What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Back to School !

The IYCN Schools Program began on a wonderful note,with a session on the Youth and Climate Change at Sanskriti, one of the most eco-friendly schools in New Delhi a few days ago. The two hour interaction was definitely an all time high ,especially for the seven IYCN members present there. Their strong belief in the ability of children to make a difference was echoed by the class XI students who got together to create a new city, by naming it ‘Youngistan’.

After a brief warming up session, students were encouraged to raise questions on climate, science and policy. Interestingly, the students themselves had the answers and often asked profound questions much to everyone’s amazement.

Standing amidst the children, I was indeed amazed to see the seriousness with which the students approached the issue. They had very well grasped the idea that climate change was merely not an environmental issue but also a socio-economic one. Their senstivity was highlighted when they brought to the attention of everyone the plight of lesser fortunate citizens of the country and their resolve to critically relook at their own lifestyles. The discussion ranged from consumerism to government initiative to active citizenship. Questions regarding development and sustainability created a discussion that saw the students realizing the complexity of the issue at hand.

What was also heartening was the presence of teachers who actively engaged themselves in the interaction. Over the last few years, Sanskriti has been adopting eco friendly appraoches to both their education technique and school infrastructure. The school even has an Environmental Studies(EVS) lab as well as initiatives to keep the campus clean. Students also told us about the efforts some teachers have been taking to teach about environmental consciousness. We also witnessed an Art class where junior students were deeply involved in making innovative objects out of e-waste.

Another highlight was the closed interaction we were able to have with the members of the school’s Eco Club, otherwise known as the Green Brigade. Led by enthusiastic seniors and juniors alike, they bombarded us with so many interesting ideas. In the end, all we could tell them was to believe in their actions and to confidently move ahead, despite all obstacles. The Green Brigade also brainstormed on issues such as the BRT Corridor and waste recycling.

IYCN’s Schools Program aims to reach out to students across the city, including both government and private institutions and to spread the message of the need to tackle climate change together. Although, initially, many of them are apprehensive of taking the first step, it is important to help them realize that the challenge is theirs. They are the ones who are going to inherit this planet in the next few decades and we all need to come up with solutions, however small it may be to prevent ourselves from falling into total chaos.

The  confidence and glee on the students faces however, put all our doubts to rest! They bid farewell by gifting us a plant each, a reminder of their resolution to be the change they wish to see.


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Rethinking 1984

Outside:  Sunny and bright.

Inside:  Dark and dingy.  

 

A world of contrast opened up before me as I stepped into that small room, with no windows and very little space to move around. My eyes fell on eleven-year old Suraj lying on the bed, his hands and legs sickly thin.  

 

All those questions that I had suddenly wanted to ask simply disappeared and a feeling of despair crept into the air.  

 

 Suraj suffers from complete Cerebral Palsy. The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by abnormalities in those parts of the brain that control muscle movements. Cerebral Palsy has no cure but special therapeutic treatment can induce certain improvements.Children with severe cerebral palsy can never sit, stand, walk, talk or play.

The title of this article might have misled many into thinking that it is probably about some political or literary event.Instead, it is about the dreadful night of Dec 2, 1984 when about 40 tones of methyl iso cyanate (MIC) from the Union Carbide India Limited’s (UCIL) pesticide factory escaped into the air and enveloped various areas of the city of Bhopal. These areas, right outside the walls of the Union Carbide factory were inhabited by poor families who earned a living as daily wage labourers, factory and construction workers. At night, when everyone was asleep, the gas spread like wild fire causing irritation, suffocation and sudden death to about 2,000 people.  

 

 It does not make sense to explain the details of the event, as we are all aware that what Bhopal encountered was one of the worst man made disasters.What we often forgot to mention is that it is also a case of the grossest violation of human rights, environmental safety, of corporate crime and of how the poor everywhere are exploited so easily.  

 

Visiting the now abandoned UCC factory in Bhopal can teach many a lesson. The air is stale and the remaining parts of the heavy machinery continue to rot. The icing remains the chemical slush on the ground. Mr. T.K. Chauhan, a former supervisor with one of the departments of the factory took us around and explained to us the names of the chemicals. I honestly cannot recollect their precise names. The only thing I remember from what he said is the fact that the chemicals were highly hazardous with the potential to kill.  

 

 Had children like Suraj been considered a rare case in these bastees, we would not have been so worried. However the truth is, ever since the incident, there has been an increase in the number of such children being born here, many of them with severe cerebral palsy, mental retardation and Down syndrome. Children born without such deformities suffer from illnesses such as chest pain, eye irritation, weaknesses, headaches, reproductive problems, skin problems, cancer and even immunological changes…pains that could last a lifetime.  

 

 The Bhopal tragedy has multiplied over the decades. The people now suffer mostly from water contamination. The chemicals have seeped underground and reacted with the ground water. The water is yellowish at times and people often say that by drinking it, they experience an unexplainable sensation in which they feel that their throat is on fire.

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A Proactive Civil Society and Climate Change

What does our world wake up to??

To the news of children being killed in Iraq, of the homeless in Sudan, rising inflation, new consumer products, cinema, scientific discoveries and what not.

But of late, we are waking up to another unfortunate reality. That of climate change.

Climate change is a global problem that is going to affect us all negatively. And I realise that government leadership might seem as the most important factor. But given the fact that governmental goals are short term, only a proactive civil society can help spread awareness and mobilize people for public opinion, political participation and exerting pressure on representatives.

We need to realise that a civil society includes not just non-governmental organisations and groups, but individuals as well, you and me, people from various sectors-business, media, finance, academics, the young and the old. Any one who believes in creating a society that can sustain itself and move towards a better future. Climate change is predominantly an urban phenomenon and challenge. Though people living in rural areas bear the brunt of it, the challenge against it has to emanate from us. In response to this, cities are also making strides in mitigating GHG emissions from sectors they have direct control or influence over and that is why, some of the most influential sections amidst us can help build this proactive civil society, namely: the media, the business sector, NGOs and the youth.

The media is undoubtedly an element that can single-handedly create a global platform to tackle climate change and related issues. Both the print media and electronic media and the internet have had a significant impact on the way we think and act.

Littering, a problem of civil society?So imagine what change can be brought about if the media was to provide information to the people. If TV channels and newspapers were going to tell us of the ups and downs of the products we consume. We all know that global mass media lives off certain buzz words and they will be only glad to create an atmosphere of fear, with an issue as dangerous such as this. But let us not deny the power possessed by the media. What we need is a responsible mass media that will handle the truth in an efficient manner.

The media can help in educating people across regions. as media consumers can demand the truth only a pro active civil society

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