Climate change is a phenomenon that has caused temperatures to rise and fall to its extremes. The result of climate change is seen everywhere. From the melting of an ice cream in May to the skin wrinkling cold in November. It has not occurred over the recent years but has been a process that has been in progress over thousands of years. Over the years it has been felt that cities are experiencing hotter summers and cooler winters. For example, Bangalore, a moderately cooler city when compared to those in North India, is now facing severe heat waves during summer. Such climate is, otherwise, unlikely to be felt in any city in South India. It is now experiencing an increase in temperatures, floods during monsoon, droughts in the summer, storms, heavy rainfall, heat waves, cyclones, famines and health problems caused by casualties from natural disasters and such. Health issues are a prime result of climate change. This is due to the increased pollution, emission of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, excess carbon dioxide in breathing air, contaminated water and soil etc. Deaths due to natural calamities, respiratory problems, dust/chemical allergies, food borne and water borne diseases and in a whole the reduction in mortality rate has led to a drastic amount of deaths due to environment related issues.
Climate change not only affects consumer habits but also has a great impact on a cities energy system, demand and supply of water, food, resources, transportation and also public heath to a great extent. Adaptations and mitigation Programmes must be prioritized in order to sustain the economy and hence the social and economic status of the city. If not, many problems such as food shortage, water scarcity, borderline disputes regarding shared resources (and hence political conflicts), high demand and less supply, rise in prices, etc. can arise and cause serious problems in the functioning of a city.
“Bangalore’s weather is changing like crazy. Scorching summers, bone-chilling winters and deluges that resemble cloudbursts are indicators that all is not well with the city’s climate. It spells bad news for a city once considered perfect to live in.” – TOI, Bangalore 2013
In 2012, Karnataka faced the worst drought after 42 years. There was a 43% deficit in rainfall registered by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Center.
The lack of rainfall led to failure in producing summer crops. With ground water depletion came many other problems. These include reduced supply of crops, rise in price for crops, hence making them unaffordable for many and most importantly, loss of jobs. Since a substantial amount of India’s land is used for agriculture, farming is a major occupation for many. Farmers sustain themselves as well as their families on the livings made off farming. So when rain falls short, the only thing sustaining them is unreliable. Such conditions can make it very hard for the farmers who often take loans to buy seeds and water. This debt is also very hard for them to repay. They feel so much under pressure that many think of ending their life. Thus the rate of farmer suicides in India is high.
Government Action – State requested Union to extend jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which provided work for 100-200 days to poor families to prevent migration in search for jobs.
Grow NYC, the organization that I chose focuses on encouraging local farmers, and regional agriculture. Greenmarkets are now functioning all over New York. The first farmers market was established in 1976, providing New Yorkers with organic, fresh and nutritious food, as well as supporting local agriculturists and their families. This has not only become a major source of fresh produce but has also led to trusting relationship between consumer and vendors. Greenmarket vendors sell a range of products including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, flowers, jams, honey, poultry, seafood and even natural health care products like lip balms and lotions.
While volunteering with GrowNYC I noticed the friendly relationships customers and vendors shared. The vendors there were mostly the farmers that grew/produced what they were selling. They allowed customers to taste the produce before buying it. This gives both the vendor and the customer a higher sense of satisfaction. Some stalls even had signs saying they don’t use pesticides or fertilizers. No GMOs were sold at the farmers markets. At the main desk for the organization there were pamphlets and brochures explaining what the Market is about and what is sold and where it comes from. We also held cooking demonstrations and market tours for groups of school children to make them aware of the farm community that has been built here over several years.
Coming from India where the rate of farmer suicides is extremely high I feel obliged to help and encourage local farmers. Since in India, most farmers depend on growing produce as a sole source of income if they fail to produce the same they are compelled to take loans and when the debt is too high most are pressured into committing suicide. The reason behind this is that most seeds are Genetically Modified and are sold to these farmers by privatized companies. Growing GM crops not only requires a considerable amount of water but also fertilizers and pesticides, which are not provided but have to be bought. This also adds to the farmers’ budget, which is removed from his income, thus leaving less money for food, and other basic needs.
Just last year, 2014, the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) recorded 5650 farmer suicides in India. This estimates to about one suicide per every 100th village. In Karnataka the number was 321 which is not as high as 2568 deaths in Maharashtra. The NCRB collected data that suggested that 20.6 percent of these deaths were due to indebtedness or bankruptcy. 20.1 percent were because of family problems, 16.8 percent due to failure of crops and 13.2 percent owing to illnesses.
Having droughts not only means reduced crop growth but also lesser safe drinking water. Health problems such as cholera, diarrhea, arsenicosis, typhoid etc. require prescribed medication that many Indian farmers cannot afford. Small children are most vulnerable to such diseases and without proper medication can lead to death. Therefore, we can see the number of casualties faced by Indian farmers and their families. In order to reduce this it is essential to provide assurance and trust to farmers who are facing problems.
Since the real problem lies in India, raising awareness here and getting people to encourage farmers and small-scale agriculturists is one goal I aim to achieve. This could be done by having interactive posters around subways and public areas, distributing pamphlets and brochures, and spreading awareness by word of mouth. These materials would help an outsider better understand the problems faced by Indian farmers and maybe might change their food decisions to buying at the Farmers market rather then at super stores. Pamphlets and brochures could be distributed in and around the farmers market, and around stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. A storyboard or comic strip that demonstrates the problem well could be distributed to people on the streets or displayed on a screen for people to see and comment and provide feedback
Another way to encourage local farmers would be to provide them with facilities such as free pesticides and fertilizers as well as medical insurance. These amenities should be provided by the privatized or governmental organizations that are providing the seeds. Not having to spend their hard earned income on the above would relieve the farmers of excess expenditure and allow them to focus on feeding and providing for their families. A live demonstration of the story of a farmer suicide would bring attention to what goes on in India. This would allow people to connect with the problem at an emotional level and help them better understand their living conditions.
To conclude I want to raise as much awareness as possible and help the living conditions of farmers here and thus use this experience as an example of what could be done in India. Farmer suicides have hindered the development of the country and pose a threat to the existing financial infrastructure. If these are not prevented it would mean a major deficiency in the functioning of the Indian Government who should be making fast and effective solutions for it.
  Climate Change and Cities. “Executive Summary,” Climate change and cities: first assessment report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. Page 16
Image Citing: http://www.oneindia.com/img/2012/07/29-farmer-seeing-sky.jpg