‘Frugal Innovation’, Not Dirty Energy, Makes the Case for Climate Action in India
“Frugal innovation” is a more useful concept than dirty energy, climate justice, or fossil fuels for groups trying to promote a post-carbon transition in developing countries like India, according to a study released last month.
“What we realized is that the messaging we have been using like ‘save the climate’ just doesn’t translate,” said Shailendra Yashwant, communication advisor at Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA). “Most training materials are either in English, or in very technical Hindi. So most people just haven’t understood conventional messages.”
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The project trained local associates to run 16 narrative workshops with 154 participants, including students and farmers, in English and Hindi.
The study found little resonance for references to dirty energy, Climate Home reports. “Nobody connected the use of coal to climate change,” Yashwant said. “They saw pollution as being caused by plastics, or cars, but not coal.”
Similarly, the workshop pointed to a much more locally-focused understanding of climate change, compared to some parts of the conversation elsewhere. “People seemed to understand climate change much better when we related it to a certain crop that never grows anymore, or an animal that has disappeared.”
A key feature for one workshop participant, 45-year-old farmer Anita Bahuguna, was that the session focused in on her way of life. “For instance, we were shown how to plant more trees around our houses to stop hillside erosion,” she told Climate Home. “And we were also told not to use smoky stoves inside our houses. None of us knew that the smoke is a major cause of lung diseases, especially in children. Now we are considering smokeless stoves.”
For 21-year-old engineering student Aneri Sheth, the project was a first opportunity to hear anything about climate change. “In our colleges, we are never told about climate change,” she said. “We are told to go out and get jobs.”
Yashwant said the project revealed “little affection for solar, hydro, or wind energy on the ground. People think of it as a handy application, like having a solar lamp, but not as something that can replace coal.”
Climate Home notes that “climate justice was another idea that did not get traction. While the Indian government has consistently argued rich nations must pay for their carbon pollution, participants were keen that India stand on her own feet. Most agreed with the statement: ‘We cannot wait for help to arrive from the West; India is in the unique position to be the first emerging economy to take action.’”