By Ajay Kumar KR*
According to a study published in The Lancet medical journal, climate change is already harming people’s health by increasing the number of extreme weather events and exacerbating air pollution. And if we do nothing to mitigate it, its impact could burden an entire generation with disease and illness throughout their lives.
Children all around the world are living under the threat of climate change. Every child will inherit a planet with more frequent extreme weather events than ever before. Extreme events, including wildfires, floods, and hurricanes, have become a frightening new normal. Hotter temperatures, air pollution, and violent storms lead to immediate, life-threatening dangers for children, including difficulty breathing, malnutrition, and a higher risk of infectious diseases.
Who must fight for the future of our upcoming generations? Should children leave it up to the adults or take charge of their future by involving in climate change-related issues? Mr Nagraj Adve, a climate change activist based in New Delhi, feels that children should be both made aware and play an active role in climate change issues. Mr Adve is also a reputed author who works and writes on the science, impacts, and politics of global warming. His booklet has been translated into Hindi, Kannada, and Tamil. Apart from involving himself in climate change activism for the past 15 years, Mr Adve has also been involved in democratic rights, death penalty, human rights and lending voice for people displaced due to development.
Mr Adve credits his father, who was interested in society and social issues, for inspiring him to take up social activism. At his alma mater JNU, Mr Adve was involved in many student groups. He remembers his early days as a social activist where he was involved in the movement against the death penalty of Sathuluru Chalapathi Rao and Gentela Vijayvardhan Rao in the Narsarapet case. He says that he realised the importance of activism when they got the death penalty stayed by the Supreme Court just before 3 hours they were supposed to be hanged.
Climate change activism
On being asked why he chose to work on climate change issues, he said that “climate change touches many areas. Earlier, I was working on topics such as displacement due to development, urbanisation, inequality etc. All these issues are looked at in silos. Climate change allows us to connect the different problems together. For example, certain kinds of urbanisation and city planning, such as building cities on lakes, impact the ground water level of towns and have led to floods in cities such as Chennai. Do we need to have massive hydropower plants or four-lane roads in the mountains? Do we need sustainable development? All these questions are perfectly connected in the context of climate change.”. Mr Adve added, “Climate change is new, and there is a lot to learn for me. I started giving talks in schools and colleges and interacting with a lot of young people. This interested me to learn more about the science behind climate change as I am not from a science background.”
Mr Adve further added that climate change is evident these days, and people are aware of the issue due to media attention. However, he said that we need not blindly rely on the media reports since, sometimes, they are misinterpreted. People need to go to the source of information and educate themselves. Mr Adve believes in learning to express himself with the underpinning scientific facts and reasoning rather than merely blabbering on social media platforms.
Mr Adve is a regular speaker at various conferences, institutes, and colleges. His efforts are to raise awareness among the youth about the hazardous effects of climate change today and what it will bring tomorrow when it might be difficult to even step out of our houses. During his journey in climate change activism, he got associated with the TACC.
Mr Adve feels that it is essential for children, especially students, to understand the impact of climate change on their future. Earlier young people were sceptical about climate change, but now the effect is noticeable, and they understand that it is essential. Given the access to technology, it is easier for this generation to understand the issue thoroughly. Recently young activists like Greta Thunberg have shown that even young people can make their voices heard by world leaders.
“Ask yourself, what kind of city do you want yourself and your children to live in?” asked Mr Nagraj Adve. It is high time that we educate and involve our future generation in the decisions about climate chage. The question Mr Adve aske me left me wondering what would have happened had our ancestors been as irresponsible as we are? Would we be able to live the comfortable life that we are leading now?
*second-year MBA student at IIM Bangalore