Words by Simone Rawal
Voices from the Global South are often left out and ignored in climate conversations. Recognizing the lack of diverse voices and perspectives, Sitashma Thapa and I decided to start a podcast called Anthropause. Starting close to home, we kicked off Anthropause by bringing in and centering voices from South Asia. Born and raised in Nepal, our interests in environmental issues stem back to our childhood as we witnessed textbook examples of climate change. As we both moved to the US for further education, we realized that the narrative and communication on the environment was primarily dominated by Western perspectives. We decided that we needed a platform that would help bring together important voices that often remain unheard.
Focusing primarily on South Asia this year, we recognize that this subcontinent is at the forefront of climate change. With deeply rooted systemic inequalities and underdeveloped and growing markets, limitations and barriers to climate education only worsen the situation. However, along with these challenges, South Asia has also been successfully innovating holistic approaches to climate problems. With Anthropause, we learn more about these approaches deeply embedded in South Asia's rich and diverse culture, values, and religions.
Anthropause was an idea that was born during the lockdown period of the pandemic, when Sitashma and I were both reminiscing how clearly, we could finally see the peaks of the Himalayas that are often hidden by the smog. This is how we came up with the name ‘Anthropause’, a term coined by scientists to recall the time during the pandemic to refer "specifically to a considerable global slowing of modern human activities.”
We believe in the power of storytelling, and that is what Anthropause intends to do. We feature speakers who share their stories on the current climate crisis grounded in their lived experiences.
Climate and the environment are interdisciplinary and should be approached through a vast array of disciplines and lenses. To further foster this belief, we have spoken to mountaineers, conservationists, artists, entrepreneurs, academics and journalists on the podcast who bring very different perspectives. We also believe that art can play an extremely important role in communicating climate information and covering challenging topics. Every Anthropause episode is complemented with an artwork by Iman Sengupta, an emerging artist from India. Iman’s art helps connect people’s emotions from each episode to the scientific facts presented, creating awareness and bridging another communication barrier.
We intend to highlight local traditions, cultural significance, community-based approaches, climate adaptation strategies from the Global South, and Indigenous knowledge systems and worldviews that are often overlooked in climate conversations. Mr. Dawa Steven Sherpa talks about the "Dhi," the local law of the Sherpa people engaged in protecting the Himalayas in Nepal. Dr. Ghana Shyam Gurung discusses the opportunities for the Global North to learn from the Global South on the topic of community-based adaptation approaches. Dr. Pablo Toral emphasizes the importance of developing sustainable cities and reflects on how Covid-19 exposed challenges that Jane Jacobs pointed out decades ago.
Young entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, Fathia, Farhia, and Farhat remember the tragic Rana Plaza collapse, when the plaza that consisted of five garment factories that made clothes for international clothing brands collapsed. More than a thousand garment workers were injured and over two thousand and five hundred were injured. Reflecting on their own traditions, they argue that rather than the West being the ‘face of sustainability’, there is plenty to learn from countries in the East, where recycling and reusing are embedded in the culture.
Dr. Sameer Shah further highlights the importance of reframing the water crisis in South Asia and understanding that the water crisis is not simply due to the lack of water but the unequal water distribution and access shaped by various institutions. Lastly, Mr. Sangay Dorji reflects on the influence of Buddhism on Bhutan's environmental policies and encourages every nation to play its role in reaching carbon neutrality.
Each of these conversations allow us to grow, reflect, learn and unlearn as we navigate our own journey of understanding the climate crisis.
People from the Global South should be given opportunities to share their stories, speak up, and provide solutions. It is time that the people who have been facing disasters caused by climate change are given a platform to engage in conversation and be involved in decision-making processes. Even with the upcoming scheduled for November 1-12, 2021, most of the Global South environmental activists may not be able to participate due to vaccine inequity, unclear information, and high quarantine costs. It is high time that we all work towards amplifying the voices of those on the frontlines of the climate emergency, and we hope that Anthropause is a small contribution to this wider conversation.
Reminded by episode 8, “Fragmented Connections,” our main objective has always been to foster climate communication and spread awareness about environmental issues simply but effectively. As we talked to Mr. Supun Lahiru Prakash, who has been translating climate information into Sinhalese, one of the local languages of Sri Lanka, we now want to reach out to more audiences by translating our 1-minute summary episodes to multiple languages. Recognizing our own privilege of being able to communicate clearly in English, we firmly believe that language should never be an obstacle in climate communication. Therefore, we are looking for help to translate our summary videos into different languages in the hope that it reaches communities worldwide. If you are interested in helping Anthropause with the translation, we would love to connect with you.
With only one more guest speaker left for this year, we are approaching the end of Season 1. However, as we venture onto other regions of the Global South, Sitashma and I are committed to bringing different climate stories to you. We are here to connect, listen, and amplify your experiences. If you have been looking for a platform to tell your climate story or know of people we should bring onto the show, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.
And keep an eye out for the upcoming “Podcasting Workshop”. This event that will take place in November and will cover the basics of podcasting including reaching out to people, effective climate communication, editing, marketing strategies, branding and more.
Meet the team
Simone Rawal is currently an MSc student at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at UBC. Born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal, she is interested in helping countries in the Global South better understand and reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change. She is passionate about environmental justice, disaster risk management and AI applications in sustainability. She is working with the UBC Sustainability Initiative as a climate emergency research assistant.
Born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sitashma Thapa is currently an M.A. student in Philanthropic Studies interested in environmental philanthropy, environmental Justice, and Sustainability. Recipient of the McKinney Philanthropic Fellowship, she is working at Hoosier Environmental Council. She is highly interested in environmental research and advocacy in the Global South.
Iman Sengupta is from New Delhi, India. He inspires to be a contemporary artist with his own practice someday. Currently, he is pursuing a master's in fine art at Lasalle College of the arts in Singapore. His main area of interest is awareness-induced art. He likes to be unpredictable in his work and appeal to raw emotion as artistic language. He is passionate about working with psychological and environmental topics focused on Indian communities.