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The Ever-Strengthening Bond Between Climate Crisis And Joblessness!

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

Glaciers are melting, the Amazon is burning, and half of India is underwater. So, what’s new?

I apologise for being so blunt. Actually, I don’t.

Greta Thunberg is here, and she has destroyed the United Nations Council. Sorry, I pretended to be diplomatic like United Nations, but I guess it’s difficult for me not to show my agreement with such impeccable logic. Greta has inspired many of us couch potatoes to come out of the closet and speak against the billion dollars’ bet against the environment.

Who’s winning, you ask? Nature isn’t for sure. We are doing everything we can to control the damage done to the ever-giving environment and the destructive footprint our generation has had on it. Several initiatives like Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Climate Initiatives Platform, and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have been undertaken in an effort to reverse or at least manage the deadly effects of environmental change and global warming.

I present to you ladies and gentlemen Exhibit A. According to an ILO (International Labor Organisation) report, it is predicted that among many others, global warming will have yet another profound effect on our lives. The sudden onslaught of heat stress due to the change in weather patterns brought on by global warming is estimated to lead to global productivity losses equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs by the year 2030. I’m gonna let that sink in for a moment.

Ready?

Image result for indian labour
An Indian labourer. Image courtesy: Pixabay

So new estimates are in, and ILO has published a 98-page report which in detail discusses the unchecked change in global warming by 2030 will inevitably lead to an increase in average global temperature by 1.5 degrees Celsius. That might not seem much, but the more I talk, the more it’s gonna make sense.

As the temperature increases, the optimal working hours will dwindle, and with it, workplace efficiency. A decrease in optimal working hours means that people either won’t work in the unfavorable working conditions and hence decrease their work hours (first world problems) or continue working in the adverse conditions, leading to a severe decrease in productivity. We can, of course, call them crybabies just like we call mother nature -this is sarcasm here, don’t kill me- but there is something serious going on here which we need to understand lest we might lose the remaining hope in humanity and its future.

According to ILO -not me-, optimal working hours in a day constitute the ones in which the human body is the most productive given its surroundings, the climate, and, most importantly, the temperature or precipitation conditions. As global warming becomes more intense, the temperatures will move to more extreme forms, making summer hotter and winters colder. People won’t be able to work efficiently in the days and won’t be able to sleep at night. Rising temperatures, extreme weather swings, and untimely precipitation will result in a record low productivity in terms of workplace efficiency. And the growing climate instability will result in some unprecedented workplace problems.

I still remember the hot and humid summer days when my grandfather, a farmer in Himachal Pradesh, would go into the wheat fields early in the morning at 4 am to care for the crops. He would return before midday and then go back to the fields after the sun went down. Those days won’t come back, for it can only get worse.

It is no surprise that the worst affected sectors affected by this sudden onslaught of temperature fluctuations would be agriculture and construction, the ones where the ground level and low-level workers work in the open. Other sectors like environmental goods and services refuse collection, emergency, transport, tourism, sports, etc. are certainly not out of the danger zone and will be similarly affected. Moreover, the poorest of us all, as usual, will face the worst of the consequences of all the damage we have done to the environment.

And sadly, for people sitting in their AC rooms while reading this article, these dire changes apply to the whole world. Sure, the worse of the impact, will be focused on third world countries -God, I hate that word- and developing nations such as the African continent and South Asia, but the effects will manifest worldwide gradually affecting the entire globe starting all the way from the polar ends and reaching the equator. So, if you think the Equator is hot now, try visiting it in 10 years.

Catherine Saget, Chief of Unit in the ILO’s Research department and one of the main authors of the report commented that, “The impact of heat stress on labor productivity is a serious consequence of climate change, which adds to other adverse impacts such as changing rain patterns, rising sea levels and loss of biodiversity.”

Now, the report calls out nationwide and at some point in the future, global initiatives and policies which can systematically combat the damage brought upon by humans on the environment. But we know how our governments tend to favor the people with the big wads of money, and environmental policies actually benefit the ones making them, right? So, what can we as corporate entities and, most importantly, as average citizens do about this? Let me give you an example to restore your faith in humanity.

In September 2019, Marriott International, a multinational hospitality company, announced that it would stop giving out complimentary plastic toiletries by 2021. Marriott is known for its worldwide five-star hotel chain and certainly not its frugality. What then, you might think, might be the reason behind such a big step with widespread aftereffects? Well, joining a long line of environment-friendly companies who are thinking of the future, Marriott is doing this to lessen its impact on the environment. According to Marriott’s estimates, the use of small complimentary toiletries leads to the production of about half a billion plastic bottles annually, which invariably end up in a landfill somewhere. They will be replacing the small bottles with bigger and sturdier counterparts, which will run for a more extended period and hence decrease the hotel chain’s environmental footprint.

 

This decision will no doubt have a massive impact on Marriott’s brand value, which has been addressed deeply by the company, especially its CEO Arne Sorenson. Still, Marriott is standing firm by its decision, inspite of immense backlash. So, the next time you go to a fancy hotel, try to not throw that small bottle of shampoo or conditioner after first use and aim to completely use it. Reuse the bottle if possible, and while you’re doing that, try to replace paper and plastic cups in your daily life with long-running and sturdier counterparts like bone china, glass, or steel.

Plastic bottles in a landfill. Image courtesy: BBC

An observation that I made in my daily life is that every piece of leftover food, water, cola, or ice cream that we leave in the small plastic containers or shut inside the plastic bag gets thrown into a landfill somewhere without any proper treatment. This means that due to the nonreactive and non-biodegradable nature of plastic, the raw materials like seeds, fruit, vegetables, and most importantly, water gets stuck inside the plastic bag. That water will only re-enter the atmosphere and the ecosystem after thousands of years when that plastic decays. Till then, we’re not only putting mother nature into a hot oven, slowly frying it but also ridding itself of the aquatic shield that can protect it.

Alternatives are in place, and the urgency to save the planet is undeniable. However, we, as a society, still stand on the precipice of denial. Whether it is resistance to change or more deep-rooted issues in our society’s mindset is something we can debate. Till then, please think of every small way you can decrease your impact on the environment. She keeps us alive and so keep her alive.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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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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