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Interview - Issue #8

COP26: Insight and Compassion

An interview with Jini Reddy

Where the Leaves Fall contacted global changemakers for their thoughts and responses to this year’s COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference. Jini Reddy is a journalist and the author of Wanderland, shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize and the Stanford Dolman Award for Travel Book of the Year. She has contributed to anthologies, penned a guidebook, and her texts and poems have been displayed in exhibitions in London. In 2019 she was named a National Geographic Woman of Impact. You can read the edited interview that was published in the print edition of Where the Leaves Fall here.

Where the Leaves Fall What do you feel are the most pressing issues for COP26 to address and why?

Jini Reddy We need to confront and root out the mindset behind economic models that seek relentless growth and extraction at all costs. We live on a planet with finite resources, one that can’t sustain this continual, relentless plundering. We need deep systemic change - to address and challenge prevailing paradigms that separate humans from the natural world. Because we’re all of us, people and planet, exhausted and running on empty.

‘It’s no good for the west, with its history of colonialism, to be standing at a distance and dictating policy to countries that have been made poorer and disadvantaged as a result of historical actions.’

— Jini Reddy

WtLF What outcomes (and practical measures) would you like to see emerge from COP26?

Jini A shift towards regenerative economies that account for our impact on the natural world, and that encourage the reuse of resources. I’d like to see the taxing of polluting industries and the persecution of illegal loggers – if the law of ecocide, [the lawyer and activist] Polly Higgins’ legacy, was to be enshrined in the heart of international law, it would be easier to do this, wouldn’t it? I’d also like to see recognition that social and environmental justice go hand-in-hand. It’s no good for the west, with its history of colonialism, to be standing at a distance and dictating policy to countries that have been made poorer and disadvantaged as a result of historical actions. There has to be a deeper understanding of the prevailing conditions of people’s lives on the ground - and that comes from dialogue, from listening to, taking a lead from and amplifying the voices of local activists and local environmentalists, of Indigenous protectors of the planet. There needs to be an awareness that the wellbeing of the planet and all humans goes hand-in-hand.   

Hiking in Slovenia.

WtLF How optimistic are you that COP26 will deliver positive change, and why?

Jini I’m not sure.  I have faith in the power of communities and grassroots movements, where the will is strong, and in progressive businesses that link their success to the health of the planet. Governments, on the other hand, more often tend to go in for lip service, don’t they? Say one thing, do another. That said I really hope that all the obvious indications of climate change that we’re witnessing, the fires and the flooding, will finally serve as an overdue wake-up call. 

‘How many of us, including world leaders, are willing to stand still, to listen within, to confront difficult emotions or unhelpful aspects of ourselves?’

— Jini Reddy

WtLF What do the world leaders, and everyone else, need to change on a personal level?

Jini It all boils down to a person’s relationship with themselves. How many of us, including world leaders, are willing to stand still, to listen within, to confront difficult emotions or unhelpful aspects of ourselves? How many of us are willing to interrogate our personal beliefs and prejudices? And that’s before we even get to our relationship with other humans, and the natural world: do we see ourselves as a part of nature, or as separate entities? Do we listen actively? Are we able to hear viewpoints other than our own? Insight and compassion are powerful forces for good.

Photograph by Olivia Sprinkel

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