Rainmatter Foundation (a Zerodha-supported initiative) emphasises on the urgent need for diverse stakeholders to adopt a climate and ecology bias

In this interview with our team, Sameer Shisodia, CEO, Rainmatter Foundation (a Zerodha-supported initiative) emphasises on the urgent need for diverse stakeholders to adopt a climate and ecology bias, and for changemakers to inculcate an ownership of the ‘place’, while reflecting on humankind’s attempt to maintain normalcy in these trying times.


1.What experiences triggered your interest in climate action, and how did that journey lead you to Rainmatter Foundation?


Sameer Shisodia: As I travelled, especially at the hospitality chain I founded — Linger.in — I came face to face with the beauty, realities and potential of non Tier-1 India that I grew up and worked in. The state and journey of our food systems, the impact of consumerism in pristine places and delicate ecosystems, and the connect this had to the growing problems we were starting to hear increasingly about from various parts of the world. The Zerodha team had been on a similar journey of finding meaningful ways to use the wealth they had created. Our paths intersected through serendipity when they bought out a farm we were running a campsite at, for restoration. We got talking about our journeys, shared concerns around climate and livelihoods, and Rainmatter was born as a foundation as a result of these.

2. One of your recent blog posts on Medium focuses on ‘the strange dance of normalcy’. Can you explain what this means to our readers? In your eyes, how do humankind’s attempts to maintain normalcy in a climate-affected world affect our approach to the climate crisis?


Sameer Shisodia: Often, the work we do and the people we meet and discuss this with gives us cause for optimism. Yet, as one looks around one realises this is a tiny echo-chamber, and the larger inertia and larger set of actions and motivations continues from the past decades and despite all the high visibility discussions at various fora, the world continues to behave like nothing’s really changed. On a daily basis, we push more mindless consumerism — indeed most of what we consider wins, conveniences and goals come from that. On a daily basis, we ignore increasingly clearer science and mounting evidence, and even current news. Unless we acknowledge that this is a large, serious and immediate problem that needs to be addressed now, and unless we realise in openly acknowledged ways that this problem can lead to the disruption of everything we have created in our economies and our societies, we might never really move fast enough to either mitigate it sufficiently, or adapt well enough.

Sameer Shisodia

3. With a focus on re-wilding and the creation of a green economy, and a commitment of USD 200 million, how does Rainmatter Foundation’s ‘climate bias’ influence its investment and grant-making philosophy?


Sameer Shisodia: Rainmatter exists to address the climate crisis. All our decisions are geared to enable climate action, better environmental resilience, more biodiversity, strengthened commons and improved livelihoods and health outcomes for people. It is equally important that we see reduction in pollution, ecological degradation, emissions and vulnerability through our grants and investments. This work requires direct (restoration and conservation, regenerative agriculture, shorter supply chains, local resource and skill utilisation, etc) as well as indirect (policy, platforms, market connects, story-telling and narrative building, etc) interventions.

Whether we do grants or investments, we look at the scale of the dent the method or the organisation might be able to make in the climate problem. We also look at the problem as well as the solution from a root cause perspective, and hence the impact does not always present itself in direct, first order ways. We’re also encouraging our partners to look at non-linear impact from their work, and this necessarily requires organisations to think beyond what is directly attributable to their efforts.


4. To address the scale and complexity of the climate crisis, India needs diverse approaches that account for multiple intersections, across sectors such as livelihoods, energy, gender, health, environment, etc. Drawing on Rainmatter Foundation’s experiences, can you describe what a systemic lens must account for, when it comes to funding climate action?


Sameer Shisodia: A few ways in which we have characterised the climate challenge we face — going beyond the surface level carbon-temperature conversation ending with the energy and transport causes — try to explore the underlying causes for those causes. The same root causes and behaviours also turn out to be primary ones for other aspects of our ecological degradation, and for the hundreds of thousands of Novel Entities — essentially pollutants that our biosphere has to grapple with and the outcomes from most of which are still not well understood. As we look at these underlying causes with human systems and societies as both the primary actors and problem solvers, we step into intersectional territory easily across industry, agriculture and our food systems, textile, the linked livelihoods, conservation and restoration, urban design and policies and governance responsible for all of these and the narratives and stories that drive all our behaviours and decisions. There’s nothing in the human realm that does not have a role to play in the climate problem, and hence nothing we can ignore ourselves.

5. While funders (public and private) are expressing growing interest in climate action, the coming decade requires a significant increase in climate ambition. Why do you think this is the right time to heavily invest in climate action? Can you share insights from Rainmatter Foundation’s vision for 2023 that might inspire fellow visionaries in the ecosystem?


Sameer Shisodia: We are likely already behind on this — way past the right time of investing — and we are already paying the cost of ignoring the climate crisis — the year 2022 saw more extreme weather events and environment disasters than previous years. Cities and businesses worldwide have incurred billions in losses and will continue to do so unless we drastically rethink and reimagine our existing practices and open our purse strings.

I cannot emphasise enough that this is a problem that touches and involves everything humanity does, so irrespective of the specific focus a philanthropy, CSO or even government department has, there is an opportunity to do it with a climate and ecology bias and improve the solution along this dimension. It’s largely about thinking of place and planet first, and then enabling the capacities and structures for better stewardship of our commons and natural resources.


6. India needs bold, ambitious leadership that can solve our development challenges while addressing the climate crisis. What, according to you, should the biggest priorities be for India’s problem solvers in the coming decade? Are there any crucial or transformative approaches that need more attention?


Sameer Shisodia: In a sense, there is no such thing as ‘India’s problem solvers’ because each one of us is a problem-solver. The climate crisis is upon us as a result of all our collective actions, and its impact too affects each one of us. So there are things that all of us as individuals can do to play our part, such as rethink our choices — be it our food, fashion, travel and waste.

Then there are aspects that are beyond individual action, which fall upon changemakers who have the opportunity to impact how industry and policy work. Much of this is happening by way of the government’s push to renewables, green hydrogen, LiFE and so on. Similarly, industry too must look at green and circular economies, reverse-logistics in their operations as well as shorten their sourcing and distribution supply chains. India is blessed with diversity and resources, it’s a matter of re-examining some of these entrenched practices for better long-term outcomes.

At the very core, changemakers must have and inculcate an ownership of the place, and drive a larger conversation around what this means, how it’s measured and how better trade-offs are made in favour of the place as human intent and motivations plays out there. How all of us align with this will determine whether we improve the place — our planet — or continue our consumptive, exploitative relationship with it.

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