Path for a Better Tomorrow : Communities Remoulding the Globe


“We live in a strange world, where we think we can buy or build our way out of a crisis that has been created by buying and building things.”   Greta Thunberg

The largeness of climate change can be paralyzing. After all, how can one person’s actions make a difference when the problem reaches clear around the globe?

Four years ago, when a fifteen-year-old girl decided not to go to school one day to protest the climate crisis, it sparked a global movement, inspiring millions of students to go on strike for our planet, forcing governments to listen, and earning her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

Gen Z individual Greta Thunberg, all of nineteen, is now a phenomenon termed ‘Greta Thunberg effect’ — initiating the school strike for climate movement that formed in November 2018 and surged globally after the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in December the same year. Her personal activism began in August 2018, when her recurring and solitary Skolstrejk för klimatet (“School strike for the climate”) protesting outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm began attracting media coverage, even though Sweden has already enacted “the most ambitious climate law in the world” – to be carbon neutral by 2045.

Climate change presents the single biggest threat to development, and its widespread  impacts affect the most vulnerable groups specially in developing countries.As the world scales up climate change action, enhanced cooperation, capacity-building, and access to financial and technical support will be needed to both adapt and mitigate to climate change because it is almost a tautology to declare that our future, and that of our children and their children, depends on how we shape our communities for the 21st century and beyond. We’re going to be growing and growing a lot: how we manage that growth will affect everything from how healthy our economy will be to how nourished and happy we will be as people to, yes, how healthy the future of our planet is. Frequently lost in the increasingly sharpening debate over climate change and global warming is that being thoughtful about managing future land development can make a significant difference in helping to curb carbon emissions and their very serious consequences.

Although temperatures fluctuate naturally, over the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history.  And the trend is accelerating:  the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since1990.There is debate, mostly from politicians, over to what extent the crisis is man-made, and lots of debate over what to do about it.

“Loss of awareness regarding change in climate and sensitization to the issue; acknowledging that it is not something of the future but that it is here and now is how we essentially to muddle through this menace. We need to try to educate ourselves because half-knowledge is almost equal to bad knowledge or superficial knowledge”, says Dr. Richa Dave Nagar, eminent faculty from the Department of Environmental Sciences, Amity University.

Coming to community participation to fight climate change, living through one historical record in climate change after the other has been stressful, to say the least. From the 1970s when women of Uttarakhand took to hugging trees which gained fame under the title of Chipko Movement to Tollywood actors Nagarjuna and Prabhas adopting 1650 acres of Khajipalli Urban Forest block for Eco Park, community has played significant roles in gaining some momentum to move towards sustainable practices, there are other key influential figures who consistently push for people and governments to step up their actions to protect our environment.

From celebrities to the common man, India has her own fair share of climate change activists who have made efforts to relay the urgency for working towards an environment-friendly tomorrow.

Model, actress, producer, and social worker Dia Mirza has been an instrumental voice in highlighting the need for action against climate change. “The 8 million species that we share our planet with are deeply connected with our lives. Our relationship with nature, how we treat nature, will define the way our future is going to unfold”, the activist opined in recent interview.

She has been the face of many pivotal environmental campaigns across India and has worked towards the conservation of wildlife. As a Goodwill Ambassador, Mirza works with the United Nations to further spread the message on priority areas including clean air, clean seas, wildlife protection and climate change.

And there is Ridhima Pandey, the 13-year-old climate change activist who has made great strides through her earnest efforts to bring attention to the ongoing crisis. She was one of the 16 children who filed a complaint in the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, calling out countries that were failing to act against climate change.

‘Lady Tarzan’ — Jharkhand’s Jamuna Tudu — is one of the fiercest voices to combat environmental degradation, has confronted and to prevented Timber mafias from illegally cutting down trees near her village in Jharkhand.

It is not commonly understood, but needs to be, how much the location of development affects the amount of driving we must do, and thus the amount of greenhouse gas pollution (mostly carbon dioxide) we emit.  In fact, the most exhaustive research on the relationship between land use and household travel behaviour indicates that location – how close a home or development is to the people, goods, and services its inhabitants need to reach throughout a metropolitan region – is by far the most significant indicator of average driving rates and consequent emissions from and to that home or development.  Generally, the more central the location, the lower the rate of driving. This is primarily because central locations tend to shorten average driving distances; central locations (including some suburban centres) also tend to have higher rates of walkability and more density, which facilitates transit use.  Residents of central locations don’t have to drive as far or as often, compared to those in sprawling outer locations.

Nature helps fight climate change.  At the neighbourhood scale, living greenery absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  It also has a cooling effect, reducing urban “heat islands” and thus reducing electricity needs for summertime air conditioning.  Green roofs, street trees, pocket parks, and urban gardens are among the measures we can employ, in concert with the others discussed above, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The same benefits of maintaining living nature that apply at the neighbourhood scale also apply at the regional scale and beyond.  Worldwide, deforestation is the second leading contributor of carbon emissions after the burning of fossil fuels.  Conserving our forests and farmland help absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Moreover, saving wilderness and the rural landscape is the other side of developing in the right places.  We will never fully reduce our transportation emissions to a reasonable level if we don’t put a stop to suburban sprawl. Smarter land use and transportation planning to reduce carbon pollution should be the law of the land.

In terms of going online, with the world afflicted by coronavirus, the climate movement has had to go digital. Climate activists have been forced to rethink how they get their message out while maintaining the momentum they’ve managed to build up in the past year. Protests have been continuing as usual online amid the pandemic, via Instagram posts and Zoom calls. Now that many schools are still closed, young activists are missing virtual lessons as part of their strikes for the climate.

But the move to digital has also allowed young activists to get more creative when it comes to getting their message out there. That includes using platforms such as TikTok to reach a new audience. Climate change is a complex process, and many of the scientific terms are unfamiliar. Skip the jargon and focus on terms we can all understand — temperatures will get warmer, winters will be shorter, sea level will be higher, and so on. We need to introduce more complex terms by slowly building a climate change vocabulary and use that vocabulary to focus on examples of the effects of climate change at a local level.

After all, drought in Africa, ice melt at the poles — are far removed from our everyday lives.

Written by Stella Nisha Gogoi


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