Updated: September 21, 2019 6:27:03 pm
Inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s call for a Global Climate Strike across the world, students raised slogans demanding climate action and held placards which read, ‘There is no Planet B’, ‘I want to breathe clean’, ‘Bring down emissions, not democracy’, in front of Delhi’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
September 20 marked the beginning of a week of climate protests in the city, aimed at raising awareness on the issues such as carbon dioxide emissions, deforestation, animal cruelty, and suggesting measures to address these concerns, with a final march to the Prime Minister’s Office on September 27 demanding the declaration of a climate emergency.
The protests were jointly organised by student representatives and coordinators from Fridays For Future, Extinction Rebellion India, Greenpeace and a coalition of other NGOs.
John Paul Jose, a 22-year-old climate activist working for Greenpeace, believes that climate activism encompasses environmentalism. “Climate change affects everyone, but it will affect some people more than others. For instance, children and old-aged people will find it more difficult to adapt to the changing climate than adults, who will be less impacted by any drastic change in the environment,” he explains, adding that taking out time to raise awareness about the environment is as important as academics.
In order to reduce air pollution caused by vehicular emissions, a student cycled for over three hours from his house in Indirapuram in Ghaziabad to reach the protest site. “The aim of the protest is to hold the government and corporates responsible for the damage that has been caused to our environment,” he said.
Hansen, Project Manager at World Animal Protection, an international non-profit organization, said that action on climate change was needed since animals are most vulnerable to climate change and hence need to be protected. “Hundreds of species are facing extinction because of the changing climate,” he emphasised.
Two teachers from Shri Ram Millenium School, Urmi Chakraborty and Vidhi Nautiyal, who came in support of students from the school’s Paryavaran Club, said that they were making efforts to educate children about the small steps that are required to make a difference. “Students are being advised to reduce their consumption, bring their own water bottles, take bucket-baths instead of showers,” said one teacher, adding, “this (protest) is more important than academics.”
Nav Agarwal, a 12-year-old student, who along with his brother aged 15, runs an NGO involved with raising public awareness about zero-waste practices at home, said, “It is important to educate people about waste segregation. Because that is when they realise the amount of waste that they are generating and make conscious efforts to reduce it.” The NGO, One Step Greener, operating in 6 colonies in the city, facilitates dry waste collection from a centralised warehouse and its recycling. People are also paid money for the waste that they collect.
When asked about steps which can be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change, student protesters suggested measures such as resisting desertification of land, reducing our meat consumption, population control, reducing carbon emissions, protecting forests and investing in renewables to reduce the damage to the environment.
Suresh Nautiyal, President of India Greens Party, emphasized on the need for green politics to bring a paradigm shift in the climate arena.
Aman Sharma, a student activist from Fridays For Future, started a petition to declare a national climate emergency on change.org, which has over 2.8 lakh signatures so far. He said that he, along with a few other students, met the Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri.
The students, in their petition, urged the Minister to place climate issues at the centre of master plans and policies for cities, stop cutting trees for development projects and undertake proper environmental assessment of transport projects.
“Such strikes are important to raise political momentum around setting better climate targets,” said Tarun Gopalakrishnan, Deputy Programme Manager for Climate at the Centre for Science and Environment.
Billed as the biggest ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures, millions of students from across 160 countries participated in the Global Climate Strike.
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