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?

Southasia - - Climate Change - By Sabina Rizwan Khan

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.

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