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Environment Journalism: Can you see the Sword of Damocles?

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Mohit Kumar Jolly:

The Himalayas are melting, polar bears are dying, 2 of every 5 people don’t have access to clean drinking water, the earth’s temperature is increasing, we are losing the untapped information and potential of plant species, Pacific’s water level has risen… Is this what we are going to hand over to our future generations? Please…no! When you all make policies sitting in air conditioned rooms, please think of a child suffering in greenhouse heat and species craving to survive.” This statement was not made by some environmentalist, but by a 13- year old Indian girl at the UN summit on Climate Change, 2009.

What is she talking about? She points to the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, to which we have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. Yes, this sword is of environmental endangerment — the sword that makes the world stand on the brink of an energy crisis that deepens with each watt of electric energy consumed and with each mile that a car runs, the sword that has made many species extinct, the sword that gives the message that the future of the planet shall be decided by today’s environmental policies.

Does that sound grave? If not, it better sound grave to you, before the planet is reduced to a graveyard.

You may react, “OK! I agree that something needs to be done, but what can I do? I am too little to neutralize the effects of activities of citizens all around the globe who are worsening the situation.” Here comes the role of environment journalism — the need to inform people that it is soon going to be too late to mend, if they cling to this argument of theirs.

What is environment journalism? It is the collection, verification, production, distribution and exhibition of information regarding current events, trends, issues and people that effect the environment in one way or the other. It is an interdisciplinary field spanning over environment science and engineering, environment psychology and sociology, environmental politics, and journalism or mass communication. Now this sounds too complicated! How can one be the master of all these fields?

How many of you have heard of Late Mr. Anil Agarwal? He is the founder of Center for Science and Environment (CSE), an Indian NGO focused on creating public awareness about environment and sustainable development related issues. He is known as a pioneer in environment journalism. So, what background did he have before he founded CSE? He graduated in mechanical engineering from IIT Kanpur in 1970 and that was the only degree he had throughout his life. This is nothing but an emulation of ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’. It was his long term vision of environmental awareness by virtue of which, he could make the world realize that problems related to environment and development are inherently related, and need effective, clear and immediate solutions.

So, who can be an environment journalist or activist? Can I be one? Remember, journalism has many forms other than print. Look at Bedi Brothers (Bedi Films Pvt. Ltd.) — the only Indians to receive 2 Oscar nominations at BAFTA, and 3 times Green Oscar winner. They are pioneers in storytelling through documentaries based on wildlife conversation and environment, and it’s the third generation of their family now which has been running the show since 1970.

Let me get a name across to you, that has been synonymous with climate change and environmental policy these days- Dr. R. K. Pachauri, the present Chairman of IPCC -International Panel on Climate Change. (For those who are not aware, IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.) This doctorate in Industrial Engineering and Economics from North Carolina State University took on as the Director- General of a small funding agency based in New Delhi in 1982 and grew it as a major research agency under his leadership — TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute). May be his quote emphasizes the need of this plea for being aware and awake about environment issues — “I have done nothing outstanding. I have done only what I felt was very important”.

Still not convinced?

Any one of you ever heard the term ‘green building’? No, it’s not a green-colored building but a building that is energy efficient. Although it looks very fashionable, but please tell how efficient is efficient, and how is this efficiency measured? TERI recently launched guidelines for a GRIHA building rating system, that takes into consideration various parameters related to building and maximum energy conversation in the same. Please search for more details if interested.

Why did CBSE recently include courses on environment education as a part of its curriculum? Why are scientists all across the world establishing environment science and engineering as a dedicated research field? What I am trying to emphasize is that it is high time we wake up from an indifferent slumber towards our surroundings and environment, and hear the monition bell ringing above us and our society. Journalism is the way to make the society aware about this.

Where can you read more about environment journalism? Go through some previous issues of Down to Earth (DTE) — India’s only science and environment magazine. Try to understand the political reasons behind the failure of the recently concluded COP 15 (Copenhagen) Conference on climate change. Look out for courses/degree in environment journalism. Join some related NGO for internship etc, etc. You will never find a dearth of opportunities or challenges, but always the dearth of talent in this field.

Remember what is said about journalism — “Journalism can never be silent- that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault.” Use it to make your neighborhood and the society aware about such issues, and save Homo sapiens’ extinction.

Mohit Kumar Jolly is a final year undergraduate student at IIT Kanpur and a correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz. He is interested in science journalism and communication.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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