“It’s The Youth Who Will Suffer The Fury Of Climate Change, Hence Their Actions Matter”

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Delhi: Students protesting during the global climate strikes in 2019.

Young People Are Leading The Way On Climate Change

Recent upsurge and activism among youth across the globe responding to prevailing environmental degradation, including climate change, has brought their active role to the forefront. The youth, with enormous power and potential to transform our societies towards a sustainable, low carbon and climate-resilient future, are now shouldering this responsibility and challenges with multifarious approaches and strategies.

Whether it is one of the poorest global rankings in Environmental Protection Index (177 out of 180 as per EPI 2018 ) or being fourth-highest global emitter of carbon dioxide and the sixth-largest GHG emitter or witnessing 12.5% of all deaths due to air pollution, India is grappling with environmental challenges coupled with growing problems of poverty and population. With half of its population under the age of 25, the youth in India has enormous roles and responsibilities along with high expectations of people to counter the challenges of climate change.

A cursory glance at the recently emerged waves of activism among the youth indicates the preponderance of reactive approach to deal with the ongoing climate change issues. Be it global warming or increased CO2 emission or loss of biodiversity, there has been uproar and protest to control and promulgate drastic policy changes to take concrete, visible and drastic action by policymakers aiming to meet these challenges.

We should also keep this fact in mind that success of any such reactive approach depends largely upon the positive response among policymakers who are not much responsive to these, mainly due to subordinacy of environment to economic growth and also because environmental conversation efforts by and large warrant compromising with an individual’s comfort and convenience. Any such drastic action not only hampers the much required economic growth but also invite the wrath of people.

Further, the environmental programmes in developing countries, including India, are targeted mainly towards mitigation measures like planting trees, adopting energy-efficient technologies for optimum utilisation, combating pollution, conservation and protection of natural resources, including forest, wildlife, etc.

It is the youth of today who is going to bear the brunt of climate change predominantly; hence, their uproar, apprehension and concern is genuine and warrants immediate cognizance and action. Image Source: freepik.com

Adaptation as a strategy to counter climate change-related problems, by and large, does not suit politically, economically and socially since a sizeable population in developing countries lives below the poverty line. For them, survival is more important than the concern and care for the environment, and this sole reason desists the policymakers from taking drastic policy decisions and regulations.

In the backdrop of the prevailing state of affairs, a more desirable and long-lasting approach is to adopt proactive strategies, which are more effective and workable in the long run for a country like India. The youth here can play an active and contributory role in awareness-building, campaigning, encouraging sustainable lifestyles, developing and conserving biodiversity, supporting eco-friendly practices in usage of water, energy, etc. and facilitating mitigative interventions aimed at controlling and tackling challenges of climate change.

It is the youth of today who is going to bear the brunt of climate change predominantly; hence, their uproar, apprehension and concern is genuine and warrants immediate cognizance and action.

How Can The Youth Engage With Climate Change Action?

There are various ways which the youth can adopt to become an active partner in the government’s ongoing programmes aimed at climate change. The participation of people, including the youth, has already been identified as one of the proven and tested strategies for governance and implementation of various programmes in the last few decades.

The list of activities through which the youth can engage in various ongoing climate change programmes is enormous, and many of these depend upon local conditions requiring suitable changes for making the strategy work. However, few of the common activities which can always act as integral components of any such engagement seeking direct or indirect involvement of youth are summarized as under:

  1. Involving people (children, college students, villagers and other stakeholders) to make them aware through various forums.
  2. Motivating various stakeholders to adopt sustainable/eco-friendly approaches.
  3. Talking about climate change.
  4. Joining ongoing movements aimed at climate change.
  5. Campaigns involving various social media platforms.
  6. Practising the mitigation and adaptation interventions at a personal level.
  7. Lobbying through mass movement/various stakeholders like children, local citizen, villagers or through any NGOs for specified purposes.
  8. Awareness building, rallies, peaceful demonstration, etc. on local issues.
  9. Taking part in action-based activities like tree planting, waste collection and segregation, energy-saving interventions with multiple stakeholders.
  10. Assisting and facilitating local governments and other governmental and non-governmental institutions in their climate mitigation programmes like tree planting, soil and water conservation, energy conservation, usage of resources etc. to make programme effective and successful.
  11. Assisting the governmental and non-governmental institutions in monitoring and evaluation of programmes.
  12. Involving and assisting local Panchayat Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies: In this regard, the recent initiative of Telangana government to accord much-awaited and due priority to the environment in recently-amended the P.R. Act and Municipal Acts is worth mentioning, wherein the Sarpanch and Secretary of Panchayats and Chairperson and ward members of Municipalities, along with the concerned government officials, have been entrusted roles and responsibilities with regards to planting of trees and their protection, green action plan, responsibility of 85% survival of plants and also a provision for the green fund. These historic policy changes/legal support coupled with institutional and financial support are indicative of a strong political will, care and concern for the environment  by making both public representative/heads and officials of local institutions and ULBs accountable and concerned.
  13. Palle Pragti (Village Development) and Pattana Pragati (Town Development) are recently launched programmes of Telangana governments aiming at comprehensive development of Villages and Towns (Urban Local Bodies/Municipalities) with more emphasis on cleaning and greening, public health, sanitation, etc. with the active participation of people. The youth can become partners and torch bearers for various governmental schemes under these programmes by engaging themselves to meet the objectives of climate change strategies suiting local conditions.

The selection of activities (be it an action-based personal initiative or involving and motivating various stakeholders for both mitigation and adaptation initiatives), the effectiveness of any programme involving engagement with youth depend primarily on the suitability and acceptability of such initiative and also on the response from the related agency or government organisations. Hence, it requires much of ice breaking and persuasion in initial stages to start such programmes of climate change, but with the high degree of commitment, innovative ideas, interconnectedness and persuasive skills, the youth can easily overcome these initial impediments.

Mohan Chandra Pargaien IFS is a senior forest officer of Telangana State.  You can contact him at mcpargaien@gmail.com, Twitter: @pargaien.

Note: The views expressed are personal.

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