Lull Before the Storm
Youth organizations in South Asia are raising awareness of rapid weather changes. Will they convince world leaders to take proactive steps before it is too late?
Climate change continues to impact our world and could have detrimental effects on our very survival if it continues to be ignored. As the global community shows grave concern over issues like war, economic stability and global security, problems of climate change are ignored.
Earlier this year, New Yorkers gathered in Battery Park to mark the Climate Impact Day. The gathering termed as “Connect the Dots” aimed to create a link between fossil fuels and flooding and prompt decision makers to take action. Just a few days back, even presidential candidates ignored climate change and focused on ‘more important’ issues of job creation, healthcare and war. However, Hurricane Sandy seems to have woken everybody up again. But will this prove to be a wake-up call for the global community?
Reviewing the overall work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), sustainable climate remains
a vital yet overlooked issue. This could prove to be a serious mistake on our part. With a varying topography and heavy reliance on agriculture, South Asia will find itself in a precarious situation, if it does not employ cohesive measures to control the imminent crisis.
It is perhaps this realization and an alarming concern for the future that provoked 25 young people from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to recently meet at a training titled, “Training for Trainers” in Dhaka to discuss climate change and consequent social activism.
According to the World Bank, one fifth of the population in South Asia is between the ages of 15 and 24. This is the largest count of youth ever to transition into adulthood, both in South Asia and in the world. The youth in South Asia is increasingly concerned about global warming and is eager to gain knowledge of scientific methods and possibilities for social activism. This concern prompted 350.org and the Bangladeshi Youth Movement for Climate ( BYMC) to hold a training allowing participants to impart skills and run successful campaigns highlighting climate issues back home. In addition to this, an understanding of the science behind global warming, climate change and its effects was also discussed. The trainees were taught various learning patterns, experiences and activities to empower them with the tools required to deliver similar trainings to fellow countrymen.
South Asia is not the direct emitter of carbon gases however it is the direct recipient of devastation caused by climate change. Land sliding, glacier melt, rising sea levels, floods, deforestation, loss of bio life, garbage management, and droughts are just a few issues to name. It is high time that governments in South Asia deem climate change a priority in their policies.
Kumar Manish, working for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in India stated, “At present, climate change is still not at the forefront of government policies. The steps to combat climate change are fragmented, isolated and not result oriented. South Asian countries need to have a proper mechanism to address it on the ground level. The real challenge is to make these issues more human than technical.”
Belonging to the same region,
Just a few days back, even presidential candidates ignored climate change and focused on ‘more important’ issues of job creation, healthcare and war. However, Hurricane Sandy seems to have woken everybody up again. But will this prove to be a wake-up call for the global community?
young participants were able to connect the impacts and fears mutually. From floods in Pakistan to rising sea levels in the Maldives, the challenges might be different but the causes and outcomes remain similar. Anil Udaya, Event Coordinator, Rising Artist Group, Nepal said, “It really helps you to know your stance in the world and how we all have common issues. What can be more educative than to share the experience and ideas with others as we are victims of same problem.”
It is unfortunate that issues like unemployment, health, security, and education dominate global development debates. A lack of awareness compels many in South Asia to conclude that climate change is not our cup of tea. It is imperative to understand that climate change indirectly affects all the issues that cripple us today. For in- stance, the overpopulation and lack of physical space in Karachi is due to the migration of displaced people from floods in interior Sindh and Punjab. While rural-urban migration occurs because of employment opportunities, over the past few years, the trend has increased owing to the detrimental effects of natural disasters.
The Pakistani youth is geared up to enhance general awareness on climate change. Addressing climate issues nationally, mobilizing likeminded people and creating pressure groups is imperative to generate traction on the subject. Farwa Tassaduq who works with the Pakistan Sustainable Network (PSN) shared, “By utilizing the power of the youth, environmental awareness can be raised to make local, regional as well as global policy makers understand the urgency of the situation.”
Where climate change and response is concerned, no matter how grave the issue, the young people of South Asia are willing to play their part. It is a heartening sign that South Asia despite all its ups and lows still has the youth as its greatest force. As long as they are ready to combat climate change, the future of South Asia is promising. Sabina Rizwan Khan is a certified youth trainer and works as a youth activist on climate issues in Pakistan.