• Julien Sueres

Rituraj Phukan’s Climate Reality Project

And insight into his climate activism

Sustainability, Sustainable Development, SDGs, UAE, Climate Activist, Arushi Madan, Climate Change, The SustainabilityX® Magazine
Rituraj Phukan (Climate Reality presentation at the A.D.P. College, Nagaon, Assam, India)

Listen to this and other articles from The SustainabilityX® Magazine on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Meet Rituraj Phukan, Climate Leader and Mentor working with former US Vice President Al Gore and renowned climate scientists and communicators on The Climate Reality Project. He is the Secretary-General of Green Guard Nature Organization, a grassroots nature conservation NGO working with fringe forest communities to mitigate man-animal conflict, wildlife conservation, and climate change awareness. He has seen the consequences of climate change in Antarctica and the Canadian Arctic, which are some of the worst impacted regions. He is a committed naturalist who loves to sensitize the young and spend time in the wilderness.


In this interview with Climate Tracker and Sustainably Contributor, Odewale Abayomi, he shares his perceptions on climate change, preparations for Climate Reality Leadership Corps training coming up in March 2016, and the Humanitarian crisis.


Kindly introduce yourself.

I am Rituraj Phukan, from Assam, India. I grew up in Assam, India, in the middle of civil unrest, and a student-led movement against illegal immigration into my region from neighboring Bangladesh. We were socially ostracized as my father was aligned to the ruling party, so, I grew up traumatized.


How did you become a climate change and environment advocate?

I always used to wonder why people would want to leave their homeland. Years later, when I joined the Robert Swan-led International Antarctic Expedition in 2013, I saw for myself climate change impacts on the remote continent. I learned enough to understand that sea-level rise was responsible for the traumatic childhood years. So, I wanted to learn more and registered for the Climate Reality Project training in Istanbul that same year. I trained as a Climate Leader under former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore.


What are your fears about climate change?

That it may go out of hand. There are so many studies that show us that global warming may go out of control if certain tipping points are reached. We have to act fast as the evidence is mounting and changes in local conditions are being recorded every day in every part of the world. I’m greatly concerned about the Arctic meltdown, if the Greenland ice sheets start to go down, many coastal regions will be inundated. It will aggravate the conditions I have seen since childhood, leading to more influx from neighbouring countries.


Have you faced any challenges while embarking on climate change advocacy and how did you overcome the challenge?

That it may go out of hand. There are so many studies that show us that global warming may go out of control if certain tipping points are reached. We have to act fast as the evidence is mounting and changes in local conditions are being recorded every day in every part of the world. I’m greatly concerned about the Arctic meltdown, if the Greenland ice sheets start to go down, many coastal regions will be inundated. It will aggravate the conditions I have seen since childhood, leading to more influx from neighbouring countries.


I have seen a National Geographic graphics which shows a map of the world if all the ice were to melt, and my region is totally inundated in that scenario, though, we are not anywhere near the coast. The accelerated melting of Himalayan glaciers is another fear that could add to the problems in my region. In the long run, I see a huge water crisis.


We need to multiply the number of people who are aware, who care, and are ready to make an impact. Only people’s power can make world leaders act to protect the planet. That is why the role of organizations like The Climate Reality Project becomes so crucial. They provide an army of trained, committed Climate Leaders from diverse backgrounds fanning out across the communities and taking climate awareness to the masses.


Kindly shed light on what your Climate Reality Project seeks to achieve.

In 2006, Nobel Laureate and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore got the world talking about climate change with the Academy Award-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth”. It was just the beginning of a climate revolution, and later that year, he founded The Climate Reality Project to take the conversation forward and turn awareness into action.


The Climate Reality Project is a diverse group of passionate individuals who have come together to help solve the greatest challenge of our time. We are cultural leaders, marketers, organizers, scientists, storytellers, and many more, and we are committed to building a better future together.


Our mission is to catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society. Today, climate change is standing in the way of a healthy tomorrow for all of us. But, at Climate Reality, we know that practical solutions are right in front of us. We can create a healthy, sustainable, and prosperous future by making a planet-wide shift from dirty fossil fuels to clean, reliable, and affordable renewable energy.

Reaching net-zero carbon emissions is the key to our collective prosperity and well-being for all and we can take a huge step closer if we all work together. So, we united millions to make our leaders seize the historic moment and sign a strong agreement in Paris last December and work to continually reduce emissions and expand renewable energy in the years that follow. It’s our opportunity to put the planet on a path to the future we want and we’re grabbing it with both hands.


Have you faced any challenges while implementing your project?

No, not really. People have been very receptive to the Climate Reality presentations and often go back determined to make a difference in their personal capacity.


What plan is on the ground for the success of Climate Reality Leadership Corps training on March 14–16, 2016 in Manila, Philippines?

The Climate Reality Project ensures that local and regional issues related to climate change are addressed. The involvement of local organizations is always a part of the arrangements. Climate Leaders from all over the world are involved in promoting the event and ensuring its success. Finally, The Philippines Chapter of The Climate Reality Project will be launched after the training.


How do you see the Climate Reality Project in the next ten years?

This is the tenth year since an inconvenient truth came out. Climate awareness outside of the scientific community was low. Since then, the climate movement has really taken off. It played a key role in mobilizing people and action prior to and during COP21.


In the next ten years, I hope to see The Climate Reality Project create hoards of new, passionate Climate Leaders, and together, we will see the end of the fossil fuel regime. Sustainable, smart cities, agriculture, transport, people living healthier, and environmentally friendly lives are what we aspire.


Could Climate Change be linked to the incessant Humanitarian Crises?

Absolutely, the Syrian refugee problem has its roots in the drought from 2006 to 2011. The immigrants from Bangladesh to India are now being referred to as climate refugees. Change in precipitation patterns has caused droughts, floods, unseasonal rains, crop failures, water scarcity. The humanitarian crisis also happens from increasingly intense tropical storms. Everything is connected.


What advice do you have for world leaders and young people?

It is a historic opportunity for world leaders to take the lead in moving away from the fossil fuel era. The Pope will be remembered throughout human history for his encyclical. It is now upon the world leaders to make a difference that mankind will remember them for.

Interviewer: ODEWALE Abayomi Joseph, Climate Tracker, Nigeria