Weekend 04:



Sarita Fernandes


Heat, horrid heat. The entire continent of southern Asia is facing an unprecedented heat wave. Opening car doors, riding a two-wheeler, using public transport or opening home or office windows in the last whole week has become a non-option. Climate-change finds its way in getting the media’s attention, particularly the attention of groups with basic or certain privileges.  

There is another sister issue. The one concerning power needs that can’t keep up with the recent uptake in consumption. For millennials or Gen-Z’s, especially growing up in tier 1 and 2 cities, the issue of unbearable heat has come with an ingrained solution of a click, of gadgetry and technological solutions. Air conditioners, coolers, malls, co-working spaces, cafes, restaurants, schools and colleges. However, this year’s heatwave has crossed thresholds in several places, some beyond gadgetry relief, with North India recording temperatures above 100 Fahrenheit’s (above 38 degrees Celsius) , it last seen 70 years ago. The heatwave’s demand for energy by a large population has led to a power crisis, particularly with the shortage of coal to keep up with demands. Without any gadgetry support to maintain indoor liveable temperatures, numbers are soaring with regions recording new highest temperatures and rendering any human brain and body without hydration or liveable conditions mush to achieve any basic level of productivity. 

As power in our grid went off, for yet another hour, in rural, coastal South Goa, my brain and body began going to mush. I pondered on my week’s two major highlights as productivity dwindled- one of watching the last few nests of sea turtles reach the open ocean and the other of finally purchasing the first mankurad mangoes of the season. 

The heat and the subsequent recurring stormy weather of rain, gushing strong winds had almost crippled both. Baby turtle hatchlings require clear, fair winds to stand a chance to survive (atleast a day) in the ocean. Mangoes require non-rainy weather to harvest summer produce and stormy winds results in most ripe mangoes falling on the ground and rendering them un-sellable in local or export markets. 

I stared at the first mango I cut into three bits and pondered at the success in scoring atleast one tiny dozen that survived the onslaught of climate change. It was as expected- sweet, juicy and aromatic. Scrapping the last bits of mango from the peels, I thought- How many years did it take for this fruit to reach my table? And was the person who grew this tree and the people that took care of it, still alive? Did they enjoy it’s fruits? 

Another incident with similar questions came from my ex-neighbour, who watched baby turtles walk (they ran) to the sea for the first time last week. She asked, “How do they remember this is where they were born 25-30 years later?” And like all times, when local turtle volunteers who joined the work about 25-30 years ago with the same curiosity, asked the same questions, the answer was the humble- “We don’t know”. 

The heatwave and storms are still on as I write this weekend’s letter. Many people at the worst level of it’s onslaught- without cooling systems, permanent or pucca housing, basic facilities like water, food or hygiene, have perished and have low chances of surviving for yet another one and a half month of summer (on the west, south and east coast) and another six months of summer in North and Central India. I met some of them last week. They included turtle volunteers that sweat it out in the heat and rebuild bamboo centres again after a stormy night, exhausting energy at tourists and   watchers who keep refusing to listen to rules while watching baby hatchlings going to the sea. The others, the farmers and especially the agro-women of mango orchards, who step out each day to harvest mangoes and maintain the mango trees and the market –sellers who sit under the brittle shade of umbrellas selling mangoes every day through the current heatwave.

From one perspective, they are what climate action and resilience is all about. And in an adjoining perspective, it is what we must learn. Decisions and work that people made 25-30 years ago, ensured turtles could continue nest on beaches and mango trees could grow to supply for the next generations. And, the ones (especially the vulnerable groups of older people) that continue making these decisions- choosing trees over concrete jungles and turtles over sunbeds.

Policy and top-down governance changes are important to climate action. But, climate action, and building equity for the next generation, starts from an accumulation of the smallest steps. The ones that baby turtles take each day to survive and continue their life-cycle and maintain the ocean health and, the ones by mango trees who produce gold, after nearly two decades. In the midst of it, are the humans, who choose to facilitate them, not to salvage and enjoy the success of their resilience and hardwork in this lifetime, but to donate it to the next generation and the ones to come after them.    

Many lessons, but the ones (smallest steps) I carry forward and write in hope, are of supporting the resilient humans, resilient trees and resilient wildlife, sweating it out in the thick of the heatwave. 

Diary entries on lessons:

1.Shop local and study the native seasonal produce harvested in your region.  

2.Volunteer, as much as schedules permit.

3.Use the privileges to help in provide for EQUITY in access of technology to sustain vulnerable groups in cities and villages.

4.Request welfare aid from local/regional governments. 

As I watched the mango seed from gorging on my first mankurad mango, I wondered in great anxiety and self-doubt, if planting a mango seed today in the front yard would make any difference to the climate crisis. I think it would. 

See you next week!

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