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‘If the future is unsure, why go to school?’ says aneleven year old at UN Climate Action Summit

Ridhima Pandey, 11, on filing a petition at the UN Climate Action Summit.

Written by Neha Bhatt | New Delhi |
Updated: October 6, 2019 5:49:46 pm
UN Climate Action Summit Ridhima Pandey, 11, on filing a petition at the UN Climate Action Summit.

How did you become a part of the children’s group that filed a petition at the UN Climate Action Summit?

Our lawyer told us that a US organisation was going to file a petition related to global warming, so would we be interested in being a part of it? I said yes. I was then interviewed about my story and invited to New York to be a part of the event.

What was your biggest takeaway from the event?

It was my first time visiting the US and it was a very nice experience. It was great to see the response in New York to the Friday climate strike which started on September 20 when I was there. Adults and children marched for over three hours. At the summit, I was on two panels — one of them with Greta Thunberg, where we shared our stories. The other children had different stories but their concerns were the same. It made me feel that my concerns back in India were real and not a figment of my imagination. When I came back to Haridwar, I caught a cold due to dust pollution.

Ridhima Pandey, 11, on filing a petition at UN Climate Action Summit.

Thunberg has become the face of young climate activism. What was your impression of her?

She is so different from how she appears in the media. She is just a kid like the rest of us. She is not doing it for media attention as people are saying. I found her inspiring because of the way she has taken up climate issues, organising so many events and travelling across the sea despite her health problems, which includes aversion to loud sounds. She had to leave a few events at the summit mid-way because she felt unwell.

What got you interested in climate issues?

My parents (father Dinesh who works with an NGO and mother Vinita who works in the forest department.) In 2013, when the floods devastated Uttarakhand, I was told it happened due to global warming. I asked my parents why we were not doing anything about it. They decided to file a petition in my name in 2017. Through our lawyer Rahul Choudhary, we filed the petition at the National Green Tribunal against the government for not implementing environmental laws. I was upset that it was disposed by NGT for lack of evidence but I believe that is not justifiable, because we do have evidence. We are now waiting for a hearing from the Supreme Court. If I don’t get justice from the Supreme Court, I am ready to fight this alone on a large scale. I am now organising #Fridaysforfuture climate strikes in Haridwar, the first time in the city, to create awareness about the crisis and how we can do our bit in our homes.

There are many who say children should be in school and not fighting climate issues on the street. How do you react to that?

To those people who are criticising and discouraging us from speaking up, I say: first look at what you are doing, and then comment on us skipping school or getting distracted from studies. If my future is unsure and I can’t live a healthy life, what is the point of me going to school and learning anything? Why don’t you do something about the environment so that we can go back to school without worrying about our future?

Young eco-crusaders across the country lend a refreshing rigour to the climate movement.

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