Push’s 400-mile walk to COP26 will carry message from Cambridge
Pushpanath ‘Push’ Krishnamurthy, walker activist extraordinaire, is preparing to set off from his Cambridge ‘perch’ as he calls it, for a walking trip across the UK to COP26 in Glasgow.
Travelling from Mahatma Gandhi’s statue on Parliament Square on the birthday of the world-famous campaigner and activist tomorrow (October 2), Push is being supported by Cambridge City Council and the goodwill of his many fans and supporters around the world.
Push walks to raise awareness for economic and climate injustices committed against people who do not have anyone to fight their corner.
He helped establish Fairtrade Foundation principles to the coffee growers of south-east India. He walked to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 from Oxford to raise awareness of those experiencing the first malign effects of climate change in islands and remote communities whose land was being reclaimed by the sea.
He worked for Oxfam for many years, and maintains his advocacy for the ‘help end poverty’ charity. More recently, Push has been campaign manager for a youth health project at Results UK, mentoring, coaching and enabling youth leadership development in three countries in Africa. He is a trainer, motivational speaker, climate campaigner and Fairtrade activist.
“I’m an activist walking,” is how he describes himself when I meet him at Jesus Green ice cream parlour, in the park where he practises his particular brand of power walking. “Oxfam is supporting me. No one is walking continuously with me to Scotland, but what happens on all of my walks is that people join me for a while.
“It’s a 400-mile journey – a million steps. It’s 30 days approximately, with breaks in St Albans and Luton, where I’m meeting schools, colleges, faith groups, peace groups and climate action groups. There’s 18 stops in total, in each I’ve already found a host.”
Push, who was a working child, was born in Bangalore. At COP26 he is determined to speak on behalf of those already hardest hit by climate breakdown.
“My work has always been to do with climate action but I have always worked with people in farming and poverty, they’ve been hit much harder – and these people have not done anything. Three billion people contribute just 7 per cent to global warming, but they have to adapt to the change while everyone else is just talking about change.
“The leaders of the rich world have talked about billions of dollars for adaptation, but they haven’t seen that and the people who have contributed least to the problem are now on the front line of climate impact, and I want to tell their stories – that’s why I walk.
“My first walk in 2009 was when hardly anyone realised climate change was happening. Now they realise how forceful, how punishing, it can be. It takes a long time – seven or eight years – to become a smallholder, and now they’re losing it and it’s so sudden, it’s devastating, both in Africa and India.”
Push is super-confident about the potential for change but is also aware of the hurdles.
“There will be 200 world leaders at COP26. All of them have to come to a fair, ambitious and binding agreement. This is a defining decade. I don’t think Britain has held a meeting of 200 world leaders before, it is historic, even if it is in Scotland,” he laughs, adding that he’s a huge fan of Billy Connolly and Frankie Boyle.
“All the sherpas will be working on it now, there’s massive, hard negotiations. They’ll say ‘India, you’re the third largest CO emitter’ and India will say ‘Yes, but it’s got to be proportionate’, and Britain, a small island, has far bigger emissions per person. In the US the average person’s consumption is 17 or 18 times greater than someone’s in India, so you have to be careful with statistics.
“There is now very clear evidence that emissions-driven growth has made the whole world very unequal. It has also plummeted our planet into extreme danger, and created huge amounts of turmoil. It’s not a fairy tale, this Gandhian moment. This one is really serious – and I know the world is exhausted.”
If Push, 69, can kick on past the exhaustion and come good in an hour of need, well... so can others.
Cllr Ktie Thornburrow, executive councillor for planning and transport, said: “Dear Push, you are indeed an ‘activist walking’, because every step you take is focused on this critically important gathering and what it can achieve.
“We need that focus, because we only have one home and we have little time to save it. I hope that you will take these seeds of hope from the people of Cambridge, and that they can grow into a new way of living for us all, to nourish us on this wonderful planet.”
In August, the city council published its fourth Climate Change Strategy 2021-26 on making the city net zero carbon by 2030. The council “urges all Cambridge residents, businesses and organisations to do all they can to help tackle climate change”.
COP26 takes place in Glasgow, November 1 to 12.