Published: 17th August 2019
Aditi Anand established why it is ‘cool to care’ and how youngsters across India are taking up the cause of conservation very seriously
Her recent achievements include representing India at the International Art Festival “Planet of Art” conducted by UNESCO clubs association in Kazakhstan
Fridays are for future. Thanks to 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, Fridays have a new significance. It's a pleasant coincidence that we have all gathered here today on a Friday to talk about our future.
I, Aditi Anand, am no Greta Thunberg, but just an ordinary 14-year-old who has a soft spot for the environment, and is doing her best to help.
‘Our world in 2050’ is one of the most common topics we students are asked to write essays on, or make posters about in school. Now, most students have similar ideas to express this. I would like you all to visualise this - One half of the earth is vibrant and green, the picture of an idyllic, happy world, filled with lush trees and fishes swimming in clear water. The other half of the picture is dull and grey - the picture of a sad, abused earth. Factories replace the trees and thick black swirls of smoke choke animals. Plastic and waste are scattered everywhere, plants are dried to a crisp and the fish are reduced to mere skeletons.
The second half of the picture is perhaps how most people perceive the future to be. With growing concerns like climate change, global warming, increasing population and depleting natural resources, this could very well end up being our future. But, me being the optimist I am, think that we still have a good chance to turn the tables. The world is sure to get better as we learn from each other, seek inspiration, create and innovate.
On stage: Aditi Anand being felicitated by Editor-in-Chief of TNIE GS Vasu | (Pic: Express)
In this very room, there are several eco-sapiens who are rendering tireless services to the environment. Elsewhere, young Indians are following the world trend of Fridays for future and are actively campaigning against climate change. 15-year-old Gautam Dayal in Bengaluru is fighting to save Bellandur Lake. 16-year-old Aman is greatly troubled by the heat-wave that struck Delhi and the water crisis in Chennai. He has started a petition on Change.org which appeals to the government of India to declare a national climate emergency.
Each and every one of us can make a difference in our own little way. I seek my inspiration from Isabel and Melati Wijsen, teen sisters from Bali, Indonesia. Often while swimming at the beach, a bag of plastic would wrap around their arms. Isabel and Melati decided that enough was enough. They went on to start petitions, organised beach clean-ups on a massive scale and even went to the extreme of going on a food strike. They did not have a proper strategy or financial advisors. But they had the passion and the drive to achieve something for the city they loved. Finally, they were successful in convincing the Bali government to say ‘Bye-Bye’ to plastic bags.
I am fortunate enough to live in a house with solar panels, a water harvesting pit and vermicomposting unit. Over the last one year, we also began to segregate waste. We revived an age-old practice of rinsing the milk covers and oil sachets and set them aside for recycling. Once the bags of plastics started piling up, I couldn't help but notice plastic wherever I went. It was an eye-opener for me. I started to feel very strongly against all kinds of one time use plastics.
The pink plastic spoons at my favourite ice cream parlour ‘Naturals’ were no longer a pretty sight. I approached the management, asking them to switch to a natural alternative - and was pleasantly surprised to get a prompt response from them. They had already begun the switch. Weeks later, I enjoyed my cup of frozen delight with a natural wooden spoon.
Plastics have made life pretty easy for all of us, and we tend to always choose comfort over cause. Feeling thirsty? Why carry a bottle from home when you can easily buy a Bislari from outside? Why carry a cloth bag, when we anyways get plastic carry-bags at a very cheap cost? Party at home, buy disposables. We never think twice about the unwise choices we make as consumers. Especially for teenagers, it is considered ‘old school’ or ‘uncool’, to be seen around with a cloth bag!
It is important to change that perspective. It is cool to change, and it is cool to care. Currently, as part of a fellowship programme, 25 of us teens at Hyderabad are spreading ideas through various forms of art on social media on topics like sustainability, gender equality and much more. My school, Delhi Public School, Secunderabad is also participating in a programme called the Green Your School Programme conducted by the CII. We students are coming up with ideas to take our school’s green initiatives to the next level. Such activities are sure to sensitise more youngsters to think and to care.
Recently, when on a family outing, my younger cousin was curious about why I was carrying my own cutlery from home. I grabbed the opportunity, and explained to her how single-use plastics were making the earth ‘very sick’. I taught her about dry and wet waste and why they needed to be separated. To my great surprise, the next day, she remembered to segregate a banana peel from other dry paper waste. One need not be Greta, or Isabel, to initiate change. Change can start even from even a four-year-old!
This change is what will propel us to a green future - A 2050 that we all look forward to.
(Aditi Anand is 14 years old. She is a student of Delhi Public School, Secunderabad (presently in grade 10). Aditi has represented her school in several art and literary competitions and won laurels at the state and national level. She campaigns for reduction in usage for single-use plastic in her own school. She was speaking at TNIE's 40 under 40 Eco Conclave)