Published: 11th June 2019
Lessons from the Pole: Why Neelima Mishra's Arctic experience matters
As per Mishra, the biggest threat to the environment is single-use plastic, which is avoidable and in most cases, unnecessary
Jamsetji Tata had a vision for a township, that eventually became the industrial city Jamshedpur. He wanted "shady trees" and "plenty of space for lawns and gardens". And it is probably this visionary that Neelima Mishra has to thank for her connect to nature because when this Odia was born in Jamshedpur, it is in these open and green spaces that she spent most of her time in. "Despite it being an industrial city, it was not polluted. There was a certain oneness with nature I felt there," says Mishra. And this connection urged her on to the path of gaining more environmental awareness. So even after pursuing Engineering from ITER in Bhubaneswar and working for Capgemini as a software engineer for four years, she quit it all to pursue a course in Forest Mangement from Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal. "I come from a middle-class family and job security was a huge deal and engineering provided you that," says the 33-year-old who eventually listened to her heart. After her course, she worked for Odisha Rural Development And Marketing Society, was a Senior Project Associate with Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and currently, works with the Finance Department of the Government of Odisha. Add to all this, she will be travelling to the Arctic as a participant of the prestigious Climate Force: Arctic 2019 Expedition led by none other than Robert Swan, the first man to have walked both the poles. How cool is that?
All smiles: Neelima Mishra is passionate about the environment | (Pic: Irfana)
An excited Mishra tells us how she has been following Robert Swan's work and is extremely enthused about meeting him in person. "It's like a dream come true," shares Mishra, grinning from ear to ear. Because this expedition, which begins on June 15, is about learning about the Arctic ecosystem as much as it is about fostering environmental leadership, this environment enthusiast is also excited about meeting like-minded people. A group of 80, selected from over 5,000 applications across the world, were chosen for this expedition which aims to spread awareness about sustainability, renewable energy, climate change and what consequences they have on the present and the future of Earth. After being selected, she crowdfunded for her expedition which would cost her `13 lakh and more. Her appeal on gocrowdera.com makes it clear that because Odisha has incessantly been at the receiving end of climate change and increased number of tropical cyclones, case in point the recent Cyclone Fani, she wants to do her bit to understand climate change and it's effects better. "Many wonderful people have recommended me to others and helped me raise the required funds," she shares. Corporate sponsorships and selling alternatives to single-use plastic products like straws and cutlery have also helped her cause to a great extent. "I often notice that people want to shift from using single-use plastic to more sustainable alternatives, but they aren't sure where to source it from, so I ventured into selling steel straws, bamboo cutlery and other such products," she explains. Through all her learnings, she wants to particular contribute to the cause of waste management which plagues the society. "Bhubaneswar is a smart city, but there is still a question mark when it comes to waste management," she shares.
Biju Patnaik University of Technology was the academic partner while Annapurna Finance sponsored clothing and travel gear for Mishra. There is Jindal Power and Steel who sponsored the travel, there is Jai Mata Dee Road Construction who provided financial aid too and so did Hindalco Industries
Mishra has always worked for spreading environmental awareness in her own personal capacity. She has delivered many a session at corporates like Annapurna Finance, Ajatus Software and more. Not someone to just talk about her cause, Mishra also followed a strict #PlasticFreeJuly, which Plastic Free Foundation in Australia had started, and through her regular updates on social media, inspired a hoard of other people to follow in her footsteps. "Instead of wrapping gifts, I just gave them as it is. I even made the switch from sanitary napkins to menstrual cups," she shares and adds, "Many people used to comment on my posts saying they look forward to them every day." She feels that there have been tiny behavioural changes amongst her acquaintances, but of course, there is a need for much more, she acknowledges. Apart from this, she segregates waste at her house, recycles waste and even composts at home.
Dedicated and how: Mishra has been working for this cause for over eight years now | (Pic: Irfana)
Mishra is eagerly waiting for D-Day so that she can go beyond her call for the environment. She also vows to never forget the little girl who would often find herself amongst nature in Jamshedpur and somewhere along the way, fell in love with it.
What we can do to help her cause:
- Faze out the usage of plastic from your life, slowly and steadily
- Start doing small things like composting or waste segregation
- Always, be conscious of the environment