I first met Pushpanath Krishnamurthy - or Push as he is known to his friends - in a field in India.
We had both joined on an incredible journey of organic cotton, from seed to finished product, with our friends at Chetna Organic and the leading European textile company, Dibella.
Immediately, I was drawn to Push. His enthusiasm was infectious and his passion unfaltering, while his knowledge was cavernous. Like me, Push has a particular appreciation for all the smallholder farmers who tend to the earth to grow our food and clothe our backs and beds.
On India’s red-earthed roads between farms and factories, natural born storyteller Push would regale us with inspiring and stoic stories. Push’s work on global trade and climate change justice has taken him across the world, particularly to Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia.
British resident and Cambridge-based Push was born in Bangalore. For several decades, he worked for Oxfam, Save the Children, and Fairtrade India, leading legendary campaigns like Make Trade Fair and HIV/AIDS, to the Climate Change Hearings.
Push is determined to shine a light and be a voice for the people who rarely get one. As Push explains, “It’s the darkest paradox of our time that the people who contributed the least to the problem are the ones suffering the most.”
In 2009, Push received global attention for the fact he walked from Oxford to Copenhagen for the COP15. An example to the hundreds of other delegates, he walked the talk and arrived with one of the lightest carbon footprints.
Since then, at over 31 million steps, Push continues walking. He’s personally connected with more than 400,000 people through various climate justice walks.
Walking with purpose is ingrained in Indian culture with the concept of padayatra or foot pilgrimage. It’s an opportunity for citizens and politicians alike to connect more closely with fellow humans, and padayatra plays a key role during Hindu festivals.
Mahatma Gandhi conducted many padyatras as a way of nonviolent resistance, from his infamous Salt March in 1930 to his year-long countryside walk against the caste system and untouchability.
Now just shy of 70 years, Push is literally following in Gandhi’s footsteps as he uses his own feet to make a statement. As Push explains, “We can walk almost anywhere, we don’t need to be told how to do it. You can be unfit or energetic, and it’s free. We can walk for our own wellbeing, and we can walk for change.”
Push believes that Fairtrade can help mitigate the climate impact that already faces smallholder farmers and their communities, and highlighting this is the purpose of his walk in 2021.
Starting in London on 2 October, the 151st birthday of Gandhi, Push is walking across all the shires - Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, and up through Northamptonshire, Leceistershire and Yorkshire. He’ll then walk though Cumbria, Windermere and the Lake District before reaching the Scottish border on 27 October.
“I walk fast because I want to show people that time is running out. We are facing both a planetarian and a civilization crisis.”
Push finally ends his journey in Glasgow, home to the SECC Centre and the main venue for COP26, which takes place from 1-12 November 2021.
Along the way, Push is relying on the kindness of friends and strangers, who will be ensuring he has bed and board. He’s also planned several campaign stops to meet with climate justice groups and his supporters.
“My walks are about inspiring action for fair play and creating awareness through compelling stories of real life. They are about opportunity and hope.”
As Push walks through Britain covering many miles each day, hundreds more people across the globe, from Ghana and Sierra Leone to Japan and Bangladesh, will be joining him in solidarity.
Push is also supported by the global peace and justice movement of Jai Jagat, which is holding hundreds of marches across India starting on the UN’s International Day of Peace, 21 September. These marchers will hand over a symbolic baton to Push at his London startpoint.
Push is driven by Gandhi’s peaceful direct action and the hope of the people. “We don’t know if in our lifetime we can bring about the change we want, but if we don´t do anything, nothing will happen.”
It’s a long road to climate justice and equity, but Push reminds us that it always starts with a single step.
Support Push by sending him a video message on social media, tagging #GoPushGo