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What Role Do Religion And Politics Play In The Environmental Crisis?

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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.

Environmental change is to be determined with two values; one is 51 billion and the other is zero. Fifty-one billion tons of greenhouse gases are added by the world typically to the environment every year. Every year it’s increasing. And zero is the target to stop global warming and to avoid the dreadful effects of climate change.

These effects will be very bad. Humans need to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and, “This is where we are today!” – Bill Gates, 2021.

To make mincemeat of the fact, humans have become supreme beings in regards to other animals. All in all, India is considered the land of diversity, but mordantly the kaleidoscope of anthropogenic impacts on the environment eventually turned into a local bully. Officially we are living in the Holocene epoch. But globally, for the last 70,000 years, it has been the Anthropocene epoch: the epoch of humanity.

global warming
Representative Image.

But particularly to bring the context of my nation India, here, this Anthropocene epoch can be further sub-divided into Religiocenery echelon (processes and activities followed in the name of religion dominated by humans leading to Anthropogenic aftermaths) and the other one is Politicocenery echelon (policies and statements promised in the name of development and sustainability; which are meant to be broken highly, dominated by a junta of humans)

Religion and Politics are the two staples for Indians. With these two, humans have re-written the rules of the game. Two platforms subjugated by humans have managed within 7 years to change the ecosystem in unprecedented ways. Globally, religion and politics are seen as two different tenets, but the lion’s share of Indians are glad to blend these two, turning them into a cereal bowl of human-impacted environmental disasters and human risks.

Coming to politics, their act of duties have slowly eroded the lands in the foundation of rampant development. Slashing out a valley or a plain of greens for a huge political campaign have caused that region to collapse like a dominoes. The government has been busy for ages to blame the massive disasters and masking the deplorable neglect of disaster management systems and history of ignoring danger signs.

Indian politics is a chessboard of white lies. Promises made on developments have long contentious. Both the ruling political parties and opposition parties have been convincing citizens that they want and need development. And in this competition of bringing the burgeoning at the cost of environmental degradation and risks, we, the citizens, become vulnerable.

“While the Kings make war, the civilians die.” Nature alleges that both ends of the government are colluding with the land and construction mafia to skim off profits from construction. It is supremely convenient to argue that the nation wants development at any cost. But has anyone asked the citizens of India how they feel about environmental disasters every couple of years?

Representative Image.

Meanwhile, not a single mind speaks about the fact that growing numbers of religious pilgrims are putting huge stress on the ecosystem, especially on the Himalayan ecosystem. The Hindoo shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath and Gangotri were visited by more than 40 million people in 2019.

A move to restrict the entry of pilgrims would be immensely unpopular in such a religious country, which explains why political parties refuse to discuss it, followed by a trivial untruth by the government, “Nation must not compromise on its environment and ecology.”

The reckless greed for the evolution, the Politicocenery echelon has masked and clipped around my country. The worship of avarice has become the most religious of all.

One of the taboo deeds in this nation is to speak against the dreadful acts played within the circumference in the name of religion. Insurance companies talking about the “Act Of God”, which means environmental disasters that humans did not cause or could not have reasonably prevented.

Critically pointing out if God was behind the destruction, could he not discern between the guilty and innocent. This raises questions about God’s role in disasters against human sins. Human sins fractured the harmonious relationship between God and humans, among humans and between humans and the environment.

Human sins sheltered under religion (slaughtering of animals, devadasis of modern India involved as sex slaves, Female Genital Mutilation and Baby tossing) factorise the environmental disasters under the Act of God. Religiocenery echelon contributes rudimental agreement on nature having two sides: beauty and grace, terrifying and deadly. And the prospectus depends on us and our karma.

Representative Image.

The COVID-19 pandemic lowered the atmospheric aerosols induced by anthropogenic activities which might have strengthened the recent environmental disaster battled by West Bengal, super cyclone Amphan. Due to reduced human economic activity, the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere plummeted, leading to surface warming that extended over the waters of the Bay of Bengal.

Therefore, the global warming effect, which brought an increase in the strength of the cyclone, if any, is now amplified due to this human-induced lockdown effect. This might be the reason why Amphan turned into a super cyclone. The new environment with much-reduced aerosols and greenhouse gases provides a new testbed for environmental change.

It might sound like reducing aerosol concentration could be a bad thing. But we must remember that the environment is a system constantly trying to find balance. It is a tug of war and global environmental warming is the biggest person in the crowd.

The question is: What should we do at this moment? To me, the answer is clear. We must spend the next decade focusing on policies, technologies and market structures that will put us on the path of eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050. This pandemic has wrecked the global economy, support for action on environmental change is just as high as it was in 2019.

It’s hard to think of a better response to a miserable 2020 than spending the next decade dedicating ourselves to this ambitious goal.

Featured Image via flickr
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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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