajar, L&T and Adani ports in Kattupalli (Stop Adani, Save Pulicat) to the rapid urbanisation of beaches from Thiruvanmiyur to Kovalam (Save Chennai Beaches; NO flyovers). 

All this was meant to dispel people’s belief that doing one’s part is enough, says environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman. “The rally was meant more for bringing together young people, so they can start looking at deeper roots to the problem rather than engaging in superficial activism. There’s a lot of people who believe that planting trees will save the world’s problems; “I’ll do my bit for the environment and plant a tree”. The time’s gone for doing your bit; you have to do a lot more than your bit,” he elaborates. 

The rally’s purpose found plenty of takers on Saturday. It’s this that had Nanditha Ram and Rohit Sreenivasan, college students and members of CCAG, show and march along. For Anooja A, who was raised on a diet of David Attenborough’s videos, the apathy around this coastal city’s climate change issues had always been baffling. The Masters student pursuing conservation practice at ATREE Bengaluru found resonance in the call to find inclusive solutions.

That so many like her felt the same way and turned up for the rally, that they represented many a problem from Vedanthangal’s woes to Pulicat’s plight, that people like TM Krishna (who happily obliged with a rendition of the Poromboke Padal) added their weight to the venture, has only fortified her involvement in this work, she reports. 

“We got to meet many activists who are working for this and doing such great work. Even the public who were there, who did not know about the rally, got curious. Even if they can’t join the rally, there was something to spark a conversation. And that’s how change happens,” points out Aswathi Asokan of Madras Naturalists Society, who is already working with naturalist M Yuvan and others to document the biodiversity of Chennai’s coast. 

While the rally was a success, the organisations do not plan to stop with just that. “As a follow-up to this, we are doing a deep dive with other resource persons for a smaller group of people — 20 to 25 — who are really interested in understanding the complicated nature of the problem. In that, the primary question that is being asked is if it’s even possible to address the ecological crisis within the framework of a corporate-led, growth-centred, capitalist economy.

Because nowhere are the media or world leaders confronting the elephant in the room, which is capitalism. IPCC has referred to it in its sixth report that within the frame of capitalism, a solution may not be possible. The intergovernmental panel on biodiversity and ecosystem has openly declared that we will have to steer away from the limited paradigm of economic growth and redefine wellbeing,” explains Nityanand, adding that they are bringing together youngsters who are looking for answers not offered by our schools, colleges, media and other institutions.

For more details on future work, follow Chennai Climate Action Group on Facebook.


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