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Climate Caravan shows the way

Stilt houses Bangladesh

Stilt houses - coping with climate change in Bangladesh. University College London Development Planning Unit under a Creative Commons Licence

It’s no secret that Bangladesh is one of the countries most at risk from the ongoing consequences of climate change. Yet, while people in this region are acutely aware of this, the government is still at odds with its own population, announcing a new 1,320-megawatt coal-based power plant to be completed in 2019.

This project is part of broader plans to generate an extra 9,000 megawatts of electricity while at the same time acquiring some 2,000 hectares (20 square kilometres) of pristine coastal land, which for a country with 1,175 people per square kilometre, is tantamount to theft. It’s under these conditions that the Bangladesh Krishok Federation (BKF) and Bangladesh Kishani Sabha (BKS) continually take action into their own hands and this year have organized a Climate Caravan.

The two-week tour, which kicked off on 10 November, will visit communities in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, and is a rare opportunity for genuine solidarity between those struggling for justice in industrialized and developing nations. Its main aim isn’t to provide an opportunity for guilty Westerners to dissuade their guilt, but is designed to share information with all involved and show examples of direct challenges to the climate culprit of capitalism.

The first Climate Caravan (otherwise known as the South Asian Climate Change, Gender and Food Sovereignty Caravan) was held in 2011 and was organized to coincide with the UN climate change conference in Durban, South Africa (known as COP17). Attended by delegates from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines, Britain, Germany and Australia, the caravan visited 18 villages in Bangladesh where they held meetings, workshops and seminars on the key issues facing those communities.

Through their shared stories they discovered that, as largely agrarian communities, they all faced similar challenges living under market-based systems, with climate change exacerbating those problems further. In a joint message, they completely rejected the solutions put forward by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and labelled them as attempts by ‘multinational corporations that have caused climate change in the first place to further take over what is left of our lands and livelihood’.

The 2014 Climate Caravan looks to build and expand on the original, taking in a greater variety of environments and struggles, while still focusing on the core aims of addressing climate change, gender, food sovereignty and their interrelationships.

You can stay up-to-date with the Climate Caravan by visiting the BKF website, or by following me at Medium where I’ll be providing daily updates (depending upon the internet gods). And you can follow the Climate Caravan on Twitter, too: #climatecaravan

We demand system change, not climate change.

Jarred Sferruzzi is an Australian journalist.

Read the April 2012 issue of New Internationalist on how Bangladesh is adapting to climate change.

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