The largest number of youth in the world are in India making up twenty per cent of the Indian population. Yet very few youth work with full force to combat climate change. Vinisha Umashanakar and Archana Soreng were some of the few Indian Youth attendees at COP26.
The youth are indeed planting trees, conserving water and energy; and replacing plastic with degradable sustainable materials. But that is not enough. The carbon emissions from consumer goods are much less, according to experts than the three main lifestyle carbon emissions sources – food, housing and travel.
If the youth were concerned about climate change, we would have felt the difference in the way they dressed, lived and travelled. In the last few years, we have become conscious of our health, so we see more people exercising in the parks and gyms with the subsequent increase in the sales of fitness accessories like shoes and sportswear.
How conscious are Indian youth to combat climate change?
The Indian youth between the age of 15 and 29 embrace traditional values and aim for a successful career in their life. When the youngster’s work towards getting educated in the esteemed institutions of the world, they need to be committed to mitigating climate change.
Global warming is a serious issue at hand, and the youth need to act. In the next ten years, carbon emissions have to come down drastically. The world got a carbon budget of 400 gigatons, until 2030, to keep the world under 1.5 degrees centigrade.
The situation is real, or else the world leaders would not be at the convention making promises to bring down emissions and use more clean energy. Now that the leaders have made the commitments, the youth must persuade the leaders to implement the promises because it is your life that is at stake.
25 years ago, when I was your age, I did a small research for my Journalism Course Lab Journal, which was about the environmental impact of an upcoming thermal project in my native place. The inspiration for the research came from my grand uncle, who raised concerns that the water logging in our place was because of the construction work for the project.
When I did the research, neither I nor my uncle, then in his 70’s, knew that all the man-made environment destruction was leading to climate change and sixth mass extinction. We were only worried about the destruction of the flora and fauna and the loss of natural habitats of the local species.
Youth need to act
My uncle’s generation, born in the pre-independent era, had a close connection with the soil and did not have to bear the brunt of climate change. The youth of today, are more aware of the digital world than the soil but they have to bear the consequences of Global warming.
So the youth need to act. When you aspire for a successful career, you need to Embrace traditional values as well as act willfully to curb global warming. The developed nations are indeed responsible for the emission and they need to act. At the same time, we in India too need to demand a change in thinking. We need immediate actions because India impacts the decisions globally.
There is scepticism about how much of the undertakings by leaders at COP26 will be implemented. There is gap between what needs to be done and what is being done. We have no time for report cards to prove which country did the best in curbing carbon emissions, or which country helped other countries to overcome climate change disasters. All of us have to act.
Tips for the Indian youth to combat climate change
Be a Greta Thunberg
We need a powerful presence of youth inspirations like Greta Thunberg who can inspire the youngster and talk to the politicians. By leading an eco-friendly lifestyle the youth can inspire other youths to follow them.
Presently only a fraction of the Indian youth gets educated about leading an environment friendly lifestyle. So it is the duty of those who are environment educated to lead a low carbon lifestyle and inspire the youth in the lower strata of the society to imbibe the change.
Teach the poor like you taught them reading and writing
In the cities in India, we take initiative to teach basic reading and writing for children in the slums and those living on the pedestrian. We convince some of them to join school also. Now you can add a section of climate change classes while interacting with slum dwellers.
The slum dwellers make their homes from plastic and garbage. By spreading awareness among the poor about an eco-friendly lifestyle, they can implement at least 1% change in their life in a positive direction. When they observe improvement in their life, they will change for the better. We can control the emission only if there is an all-inclusive development format.
Meet the people in your village
You or your parent might have migrated to the cities. So you still have roots in the village. Visit the villages and meet your relatives in their 80’s and 90’s. They will tell you stories about the pros and cons of the development in the village. Try to implement their food, travel and housing tradition in your life.
Spread awareness in the village
Though the villagers are living a low carbon emission lifestyle, they are unaware of climate change. Unknowingly they are also contributing to global warming. For instance, shampoo sachets, used widely in villages, is a source of chemical and plastic pollution. You must tell them the pros and cons of going organic and local.
Learn the jargons
In these 2 years of mentoring climate change news writers, I realize that jargons are a good way of communicating the various aspects of global warming. Understanding the meaning of each word helps you understand the gravity of the situation. Learn the climate change glossary and make them part of your daily vocubalary.
Create the political will
Whenever the youth stood up for a cause, they won. The drastic impact of climate change will be felt by your generation in the future, so convince the leaders to act. It is your responsibility to implement the low carbon emissions commitments like clean energy, afforestation and climate-resilient infrastructure.
Find out if the cause of the calamity was natural or due to climate change
According to studies, 80% of disasters like wildfires, floods and cyclones are due to climate change. So before concluding find out from reliable sources if floods or cyclones are common in that area in that particular season. And whether the occurrences have brcomr more frequent in recent years.
Adapt at least one lifestyle change
Implement at least one low carbon lifestyle change. You need not sacrifice. You can think of a substitute that will improve your lifestyle and emit less carbon. For instance, you can replace your petrol car with an electric car. And while going for a small distance opt to walk or use a cycle. Your lifestyle change will inspire 10 others to make similar changes.
Avoid air travel if possible
Why do we prefer air travel? Either for comfortable travel or to save time or both. If you have time to spare and sacrifice a little comfort, then opt for a bus or train.
Implement the low carbon emission lifestyle changes in your family
The first people whom we can convince to follow your ways are the family members. Implementation of a low carbon lifestyle begins at home. Greta Thunberg not only adapted a low carbon lifestyle herself, but she made her family members also to go eco-friendly.
There has to be a balance of development
Mankind as a whole needs to work towards achieving net-zero emissions. Hence, while those in the top 10% , responsible for 50% of lifestyle emission, need to dramatically reduce their carbon emission, the poor 50% population need to be supported with finance and technology to upgrade to an energy-efficient and net-zero lifestyle. The developed countries should expedite the disbursement of the $100 billion climate fund; at the same time, the youth in India should work actively to make our nation a climate-resilient economy.
Push the government and businesses to action to reduce lifestyle carbon emissions. We will be able to lead a low carbon emission lifestyle only if we can convince the big corporations and political leaders to bring about changes. For the Indian youth to combat climate change they cannot wait for their hair to grey. In India, people say, if your words need to be taken seriously your hair should be grey because of ageing. But when it comes to climate, the youth in India cannot wait for the hair to grey as they grow old. You need to make your voice heard today because time is precious.