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Saturday, December 07, 2019

Climate change: Students strike to ‘get back our dreams and future’

Ahead of the second Global Climate Strike protest on November 29, which will witness students take time off from school to 'strike' and press for action on climate change, student-led environment groups speak about the importance of the protest.

Written by Jayashree Narayanan | New Delhi | Updated: November 27, 2019 5:30:14 pm
#BachonKiMannKiBaat', single use plastic, waste segregation, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, Global Climate Strike, November 29 climate strike, Global Climate Strike India, air pollution, greta thunberg, climate change, environment, dia mirza, UN Environment, Cuckoo about Nature, Aman Sharma, Aditya Dubey Plant A million trees, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza (in center) with student-led environmental groups. (Photo: Aman Sharma/Instagram)

Asees Khandari, a class 10 student and junior national basketball player, has had her tournaments cancelled around winter owing to air pollution in New Delhi. In fact, her parents now wonder at the pointlessness of “waking up early to practice day-in and day-out”.

“It is quite disheartening to see our dreams shatter. Air pollution affects all of us in a personal way. It is also shocking to see children half my age suffering from asthma. The government needs to take some strong steps,” Asees tells indianexpress.com. Her sibling, Asheer, says: “Greta Thunberg is an inspiration. relies on truth. She feels that climate change is not something which is going to happen 10 or 15 years later. It is happening right now.

They are among the many student activists gearing up for the second Global Climate Strike protest on November 29, which will witness students and their supporters take time off from school and work to ‘strike’. They will press for action on climate change, days before the United Nations climate change conference kicks off in Chile, South America on December 2, 2019.

 

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Organised by the #FridaysforFuture youth movement along with other student-led environmental initiatives across the world, the Global Climate Strike is a response to a call given by Swedish teen climate icon Greta Thunberg who rallied in New York in September 2019, where 1.1 million children skipped school and took part in the strike in major cities across the world including Berlin, Bangkok and Washington DC. The Global Climate Strike India will see students from various cities of India including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune.

“I am lucky enough to have a mask, air purifier but then there are thousands of other children, adults and people on the streets who don’t. Every child has the right to breathe and have a healthy future,” says Asheer, adding the protest will see them “putting our demands forward for clean air”.

As many as 4,000 cities across the world would take part in the worldwide protest against rising pollution and climate change.

The students will carry out different campaign sessions, demonstrations on the streets to engage the locals and are working towards environmental initiatives with schools, colleges and government organisations ahead of the strike.

Sixteen-year-old Aman Sharma, co-founder of Cuckoo About Nature (CAN Club), a birding and nature environmental group, who will be leading the global protest in New Delhi, tells indianexpress.com, “I think it is a responsibility for every citizen of this country to rise to the occasion and make our policymakers realise where they have gone wrong, on issues like the environment, whether climate change or/and deforestation.”

Sustainable living is happening, but not at the rate we expect: Dia Mirza

Sharma, the Khandaris and 16-year-old Aditya Dubey, founder of Plant A Million Trees initiative, recently collected 3,30,000 signatures on their petition ‘National Climate Emergency Declaration’,  addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They have submitted it to the Prime Minister’s Office. “It talks about declaring a climate emergency in India; without acknowledging a problem, we can’t go about solving it. Planting more trees may be a solution but once polluted particles enter my bloodstream, no matter, if I surround myself with an entire forest or eat a carrot every day, those particles are never going to come out. The long-term impact of our ecological degradation is going to be devastating,” points out Sharma.

 

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“The point should not be to distribute masks (referring to free distribution of anti-pollution masks by the Delhi Government) but to make the environment cleaner so you no longer need masks. By doing this, it is our intention to make the highest office in the country realise the importance of effective policies on climate,” says Asees, who was also part of a Children’s Day campaign #BachonkiMannKiBaat where children wrote letters to the Prime Minister about what they want.

But how do they react to political leaders suggesting that “children are being used“? “Every person who is fighting for the environment including Greta is passionate about the cause. We are a generation that is self-aware and working towards a better world. Politicians like Trump may say that children are being used, but we just want our dreams and future back,” states Asees.

Take 5 on sustainable living

*Talk to people around you and tell them about your individual actions and how they can support you and also the environment.

*Stop single-use plastic.

*Install water faucets as they reduce the stream flow.

*Segregate waste.

*Reduce consumption.

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