Change is in the air

Youth awareness and mobilisation is essential for any effort towards climate preservation.

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The revolutionary ‘Chipko Movement’ was a game changer.
The revolutionary ‘Chipko Movement’ was a game changer.

In 1973, Chandi Prasad Bhatt led many villagers from the village of Mandal, in the Alaknanda valley of Uttar Pradesh, to protest against the government’s allotment of forest land to a sporting manufacturer. The villagers embraced the trees to prevent logging and the small act sparked off a big movement called the Chipko Movement. The movement was preceded by awareness campaigns, which linked the Alaknanda River valley floods of 1970 to indiscriminate deforestation by government authorised contractors.

The success of the campaign was predicated on awareness about the ill-effects of deforestation with a specific call for action. By hugging trees, villagers had given them the status of a person. Unlike, Chipko movement, most awareness campaigns fail to effect change due to their lack of specific goals and instructions for the masses. The recent IPCC report has rung alarm bells for the world, especially countries like India which would be the worst sufferers of climate change. And, what the country needs is another Chipko-styled awareness agenda.

“In this type of a campaign against climate change, it is important that there is not only a specific call for action but also a specific target group.”

The ones most invested in driving change for preserving the environment would be the ones worst affected from climate change. UNESCO Education on Sustainable Development programme notes that the youth would have to cope with the worst effects of climate change.

In India, the youth (18-34 years as in the National Youth Policy, 2014) constitute more than a third (35 per cent) of the total population. Therefore, any meaningful action against climate change requires the involvement of the youth.

Also Read: Clouded Consciousness: World’s responses to IPCC Report

The importance of a more environmentally-conscious youth apart from a greater involvement in the policy formulation process is also to influence micro-level practices against climate change. Youth as a major stakeholder in this approach can make a marked difference by incorporating lifestyle and consumption changes at an individual scale.

“For instance, the zero-waste movement which focuses on segregating and utilising waste at home to substantially reduce the trash output is gaining momentum in India. Small cities like Kerala’s Alappuzha have exhibited a model where the big centralised landfills – a source of major pollution, can be completely eliminated if the onus on waste management is taken on an individual scale.”

Social media and green marketing initiatives can further help spread awareness. Moreover, any such effort would require receptiveness to change as is in the nature of the youth.

 A poster of TERI SAS' Climate Jamboree event.
A poster of TERI SAS’ Climate Jamboree event.

However, often the absence of discernible results, would dissuade a radical change in lifestyle and consumption patterns. Only the knowledge that our action is part of the combined efforts of the whole community to preserve the environment would fuel us to incorporate radical changes in our life. For instance, choosing public transport over private, forsaking convenience for environment, would sometimes make us question if our actions alone would be enough to save the environment. However, the knowledge of the support of others making the same choice would motivate us to think of more ways to battle climate change. Therefore, mobilisation is essential to ensure continued efforts by the community and when it is done at an institutional level, it ensures widespread participation and enhanced outreach.

“Taking the responsibility of such an effort, TERI SAS in collaboration with Dalmia Cements launched ‘Climate Jamboree’, a youth mobilisation event which was held from November 1-3 a three-day finale.”

The event provides a platform for the youth to learn, innovate and also connect with other like-minded individuals in our fight against climate change. With participation from over 10,000 students across India from different disciplines and career paths, the event ensures a holistic dialogue on climate change.

Also Read: Rising number of environmental refugees in the world

The leading competitions in the event were organised keeping in mind the different outlooks of students from diverse disciplines. The event’s finale creates a blend of a top-down and a bottom-up approach.

“The technical sessions include participation from global and national leaders in the climate change dialogue in an effort to spread awareness about the pertinent topics in climate change. Moreover, the student discussion groups incorporate events providing the audience with specific calls for action thus complimenting the awareness campaign.”

The battle on climate change is to be fought on all fronts and the youth have to take the frontlines. Events like ‘Climate Jamboree’ ensure that a more environmentally-conscious and socially connected youth is better able to handle the challenges and drive change in the society.