It's a December morning and while most wake up expecting a nip in the air, Mumbaikars are stunned to see the weather almost mimic June. On other days, the biting cold is almost too extreme and far from what usual winters are. Rains in December, cold winds in summers, and heat waves may just be the advent, climate change is about to get extreme. How do millennials feel about this? Not good. For a generation that still has decades left to wade through and a life that's waiting to be built, climate change is no more a word in the textbooks but a phenomenon that is as real as it gets. We speak to millennials who tell us why they are scared of what is yet to come.
Which generation is to blame for climate change?
Aditya Khajuria the President of Climate Front Jammu, a local environmental action organization from Jammu city says people there did not understand the concept of climate change. “With the abrogation of Article 370, it was natural to assume that the green cover of the state would gradually decrease and the concrete jungle would expand. "Friends of River Tawi" and "Friends Of Raika Forest" are the two major movements focusing on the conservation of the river Tawi and the conservation of Raika-Bahu Forest. We now have a community of people from different backgrounds like journalists, artists, engineers, lawyers, architects, and students working to create awareness and find solutions for local climate problems.”
“People need to acknowledge that we are heading towards a mass extinction because of our overexploitation of natural resources. We have to choose leaders who are climate conscious rather than those who consider development at the cost of the environment” —Aditya Khajuria
This young activist wishes that the media would highlight how climate change is bringing more climate refugees. Along with this, he says active debates on the agrarian crisis, and how the tribal communities that have been an integral part of Indian culture are suffering because of the changing environmental conditions, need attention. “I have been questioning the concept of development at the cost of the environment. If we understand that we have a limited amount of resources and space available, how then can we still exploit our resources and green cover?”
Are millennials more environmentally conscious?
Sourabh Sengupta has been actively involved in various aspects of climate change for the past 5 years and was able to set up a youth-led organization The Dead River Project Foundation focusing on water conservation and bringing together various communities in creating awareness on environment-related topics.
“In the last 5 years, I have myself undergone a lot of unlearning and adapted to new ways of seeing the crisis. Having found a lack of human interest as one of the primary reasons for slow reactions, my work is to bridge that mind gap and encourage everyone to come forward and protect our natural water bodies and be aware of the problems and collectively work on solutions.”
Sourabh reiterates that there are multiple needs in combating climate change. These are
- Awareness: There has to be constant handholding 365 days to create that sense of urgency to work as a team to protect our surroundings
- Political willingness: Right steps need support from all political parties and then we can create a roadmap for each city/town
- Proper fund allocation for impact generation: No funds means no action or mobilization
“To fight any battle we must not forget the essence of being human and this is majorly missing in today’s fight for the environment. Discrimination in various aspects of survival is still being practised and that is hampering all the voices to come out and speak the right words” — Sourabh Sengupta
Sourabh says he wants a response to why there is a delay behind all the environment-related policy implementations, why natural resources are being destroyed in the name of development, why development and conservation cannot go hand in hand and why double standards are being adopted when it comes to implementing the promises made at global forums.
Why is climate activism important?
“Our primary focus should be on the reduction of carbon emissions, and more specifically 'Not investing in Fossil Fuels.' The ignorance of various governments is arguably one of the worst traits of humankind,” says Sarthak P. Thakur. For this young climate activist, being a nature enthusiast was in his blood.
“Growing up, I saw my father nourishing the large terrace garden ecosystem he created with over 80 plants, every Sunday. It taught me several important things about life, but more importantly, it made me fall in love with plants and nature.”
Having organised his first climate strike when he was 14, he has been part of various climate movements, mainly working off-screen, organizing strikes and campaigns to encourage, educate, and demand climate and social justice!
“Policies are written in a manner that makes it really difficult for people lacking such communication skills, which limits these policies to only the privileged individuals. In addition, I always feel that the real data and documents might be severely worse than the current stats and these are hidden from the ordinary population.”
Why is it important to incorporate solutions in daily lifestyle?
Mohika Raina from Jammu is a member of a climate awareness association called Climate Front Jammu. CFJ is a part of the national action body climate front India and aims to make people aware of climate change and the need to change our lifestyles to slow down the process.
“I think the prime need of the hour is to stop thinking and start implementing. We are already running behind time in this context. A very simple way to do this would be to promote sustainable fashion/lifestyle/packaging etc. We, ourselves, need to understand that the need to conserve our resources is more important than the hype of fast-growing brands that produce tonnes of non-biodegradable waste.”
Mohika wishes more prime time news would be surrounding melting glaciers, unpredictable weather patterns, extinction of species rather than political agendas and insignificant stuff. She says the media should promote the organisations that work for this cause so that more and more people can join them and understand what climate change is and how can they help in stopping it.
“As a young climate activist , the answer that I seek is why are we still trying to make people aware when in actual we need to start implementing these plans today itself? Why is the national media and national parties not interested in the most catastrophic thing happening around us - climate change?” — Mohika Raina
What is the need of the hour to resolve climate issues?
“The climate crisis is not the only crisis we are facing during recent years, it's a byproduct of the devastating encroachment towards the natural environment, the ever-increasing profit-making practice by the currently running capitalistic system, exploiting a limited planetary resource, ie. the Earth Overshoot, hence the ecological destruction is the root cause of our crisis,” says Gangotri Chanda.
“Rather than a climate activist, I feel free to call myself an endangered individual. My home (in the delta of WestBengal) is going to be under sea within a couple of decades, and the area is already being affected by severe cyclones and the effects are increasing year by year with the extreme weather events” — Gangotri Chanda
She says that a robust system is needed worldwide for the salvation of the climate victims ignoring the state boundaries. Restriction on overconsumption, BAU (business as usual) like 'planned obsolesce', consumerism, competition in profit-making, overconsumption of unnecessary stuff, etc. should all be in check. She suggests shifting power sources to renewable ones, taxing ecological footprints, subsidizing researchers to find out eco-friendly ways for sustainable development and amendments of current laws according to natural justice with robust monitoring.
“As the whole system is running in a wrong way driven by a major number of common people's interests, my questions are what is stopping people from compensating for the crisis by being active in mitigating their footprints? What is the way to pool people out from the boiling frog syndrome? Why do people demand gender 'equality' rather than equity?”
These young climate activists look for the answers. So do we.