5 Questions Climate Activists Are Tired Of Answering And How They Can Respond

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We have all been there.

Maybe you are hanging out with friends at a party. Or catching up with relatives at a family function. The conversation is mostly flowing until it gets stuck on the weather, and before you know it, the climate deniers have hijacked it.

Why is it so cold, if the climate is really changing?

What’s wrong with a few degrees?

If global warming is real, why is there ice in my drink?

I don’t deny climate change, I just think its a Chinese hoax!” 

Okay, US President Donald Trump actually said that last bit, but you get the drift.

Beyond a point, the arguments don’t just get ridiculous, they become preposterous. How do you engage with this madness?   

Well,  you counter the denial with facts and some good old common sense. We took some time to prepare a ready reckoner for you in order to do just that : 

1) Myth:  That’s What Climate Does – It Changes!

And nobody is denying that! But saying that humans are not the cause of the climate crisis we are facing today is like saying that humans can’t burn forests because forest fires have been started by lightning in the past. 

Basic science tells us that climate change always happens for a reason. While previous changes had to do with the sun burning brighter, or increase in volcanic activity, currently, sadly, that reason happens to be us. And that’s not just a claim, but a consensus backed by science. Man-made carbon dioxide pollution is the leading driver of global warming, and all science points to this. 

2) Myth: But Even The Scientists Don’t Agree!

Wrong. The vast majority of climate scientists – or about ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and that it’s happening because of us. Most leading organisations around the world have also endorsed this position, as well as the fact that greenhouses emissions emitted by human activities are the primary drivers of this change.

3) Myth:  But Antarctica Is Gaining Ice!

Even as Antarctic land ice disintegrates down south and Arctic sea ice melts up north, deniers are using the building ice in Antarctica to say that climate change is not happening.

The deniers, however, fail to pinpoint an important aspect: the difference between land and sea ice. While sea ice is frozen, floating seawater, land ice ( also called glaciers or ice sheets) is ice that gets accumulated on land over a period of time. 

The sheet of land ice that covers most of Antarctica has been melting at an alarming rate. When land ice melts, it flows like water into the ocean and contributes to the rising sea level, threatening the lives of millions of people living on islands and coasts.

At the North Pole, the Arctic has been warming at twice the global average rate -leading sea ice to melt.  But even at the Arctic, the level of sea ice can vary significantly within a single year as the ice melts in the warmer summer months 9 and freezes during the colder winter months. When you hear climate change deniers saying that sea ice is growing, they’re usually comparing minimum levels of ice in the summer (when it’s warmest) of one year to maximum levels in the winter (when it’s coldest) of another. Not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

4) What’s Wrong With A Few Degrees Anyway?

A two-degree rise in temperature will disrupt our lives and challenge our ability to cope. 

What’s the difference between zero and one degree you ask? Well, it’s the difference between water and ice. The world has already warmed about 0.8-degree celsius since 1880. Now that may not sound like much, but as it turns out, we are already experiencing the effects of living in a warmer world.  Floods, droughts and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. Entire species are dying out. And that’s with a 0.8-degree rise! Now consider what can happen if the temperature rises by 2 degrees? The effect is going to be catastrophic!

5) What Do You Want Me To Do? Stop Breathing?

First up, take a deep breath. Your respiration has got nothing to do with climate change!

This is how it really works: As you may have learnt in school, humans take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.  This carbon, however, doesn’t come out of a vacuum – it comes out of the carbon-based food we eat. Plants use this carbon dioxide to make their own food via photosynthesis, which means that the whole process is a closed cycle of sorts: the carbon taken in by plants becomes food for us, and then we breathe it out until the plants consume it again.

However, when we choose to burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, we do something different. We release carbon that didn’t exist in the loop, to begin with, having been stored underground for millions and millions of years. This carbon, once it has been released, can be in the atmosphere for hundreds of years to come, disturbing the balance that exists!

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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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