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Aren’t We Violating The Rights Of The Future Generation by Over-exploiting The Land?

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The creation of our planet took place a long time back. Though the exact date is debatable, a consensus exists that the Earth is more than a few billion years old. The planet has not been a static destination; rather, it has seen many dynamic changes in its stride. Humans appeared on the scene a few million years ago and can be considered to have existed on the geological timeline for a few seconds.

Life on Earth has been ever-evolving, right from unicellular organism to the present multi-cellular and ultra-complex beings; humans have also undergone evolution along with other species. Species from the start has been fighting for survival—as resources are scarce and one’s life is the appetite for another. Thinking from the human perspective of today’s world, it might appear barbaric; rather, this balance has been the source of survival for the entire planet.

In this fight to the finish, humans have appeared to be the strongest, despite lacking in muscle power over much bigger species. Humans have established their dominance on the basis of technological advancement. The human societies, right from the city-states to kingdoms to nation-states to imperial dominions, have advanced by guzzling up the natural endowments.

Are we not violating the basic rights of the future generation by over-exploiting the land?

The situation has not remained much benign, especially the wide-scale use of resources post-Industrial revolution. The ramifications of mankind’s uni-dimensional view of nature as a means are being witnessed in today’s age. It poses a question to the entire humanity: are the we the owners of this natural bounty, or just guardians for the future generations??

All of us work hard so that we can live a luxurious life. We derive our pleasure from the possessions of luxurious items like cars, mobiles, good food, big houses, etc. We transit this obsession with materialism to our children. Our ever-growing needs have led to the exploitation of the land in an unsustainable manner. We are so occupied in fulfilling our needs that we forgot about our children and grandchildren.

Don’t we want this land to provide resources for their needs as much it is providing for ours? Are we not violating the basic rights of our future generation by over-exploiting the land? We have borrowed the land from the future generation, on a temporary basis, and if we hand them over less than what we borrowed, isn’t it unethical/equivalent to theft? We may not care about the next generation, but they will always remember ours for our greed and selfishness.

Resources on earth have their own life cycle varying from a few days to thousands of years. Some of these resources like water, land, forest, minerals etc. are essential elements for the survival of life on the earth. Unsustainable use of natural resources has created a pressure that threatens further use of these resources by man. Over-exploitation has disturbed the natural cycle of these resources beyond a stage of repair.

Our increased use of fossil fuels to meet energy needs has led to the excessive presence of GHGs in the atmosphere. Excessive GHGs have imbalanced the energy budget of the earth and caused global warming. Global warming has become the talk of the 21st century. Earth’s mean temperature is increasing at an unprecedented rate. Predictions are that the earth will be nearly 4 degree Celsius warmer by 2100.

Melting glaciers are not only increasing the sea levels but are contaminating future supplies of fresh water too.

Global warming will impact water resources, climates, cryosphere, etc. For example, Polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic) are sources of fresh water. Melting glaciers are not only increasing the sea levels but are contaminating future supplies of fresh water too. Several polar species, like the polar bear etc., are already on the verge of extinction. Besides damaging the environment, our uncontrolled use of conventional energy resources has ensured the energy crisis for our future generation.

Rapid industrialization has sped up the diversion of agricultural lands for roads, mining and irrigation projects that have not only disturbed the forest, wildlife ecosystem but has left little land to feed the ever-rising population. Current techniques of excessive fertilizers, GM seeds and other inputs to boost productivity are not environmentally sustainable. World-wide climate patterns are increasingly getting unpredictable.

We are planning to leave for future generation a shrinking and degraded land, with a highly unpredictable climate to feed themselves. Food security is already on its way to become the biggest threat to world security. Several wildlife species have become the victim of our greed as well. Forests have been cleared to meet materialistic needs as well the rising population. For the future generation, several wildlife species will exist only in school books, not in reality!

Ocean consists of nearly 70% of our land and supports a variety of life, and contributes to climate and hydrological cycle as well. Oceans provide food and livelihoods to billions of people around the world. Our unsustainable activities have led to ocean acidification, ocean warming, coral reef destruction, etc., that has severely disturbed the marine ecosystem. The rising water level has put several low lying areas susceptible to flooding in the near future. Oil spills incidents, radioactive water discharge, etc. have further damaged the local marine ecosystem and deprived the future generation of marine resources.

Continuous environmental degradation has increased the impact of a natural disaster. Coastal forest and mangroves build an effective natural barrier against Tsunami and cyclones. Similarly, tress and forest cover can offer great resistance to floods. Uttrakhand tragedy was one recent example, where land degradation caused by mining and dams projects aggravated the impact of heavy rainfall and turned it into the biggest disaster in recent years. By over-exploiting the forests for our economic development, we are making future generation more vulnerable to natural disasters.

For the last few decades, sustainable development has been a hot topic of discussion among intellectuals and world leaders. Stockholm conference in 1972 marked the beginning of international environmental politics. Agenda 21 in 1992, was a comprehensive plan of actions at a national and global level to promote sustainable development in all area where human impacts the environment.

Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997, further put its signee members to abide by the preset emission targets. In Rio+20 conference 2012, countries decided to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). No country or entity can work in isolation to control environmental damage. Activities in one region have a clearly visible effect on other parts of the world. Developed and developing are on a different page in their approach to handle environmental issues. Lack of consensus building is further delaying the much needed international efforts required to contain the environmental damage.

carbon emission
Besides damaging the environment, our uncontrolled use of conventional energy resources has ensured the energy crisis for our future generation.

Sustainable cities are one way to control environmental damage. Around 60-70 % of the world’s population will be residing in future cities. Improved technologies and better working public transport can reduce fuel consumption to a great extent. Advocates of green technology believe that better efficiency will reduce the resource usage and pollution produced over the long run. But so far, resource usage has only increased in absolute terms due to the rising population.

World wide efforts are needed to frame population policies with due consideration to natural resources carrying capacity. Government efforts are needed to subsidize the cleaner technologies and incentivize the R&D in renewable energy sources. Green economy can be an important driver towards sustainable development. Instead of treating the environment as a passive receptor of wastes generated by economic activities, the environment needs to be seen as a critical factor of economic growth and long term prosperity. There is a need to factor in environmental degradation in calculations of economic growth.

Ultimately, our current level of consumption and production are not sustainable in itself. We need to check our desires. We need to live more simply—so that future generation could simply live. As Gandhi ji has said, there is enough for everybody’s need but not for anybody’s greed. Uneconomical use of water has depleted groundwater resources. In India, water levels have already gone down to several 100 feet below their level a few decades ago.

Industrial and habitat pollution have further damaged the resources of surface water. Many of our rivers are not even fit for bathing, let alone for drinking purposes. In the case of India, per capita water availability has gone down from nearly 1800 BCM to 1500 BCM. Access to safe and clean drinking water is a basic human right. Our unwise use of water will deprive the future generation of their basic human rights.

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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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