What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

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Saving the planet – youth style!

A couple of months back, a group of us converged in Bangalore for a youth workshop on Intergenerational Partnerships for Climate Change Mitigation. It was our own workshop where we had tried to discuss how youth could forge partnerships for climate change mitigation as a basis for achieving sustainable development. The location was Visthar, a beautiful youth training center to the north of Bangalore, with a campus bearing a striking resemblance to a natural forest! There were only about twenty participants, mostly youth, but representing many different vocations – there were students, engineers, scientists, activists, artists, teachers and even bankers! The discussions we had were no less stimulating and productive than expected from a much larger and more ably qualified group either. Most importantly, the workshop brought us together and enabled us to derive motivation from each other!

A range of presentations displayed the commendable initiatives that youth across the country were involved in, and clearly reflected the amount of groundwork that was being undertaken. What was particularly evident was the myriad ways in which climate change affected communities and people alike. A college student from Hyderabad presented her case study on the prevalence of asthma, and meticulously related a rapid increase in the incidence of this common respiratory ailment to climate change as projected by the IPCC findings. Another group from Patna presented a moving report on how freshwater discharge into the Ganga river would be subjected to extreme variations because of climate change, how water mismanagement was compounding this situation and how this would profoundly impact the lives of the people of Bihar. Anugraha John from Bangalore spoke of his experiences with his youth environmental program, the China-India forum and of his vision for the Asian Citizens Alliance, an intergenerational gathering of committed change makers from across Asia that he envisioned. Kartikeya Singh of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) also described his experiences with the international climate change movement, and of the purpose and vision of the Indian Youth Climate Network.

We also had the opportunity to hear from eminent specialists – Mr. Shree Padre, the Magasaysay award winner and an established authority on rainwater harvesting, eloquently described how surface water was being wasted and spilled, and how climate change would cause an enormous decrease in rainfall and available surface water. Prof. Bhavani Shankar, retired Chief Civil Engineer of Karnataka shared with us the technological side of climate change and its impacts on water availability, and of the need for reviewing river water command area management to incorporate reduced in flows as an adaptation measure. We even managed a field trip to a CDM financed sustainable biogas cooking stoves project near Bagepalli, an hour’s drive north of Bangalore. The visit was highly informative, and we witnessed how economic benefits from market based climate change mitigation can bring sustainable growth to communities, although the inherent irony of those least responsible having to cut down on emissions wasn’t lost on us!

From the presentations and the ensuing discussions, it was evident to us that youth were not only clearly capable of positive action, but were also raring to go! What was needed was a convergence of ideas, not just people. Realistic, achievable and innovative ideas that could help effectively mitigate climate change forever, and help percolate sustainable benefits to our countrymen. We departed from Visthar after two days spent in the rare company of like minded people sharing concerns and outlooks, with a firmer resolve to redouble our efforts towards creating a sustainable planet.