CLIMATE change is a global emergency. Even if you don’t think you feel the effects of this phenomenon, they’re here.
Do you hate how it gets hot earlier and stays hot longer throughout the year? Global warming has led to “prolonged periods of high temperatures”, which lead to wildfires, droughts, and other crises. Exposure to extreme heat can lead to health problems as well, such as heat stroke, dehydration, and cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular diseases.
Are you a Mumbaikar? All that flooding you’ve been dealing with, that’s climate change. Rising sea levels combined with coastal storms causes flooding, erosion, and storm surge – and, of course, infrastructure damage.
Can’t breathe? Air pollution is a direct consequence of burning fossil fuels, and the air quality in India is now the worst in the world (20 of the top 25 cities with the most polluted air are in India).
Prolonged exposure to air pollution leads to respiratory disease in children and adults, and air pollution “ kills an estimated 7million people worldwide every year” and “kills two Indians every minute”.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Obviously climate change is a major issue coming at us from all sides, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do something about it. As young climate change activist, Greta Thunberg says, “If not you, who? If not now, when?”
Tackling climate emergency, one issue at a time
Just a few days ago hundreds of Mumbaikars came out in force, in the rains, and formed a human chain around the Metro 3 site to protest the cutting down of more than 2,700 of the Aarey forest’s trees for a carpark after the BMC’s Tree Authority went back on its decision to defer the Metro’s proposal. Add your voice to the cause.
In celebration of Ganesh Charturthi earlier this month, a public health scientist in Bengaluru raised awareness of the need to switch to zero-waste, eco-friendly, non-toxic murthis. They encouraged families to do away with plastic and other toxic decorations and helped kids make clay idols with seeds in them that will sprout edible methi. Learn how you can celebrate the upcoming festivals in an environmentally friendly way.
Environmentalists in Ladakh are getting creative and working to solve their crop production issues by tackling plastic pollution. With eco-bricks (plastic bottles stuffed with sand, earth, husk, and cow dung), they are building less expensive greenhouses plus getting rid of all the waste littering their streets.
In honour of Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birth year and to celebrate the guru’s love of nature, the Delhi Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) is planting 1lakh trees. At the nine colleges DSGMC manages, they are requiring first year students to each plant 10 trees, report on them annually, and start using rainwater harvesting at home. Another 2lakh fruit trees and natural air purifier tree saplings will be distributed as prasad to devotees.
Thanks to a new Swachh Bharat initiative, you can soon dine for free at The Garbage Café in Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh. Just bring in 1 kg of plastic waste for a full meal or 500 grams to pay for breakfast.
This past March, Indian students skipped school with tens of thousands of students from 123 countries. Greta Thunberg started the movement #FridaysforFuture when she cut classes to protest outside Sweden’s parliament about their inability to effectively address global pollution and climate change concerns.
Students from 52 cities across India, including Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Pune, Bhavnagar, Ambikapur, Leh, and Udaipur, walked out of classes to join the #climatestrike.
Youth activists in Gurugram participated to build momentum for climate issues affecting them based on the global media attention surrounding Greta’s movement and recent Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
26-year-old Garima Poonia decided to put off a degree at the University of Sussex to move to the Andamans after noticing the lack of waste management and huge amounts of trash polluting its unique ecosystem, which is home to around 1,000 endemic species.
“In the last year, [with no formal funding] her Kachrewaale Project has collected and segregated over 250kg of trash from [Neil Island’s] beaches, rallied resort and restaurant owners to start segregating their waste, and conducted workshops with local kids to explain how plastic pollution affects marine life.” And when she’s finished cleaning up Neil Island, she’s going to move to Havelock to start the process all over again.
One of Mumbai’s most polluted beaches has been transformed into a pristine sandscape. Not only is the trash gone, last year Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings were sighted at the beach for the first time in 20 years.
Not an easy feat, the lawyer and activist spearheading the movement, Afroz Shah, worked to change mindsets of the community and municipal authorities to remove 23million kgs of trash from Versova Beach.
To maintain momentum, and hopefully instil a sense of community and environmental education in offenders of minor violations, Mumbai courts have recently started mandating daily beach clean-up for petty criminals trying to dismiss FIRs.
Shah, says: “Through such community service, the [High Court] is allowing people to better themselves, and the first step towards doing this is to roll up their sleeves, put on gloves, and get knee deep in muck”.
Ready to take action?
Next week kicks off a week-long strike by millions of people globally who are walking out in protest of fossil fuels and to demand climate justice for all. Act now and join the #globalclimatestrike in cities across India next Friday, 20th September. Find an event near you.
-by Micah Branaman-Sharma