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How Climate Change Is Ridding Us Of Our Freedom To Live And What We Can Do

One of the earliest reports about climate change was issued in 1968 by Stanford Research Institute and warned about the rising carbon dioxide levels, highlighting the problem of climate change such as “increasing temperature, melting of icebergs and sea-level rise” that has certainly become a reality today.

But negotiating the freedom to live on Earth since the known of climate change — along with delayed processes by governments, denial by leaders, and biased researches to support global corporations — has kept on side-lining climate change mitigation techniques and adaptation efforts adopted by climate activists and organisations to keep the Blue Marble safe.

At the time of a near possibility of an outbreaking of World War III, economic instability, ethnic conflicts and toppling of governments, the freedom to live one’s life in their chosen cultural, social and environmental conditions is of utmost importance. The member states of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights acknowledged that people have the right to live free, safe and secure lives (“right to life, liberty, and security of a person”).

In 1960, an imagery known as ‘Blue Marble’ that was taken during the Apollo 17 mission conveyed the fragility and interconnectedness of planet Earth by portraying it above cultural diversity and geographical differences. Thus, hardly any country can resist the impact of climate change as the Earth is a finite system.

The essay unfolds the freedom of the most vulnerable sections in the world who are threatened by the devastating effects of climate change and denial of big leaders despite attempts of international cooperation through treaties, while later suggesting viable alternatives to restore the freedom for present and future generations.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Impact Of Climate Change On Most Vulnerable Sections

Unfortunately, the ones who register a lesser carbon footprint, especially small, developing island states are more vulnerable to experience the worst consequences of developed states’ actions. They are losing the freedom to live their lives in many ways, such as indulging in sea activities that are becoming extremely dangerous to operate near coastal areas due to increasing hurricanes, coral bleaching, declining of aquatic animals.

The safety and deteriorating food security near coastal zones and wild forests are displacing thousands of people from their homes due to sea-level rise, extreme weather events etc. The celebration of the new decade in Indonesia came with floods and displaced around 36,000 people, according to the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance, with a plan to shift the capital from Jakarta gaining momentum.

A UN expert, on extreme poverty and loss of human rights, warned that climate change will impact the human right to life, food, housing and water, especially of the vulnerable and could push 120 million more people into poverty by 2030. Climate change is happening globally, but poor, underdeveloped and unstable governments are going to experience the worst of situations. These non-climatic factors have determined six most vulnerable countries as Lagos, Haiti, Yemen, Manila, Kiribati and the UAE, which can be seriously impacted by climate change soon.

They might face the most severe consequences due to sea level rise, increasing hurricanes, shortage of freshwater, population growth, loss of sea dependent livelihoods, diseases, etc. Although the UAE and Manila are stable and wealthy enough to blunt out the effects of climate change by adopting various techniques and methods, what about the other four? Who is going to take the responsibility to aid these vulnerable countries in developing adequate means and resources to fight against climate change?

Ignorance By Climate Change Deniers

The era of the 21st century is certainly regarded as the triumph of liberal democracy. However, the climate issue rose rapidly during this period and posed threat to all mankind. It contemplated a new debate whether our thoughts and notions about the world are true, or are they forcefully imposed on us to stop us from thinking beyond a defined ambit of the artificial world?

Jair Bolsonaro, ‘a climate change denialist’, is eager to industrialise the largest rainforest of the world by reducing illegal pollution and deforestation fines, growing sugarcanes in Amazon, etc. Similarly, Trump’s decision of removing environmental protection for half of the nation’s streams and wetlands, and labelling climate activists as extremists leaves no doubt about the ignorance back-up by sceptics on the status of climate change that seriously undermines the hopes and efforts of the 21st-century generation.

Denialists keep claiming that the change in the Earth’s temperature has been occurring from millions of years. Though fossil fuel companies have known for decades about the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels, they kept on suppressing such information. The IPCC 5thAssessment Report of 2014 claims that there is 95% probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet. However, ignorance on this issue is a major bulwark in the fight against climate change, especially for the marginalised, impoverished and indigenous communities dependent on coastal and agricultural activities.

Obstructions To The Paris Agreement

The Paris Accord signed in 2016 by 196 countries was an attempt to unblock the veins of our atmosphere by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, dealing with adaptation and finance. But the facts presented by the climate change report card showcase the below-average success. Past four years of the accord, very few states could maintain the less carbon emission efforts, with Morocco and Gambia being the top states. following the 1.5 degrees emission reduction strategy by bringing the renewables in use.

The intent of the US to withdraw from the Paris agreement in 2020, and countries like Russia and Turkey yet to ratify the agreement, signals a lack of coordination among the nations and international organisations concerning the individual’s freedom to live safe and secure.

