Involve the Youth in our battle to save the Earth
Earth Day has been around for more than 50 years now. What started with protests for stronger environmental protections, by University students in the US in 1970, has now grown to become a captivating global phenomenon and movement – battling issues ranging from an increased number of natural disasters, extreme weather to rising global temperatures.
What is perhaps unsurprising, to say the least, has been the role that our Youth have played in shaping our global climate movement. Youth Leaders like Greta Thunberg are paving the way for more young and passionate students to step up and take charge of our environment.
As we celebrate the 52nd Earth Day, let us take stock of key issues concerning our environment; and move beyond just talking and raising awareness. We need to think about how we can mobilise our youth populace at scale and engage them to build tangible and real solutions to ensure they inherit a greener, stronger planet.
New Guardians of Our Environment
Having worked with students for many years, I was lucky to have been exposed to the role that they would play in this larger movement early itself. A recurring theme in many of the student’s projects who I was mentoring was to address climate change.
A 14-year-old girl from Bangalore channelised her passion for sustainable clothing towards educating young people to make environmentally-conscious decisions and organised multiple drives to collect over 200 kg of clothes. Another boy, Rishabh, also 14 years old, installed aerators in water taps in his society to save around 70 lakh litres of water per year. A group of fellows, all under the fresh age of 25, are currently working to restore the West Godavari delta.
I realised that the environment has found a new guardian in the younger generation. It is their inspired motivation that energizes me and eventually pointed me toward recognising that the need of the hour is to battle climate change.
Key Issues to Address
Not only do we need to mobilise our youth and develop more human-centred leaders who value the planet over profit and business. The real question that we need to solve is: As our youth transition to becoming our working population within the next 5-10 years, how can we create this pipeline of climate-conscious workers?
However, this isn’t the only issue to address. While it is certainly encouraging to already see many youth and international organisations recognise the urgency of addressing climate change, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. The battle for climate cannot simply be fought in boardrooms, conference halls or Twitter pages.
Connecting Our Youth with Rural India
While information campaigns and education help to build awareness around the issue, the real action for climate change is being enacted at the front-lines: in our rural hinterlands by the adivasi, indigenous and tribal communities who interact with the environment and depend on it for their livelihood. The privileged and urban youth who have spent their whole lives in the concrete jungle cannot do much in the status quo beyond awareness campaigns in their echo chambers.
Therefore, what we need is to build a pathway between the youth and our rural context, Bharat. This has proved to form the underlying philosophy of my organisation, 1M1B (One Million for One Billion). In the past 8 years, my team has worked with many batches of young and privileged students from urban areas to provide them with a pathway to the villages and rural environment so that they can work hand-in-hand with local communities to better understand their context and work with them to preserve our environment.
Our aim should be to mobilise 100,000 youth leaders every year around the issue of green technology and climate. I believe that a lot can be achieved if our youth are activated on agendas that matter to the planet. This doesn’t mean that every student needs to become a climate activist. We need more than just climate activism. We need climate-conscious businessmen, politicians and lawyers who care about the environment and entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of leveraging innovative technology to make our environment cleaner. We need to push entrepreneurial thinking towards enabling the youth to work for our rural India and become climate warriors. If not for our planet, we must do it for our future generations.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)