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What Do Paris, Los Angeles, Microsoft Have In Common? A Plan To Go Carbon Neutral!

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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.

Forget about net-zero, we need real zero,” said environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

We are now living in the ‘century of man-made (or anthropogenic) climate change’. The ecological balance is completely disturbed. Nature is under stress. The environment, biodiversity, and habitats are being destroyed by human activities. Human activities result in tropical storms, typhoons, floods, drought, ocean warming, rising sea level, pandemics, health issues, global warming, climate change, poverty, food insecurity, pollution, deforestation, and pest challenges and loss of agriculture production. There is a complete ‘Climate Emergency’.

Due to global warming, vector-borne diseases will spread at a faster rate. Shortly, many more diseases like COVID-19 will spread as pandemics. Our preparedness to control environmental degradation and emerging diseases will decide our future. For all this, we have to reduce our greed towards nature. It’s our responsibility to take steps to make Earth a habitable planet.

Representational image.

In earlier times, the balance among sustainability, ecosystem, biodiversity, and cities was maintained due to ponds, wetlands, lakes, trees, forests ecosystems, biodiversity, the slow growth rate of population, clean rivers, drainage system, least pollution, slow urbanization, slow industrialization, sustainable development, eco-friendly transportation, and tourism. But now, in the 21st century, the situation is adverse.

The UN Emissions Gap Report 2019, says that global greenhouse emissions would need to fall by 7.6% every year between now and 2030 to stop severe climate crisis in the coming decades. Countries need to take urgent climate action. Carbon Neutrality is a ray of hope to cope with Climate Change. Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal or simply eliminating carbon emissions. It is used in the context of ‘carbon dioxide releasing’ processes associated with transportation, energy production, agriculture, and industrial processes.

The concept may be extended to include other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in terms of their ‘carbon dioxide equivalence’. Climate neutrality can be achieved if the emission of climate change-encouraging greenhouse gases is completely stopped or saved elsewhere. Greenhouse gas carbon dioxide accounts for 82% of global warming, and the rest comes mainly from two other greenhouse gasses, namely methane and nitrous oxide.

Achieving ‘Carbon Neutrality’ is very important for all of us because it will help to make an eco-friendly, sustainable, and carbon-negative future. Carbon negativity will be achievable when humans can remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than emission. It is upon us, i.e., the current generation, to choose a future, for better or worse. If we want to cherish every precious moment in the future, then following urgent ‘climate action’ for a ‘sustainable future’ should be taken into account: 

-Reduce our dependence on fossil fuel-based energy. Increase the use of renewable sources of energy. 

-Ban on unsustainable logging. 

-Forested areas should not drop below 33%. 

-Alternative sources of energy, like solar energy, should be a priority. 

-Conservation of parks and wetlands. -Promoting Green and sustainable schools and buildings. 

-Water Conservation to save every drop of water, especially through rainwater harvesting, soak pits, and renovation of water bodies like ponds and lakes. 

-Water Budget should be an essential part of everyday life and planning. -Plantation of local species should be our priority; it will be helpful in biodiversity protection. 

-Care After Plantation (CAP) should be ensured at the grassroots level by officials and citizens. 

-Pond Forests and Micro-Forests should be promoted. 

-Pooling, Cycling, and Walking should be part of our daily life. 

-There should be a Pollution Emancipation Force in every school, village, urban area, municipality, and office. This force will help in sanitation and cleanliness. 

-A good Traffic management system to reduce air pollution. 

-Promote awareness through the non-political ‘Climate Movement’ at the grassroots level. 

-There should be a provision of compulsory plantation in new societies because these are built by destroying the ecosystem of the area. Plantation in urban areas will help reduce at least 5°C temperature and help to cope with the ‘urban heat island effect’. 

-Health and medicine departments should be made advanced to cope with epidemics due to climate change. 

-Every household and office should be encouraged for energy conservation. The IPCC 2018 report said that global emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030, and net-zero by 2050 to have a 50% chance of limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C in the 21st century. The global average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached 410 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, up from 400.1 ppm in 2015.

Global efforts to change climate change are being carried out by each nation. People’s movements, like Fridays For FutureExtinction Rebellion350.orgRed Tape MovementMission Shikshan Samvad., are making people aware of their dark future due to environmental degradation.

Here are some examples of climate actions taken by some cities to control environmental degradation: 

Climate Action By Los Angeles 

According to WHO estimates, around 7 million people die every year (19178 per day) from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that lead to stroke, Heart Disease, Lung Cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) & respiratory infections like pneumonia. In 1943, in the middle of World War II, Los Angeles was facing the problem of smog caused by the city’s vehicles and factories. Vehicle emissions caused most of Los Angeles’ smog.

Los Angeles took action on-time and reduced the number of cars on the road and made them run more cleanly. The use of the catalytic converter was made compulsory for the vehicles. Due to climate action, air pollution from cars decreased. Now, new passenger vehicles in the US are 98-99% cleaner than those cars from the 1960s, and air quality has improved even as an increasing number of people are driving more than ever. A recent EPA (Environment Protection Agency, USA) study found that every dollar invested in clean air resulted in a $30 benefit.

Los Angeles’ six common pollutants dropped an average of 73%, and the gross domestic product grew by 324%. These steps reduced the loss of workdays due to illness, lowered the medical costs, lowered the premature deaths associated with particulate matter, improved health and productivity, improved the crop and timber yields, and encouraged tourism, recreation, and healthy living. 