A New Decade: Reducing Fossil Fuel Consumption To Protect Freedom Of Future Generations

Countries thought to have the means and resources to protect themselves from changing environmental conditions are also experiencing devastating effects of climate change. A recent example is the Australian bushfire that has killed more than 30 people, a billion animals and burned around 3,000 homes. The aboriginal communities are experiencing the worst scenario as they are forced to dispose of their land due to the country’s coal mining requirement, leading to deforestation and declining of jungles.

australia forest fire
Image credit: Flickr/Bruce Detorres

Climate change is a human rights issue not only because it’s devastating impacts affect the enjoyment of human rights, but also because it is a man-made phenomenon which can be mitigated by governments,” says Kumi Naidoo, Secretary-General of Amnesty International.

The governments should adopt the following measures to move towards living fossil-free lives:

1. Utilisation of renewable energy resources for running the industries, automobiles and day- to-day lives will kick out our dependency on fossil fuels in the long term. Gambia and Morocco constructed solar farms and photovoltaic plants in order to meet their Paris Agreement targets without polluting the land, water, air and respecting human rights. We must look forward to such alternatives of energy (wind, solar and hydro energy) that can be obtained from our natural environment and require dedication and participation of individuals to re-adjust themselves to develop eco-friendly energy sources and eliminate the coal-based reliance.

2. Road transport accounts for 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The global shift in demand in the automobile industry from carbon-based to electric-based vehicles is a necessity today for the survival of individuals and the environment. But such change would increase the demand for electricity and make us less dependent on oil and gas, for which governments must be ready and realign themselves with low carbon targets as mentioned in the Paris Accord.

3. Heavy reliance on personal vehicles should be reduced by respective governments and the use of public transport should be promoted. One such initiative taken up by one of the most polluted cities in the world, Delhi in India, to combat with air pollution was the odd-even road space rationing scheme, which successfully kept 15 lakh cars off the Delhi roads in its initial days and encouraged people to use public transport in large numbers. In addition, making urban cities cycle-friendly without loss of economic opportunities is another such example that many cities do today. Over 50%, 48% and 61% of the population of the city centres of Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Groningen respectively use cycles despite their capacity to afford motor vehicles.

Remodelling Our Lives Today For A Better Sustainable Future Tomorrow

According to the 2010 Oxfam report, poverty, above any other factor, determines a community’s vulnerability as it puts a limit on its capacity to adapt. As a result, the capacity of remodelling lifestyles of vulnerable societies lies in the hands of major powers, who should not shape it according to their convenience, as underdeveloped or developing nations find it hard to adapt these changes due to lack of resources, capital, and technology. Some steps to re-energise the Blue planet to recalibrate the freedom while respecting the environment are:

1. A need for decentralisation and self-regulation is required at the local level to meet the goals set by the Paris Accord in order to tackle the rapid climate change. Small community engagement and initiatives in society, such as shifting from a red meat-based diet to plant-based diet or keeping construction activities away from coastal zone should be encouraged as it will endanger our freedom to live for earning few cents.

2. The current world scenario reveals that communities with lower-carbon contribution are affected more by climate change, and their freedom depends on the readjusting efforts of others whose actions are causing the climate to change. The obligation of such developed nations, including their political leaders and governments, is to financially and morally support green initiatives and development of skills to adapt and mitigate climate change.

3. It is the duty of global corporations operating in urban, rural and remote areas to shield the lives of people who consume their goods and build their trust. An initiative by Vattenfall group claims to having reduced its CO2 emissions from 84 million tonnes to 23 million tonnes using a participatory approach involving the efforts of Vattenfall’s customers, partners, authorities and cities to become free from fossil fuels through electrification, sustainable production, etc. with an increasing need of more such initiatives.

4. The success rate of participatory approach depends on the remodelling of the curriculum through the introduction of climate-sensitive education in societies, accessible to all, making the individuals realize about the important contribution they can give in green initiatives by reshaping the day to day activities and build a naturally harmonious future for centuries to centuries.

Ganges Water Pollution Polluted holy Ganga with human waste, industrial leftovers, domestic sewage and religious rituals from towns cities poses threat to health environment. Kolkata India May 2019

5. Destructive actions performed yesterday would limit our freedom today, and our freedom would disappear automatically if forests vanish. The stakeholders involved in the processes of capital accumulation at the cost of deforestation and ruination of other species’ habitat should be realigned with strict regulations and measures (such as demarcation of natural reserves) for protecting the wilderness that helps in running the ecosystem Recently, an apartment in Kerala, India, was demolished in front of thousands of people as it violated the coastal regulation zone norms.

6. Governments should curb challenges like climate change and environmental imbalance in the nation by regulating the economic lives of people as it does with their social lives. This can be achieved by reducing tariff rates and taking care of migration activities and relocation of displaced people in the process of development.

Conclusion

Do you think we would ever have gathered together on an international platform without any intention of profit to realise the skills and intelligence of human beings to fight with a problem that is endangering our freedom to live and Blue Marble to survive? To build a sustainable future by adjusting to certain changes that will not only limit our freedom but also open up future options for us?

You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. –Greta Thunberg

The Nature providing us with alternative forms of energy from the Sun, wind, water and land will take over the world and support better health conditions. The turn from the artificial to human-natural world would register the heroes of today’s generation into the history of tomorrow.

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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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