YOUTH CLIMATE ACTIVISTS PROTEST DURING THE PANDEMIC
Youth climate activists worldwide are raising their voices about climate change and pollution, even though they are on lockdown during the pandemic. They’re protesting and pushing the message of stopping pollution and destruction of nature to local and national leaders. I reached out to the international branch of Fridays For Future (FFF), to find out what some of their most active members were doing. FFF is a global climate strike movement that was started by Greta Thunberg. Many young people are part of the cause and are eager to get leaders to take better care of the planet.
*Editor’s Note* All interviews are in the participants own words, limited editing done for clarity where needed.
Abhinav Lohkare lives in a slum in India locally called, Zopadpatti. He’s fighting to take care of the planet for all the people who live there. He says his community is “underrepresented, underserved, overlooked, and marginalized,” and looks forward to changing this.
Lohkare believes in action, not just talking about change. He does Twitter Storms and online petitions to protest. When the Covid-19 lockdown is over, he will do in-person events such as inviting the city mayor to citizen assemblies, giving speeches at his school, and street paintings.
Lohkare says, “In India, success means making a lot of money,” and that’s not important if the world is polluted and dying. He believes, “success is nothing but an illusion.”
Lohkare says he can’t look to his future since the world is in an “existential crisis, and we’re fighting to prevent this crisis and make a future just livable for all.”
He would like to uplift his family from poverty by working for the Forest Department or as a conservationist. Organic farming is also an interest to this youth climate activist.
What’s Happening in India
I’m from Nagpur City, India. I’m 17 and have been an environmental activist for one and a half years.
I’m concerned about what’s happening in my community. Since the end of August, it has been continuously raining, and most of the part of Nagpur division has been flooded, and many bridges have collapsed which were built on the Wainganga River.
The floods have hit 55,000 people in the Vidharbha region, and nearly 10,000 people have been affected in the Nagpur district. Also, states like Assam, Bihar, Odisha, etc. are still fighting from the flood crisis.
Climate Change and Pollution Problems
Initial flooding started in mid-May 2020 and worsened later. It happens every year and is intensifying each passing year. That’s why I started an online petition to bring awareness to this problem.
Then came the Floods in the Brahmaputra River. More than 85 people have died, 75 Lakh people have been displaced, 150,000 acres of crops have been damaged, and 108 animals have died, including ten-One-Horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga National Park.
Oil Well Fire
An oil well blow-out happened on May 27 and caught fire on June 9, in the Tinsukia district, of the state of Assam. It has polluted the river and destroyed many flora and fauna located in a nearby forest. There havebeen some blow-outs after that, and it’s still burning.
Bander Coal Block Auction
The Bander Coal Block is where fossil fuels were discovered, but it’s untouched, and mining hasn’t started yet. The area is full of biodiversity that is at risk, which is why we are opposing the coal mine.
PM Modi set some 48 (+/-) coal areas for auctions to businesses that want to mine coal, of which 90% of the areas are in eco-sensitive zones. One of the zones is the Bander Coal Block II, located in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (between the Nagpur and Chandrapur districts.) If these coal blocks are auctioned, the businesses would be free to do whatever they want and cut down as many trees as they wish.
His Climate Activism Work
I’m actively campaigning with Fridays for Future India and Extinction Rebellion India for all these environmental issues. We have done so many Twitter Storms to put pressure on the government to stop the deforestation activities in the name of development in different parts of the nation. I also have started an online petition for the Assam Floods, which has gotten more than 21,026 signatures.
Response From Local Leaders
After the Twitter Storm, the Environment Minister of Maharashtra requested the central government to withdraw the Bander Coal Block from the auction, and it has been withdrawn from the auction.
I have a petition about the Assam Floods four times and a peace letter three times, to the responsible authorities and tagging different media houses. Despite all of this, there has been no response from local leaders.