Climate Action By Belgium  

Worldwide material consumption (material footprint per capita) has expanded rapidly; in 1990, some 8.1 tonnes of natural resources were used to satisfy a person’s need, while in 2017, almost 12.2 tonnes of resources were extracted per person.

The International Resource Panel argues that a transformation from a linear economy (where products, once used, are discarded) to a circular one (where products and materials continue in the system for as long as possible) will contribute to a more sustainable future. Belgium, an European Union nation, is on its way towards a ‘circular economy‘.

Belgium preferred the sustainable use of resources, recycling of materials, and valorization of materials. The “Be Circular, Be Brussels” initiative is setting out a strategy to transition from a linear to a circular economy by 2025. A transition to a carbon-neutral and resource-efficient economy requires a holistic approach; it can not be achieved by addressing challenges in silos (in isolation).

Science, technology, and innovation must be part of this transition process. Belgium is ready to play its role and to lead. One of the circular economy model aims is zero waste, where all materials are kept in circulation. In 2016, Belgium ranked as number two in the European Union in recycling waste; almost 77% of total waste in Belgium was recycled. By 2050, the Flanders region of Belgium wants to have a circular economy where nothing is wasted. The building and construction sector globally accounts for 36% of primary energy use and 39% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

It also uses large amounts of natural resources and generates waste. In the Brussels Capital Region, waste produced by the construction sector amounts to 628,000 tonnes out of 1,325,000 tonnes of waste collected annually. The majority (91%) of this waste is recycled. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations revealed that about one-third of the food produced for humans is wasted every year, globally.

The Belgian city of Ghent in Flanders was one of the first European cities to launch its urban food policy in 2013, called Ghent en Garde. Due to this, local food is now booming. Surplus food has been distributed to people in need, which simultaneously alleviates poverty and reduces CO2 emissions. In 2019, this Belgium city’s initiative was one of the winners of the United Nations Global Climate Action Award. 

Climate Action By Paris  

Paris is taking many climate actions; some of these are mentioned here:

1- During 2016 summer, Paris passed a new law encouraging residents to help Paris go green by planting their urban gardens. The initiative, “permis de végétaliser” (or “license to vegetate”), is part of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s 2020 target of adding 100 hectares (247 acres) of vegetation on the city’s walls and roofs.

To encourage citizens to become “gardeners of the Parisian public space,” any resident can apply for a renewable three-year permit to start their urban garden project. Participants can green the capital in various ways, from planting fruit trees to creating a rooftop garden’s living walls. Upon request, the city will also provide a planting kit that includes topsoil and seeds.

Gardeners are instructed to maintain sustainability and to keep the city’s aesthetics in mind. They are not allowed to use pesticides and can plant only local species. The city has also expressed the need for ‘local honey plants’ to help grow the world’s diminishing bee population. The new urban gardening program of Paris is designed to encourage Biodiversity, green spaces, mitigate the “heat island” effect, change climate change, improve air quality and improve the thermal and acoustic comfort of buildings. 

2- The French Parliament’s new law mandates that all new buildings in commercial zones must be partially covered by plants or solar panels. 

3- The first Sunday of every month is a car-free day in Paris. 

4- France banned plastic plates and cutlery, making it the first country to take this step. 

5- Project Oasis, a plan to convert the concrete schoolyards of Paris into “islands of cool,” to provide healthy air during extreme heat, and to bring down temperatures across the city. Compared to other European cities, Paris has the lowest proportion of green areas in parks and schools; London boasts 33% green space and Madrid 35%.

Green walls in Paris have expanded areas of shade and special drainable concrete surfaces that can absorb water when it rains, are essential features. If all goes to plan, all of Paris’s 800 schools will be transformed into green spaces by 2040. 

The City of Paris plan is also being facilitated by 100 Resilient Cities (100RC). Paris has taken these steps to save lives from ‘heatwaves’; the heatwaves have killed many more people in France than terrorism has. Paris has unveiled plans to plant trees and gardens alongside four historical sites to improve the air quality and address climate change. 

Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has announced an “urban forest” planting scheme for the Place de l’Hotel de Ville, the Gare de Lyon, the Palais Garnier, and a footpath along the banks of the River Seine. According to the Mayor, “The IPCC forecasts heatwaves at 50 degrees Celsius by 2050. We have an obligation to act today.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 15: School children hold placards as they participate in a protest against the inaction to curb global warming and climate change, at Central Park, Connaught Place on March 15, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

  Climate Action By Microsoft   

The Microsoft company has promised to become carbon negative by 2030, and, by 2050, the company will remove all of the carbon it has emitted since it’s birth in 1975. 

Earth is transforming into a warmer planet; The greenhouse gases have already raised global temperatures by around 1°C since pre-industrial times. Such a condition is dangerous for all nations. The danger of drowning is looming over the small island nations and coastal areas of the oceans.

If we want to think of Earth as heaven having healthy ecosystems, forests, Biodiversity, and human life, then we shall have to take every step to reduce our carbon footprints, encourage sustainability, transform towards renewable energy, reduce our dependence on fossil energy, implement the circular economy, stop deforestation and stop the loss of ecosystems, Biodiversity, and their habitats. A better future is achievable through climate neutrality. We shall have to achieve zero carbon emission. Every world citizen will have to work as a “messenger of nature” and “green soldier”. Let’s come and make a better world, for nature and for the future. 

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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