Published: 02nd October 2019
Being Greta Thunberg: How Bengaluru's young climate warriors are actually pretty eco-savvy already
Why do we need to start acting today to save Earth? Some of the youngsters who are working for the cause of climate change speak about the changes they have adopted to reduce the carbon footprint
Reduce, reuse, recycle, remove, rejoice and respect were a few important words which were being chanted by the group of people who had gathered at Bengaluru's iconic Sir Puttanna Chetty Town Hall on the evening of September 27. Don't you feel that these words are more relevant in the current times, when the whole world is talking about climate change? The recent fire in the Amazon Forest, rising temperatures in different parts of India, heavy floods in Kerala and North Karnataka and Cyclone Fani in Odisha are enough proof of the adverse effects of climate change. Despite this, hardly any of us are acting in the right direction to bring changes to our lifestyles. This protest called the Global Climate Strike, that included school students, graduates from college, working professionals and others, not only aimed to create awareness among people and question the government, but they spoke about bringing simple changes to our lifestyles to be more environment-conscious.
Kaustubha Sharma is one person whose lifestyle can serve as an example for other youngsters. She used to work as a copywriter for one of the companies in Bengaluru. She quit her job last year to do something better. She says, "What I was doing did not give me happiness and that's why I had to quit the job. I did not want to work only for money, I wanted to do something with good intentions. Therefore, I am in talks with a few start-ups who make eco-friendly products and have offered to do digital marketing for them. Everyone needs marketing, whether it is a big or a small company. By marketing eco-friendly products, I can motivate people to buy more such products and reduce pollution in every way they can."
Unlike most of the youngsters who use social media to post TikTok videos and selfies, Kaustubha uses Instagram for a good cause. She posts Do It Yourself (DIY) videos that can help one live an eco-friendly life at home. All the latest news about climate change across the globe is available on her Insta page, called forbananapeel, for one to catch up on. She not only propagates zero-waste living, but also practices the same. The young environmentalist says, "When I went to Bali last year, I came across a few Europeans who practiced zero-waste production. I wondered, this is how life was in India before the advent of plastic and other non-degradable substances. Therefore, I make my own compost out of the kitchen waste that I produce. This way, 70 per cent of the waste from the house doesn’t go out. At the end of every month, I make an inventory of the dry waste that I produce at home. By doing so, I can analyse and understand how I can further reduce the production of dry waste."
Inspiration: Kaustubha runs a Whatsapp group called Cloth Strap Bengaluru where one can exchange clothes and help reduce the water from getting polluted with chemical colours and dyes (Pics: Rashmi Patil)
Kaustubha’s DIY products include making her own toothpaste and soap solution to wash utensils. But before she could come up with a final product, she conducted a lot of experiments. For example, she used baking soda as an alternative to toothpaste until she realised that it will eventually have a negative impact on her gums. Now, she makes her own tooth powder using charcoal, cinnamon and clove. She says, "Believe me! This tooth powder really works. I make liquid soap out of lemons. Similarly, when I travel, I use certain products to reduce the amount of trash that I produce. I use a metal straw, a steel lunch box, organic soaps and shampoo bars, reusable water bottles, gloves to pick the trash on the roads and dispose them of into bins and so on." Kausthuba is truly living a life that reduces trash that reaches landfills and is doing her bit to turn the tables when it comes to climate change.
While most of the students were holding placards with different messages written on it, Shelly Debbral was holding a book called The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. When I asked her the reason behind it, she says, "I have been reading this book for a few days now and it talks about how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on the extinction of wildlife is not being taken seriously by any government. And I feel that this is relevant to what is happening these days."
Soon after completing her BE in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology in Agartala, Shelly took up a fellowship in Sustainable Living at Bhoomi College, Bengaluru. She says, "Last year, I read a book called This Changes Everything by Naomi Klien. It is a book on capitalism versus climate change. What made me angry was how the western civilisation goes on to deny that climate change is happening for real while I have been studying about it ever since I had Environmental Education. That is when I decided to take up this fellowship programme. I felt the need to change some of the old habits myself in order to bring about changes among people. In this fellowship, we study the module on food and how it impacts climate and species. Now, we are studying agriculture and which crop is suitable for which soil. The fellowship focuses more on experiential and hands-on learning or research-based learning. It is all about learning through the way we live our lives."
Smooth ride: Shelly opts to take public transport as much as she can so that she can reduce air pollution
Amidst the roar of students, I could also hear people shouting 'Save Tibet'. A group of students belonging to the Student for Free Tibet (Bengaluru Chapter) came together to seek support against the exploitation of natural resources by China. Once a land filled with life and greenery, a place that is a source of pure water on Earth and serves as a resource to many countries, is under the threat of losing all its natural resources. Tenzin Tseten, who studies Bachelor’s of Arts from St Joseph's College, expressing her concern, says, "After China invaded Tibet, it has been exploiting all the natural resources. The tribals are being driven away from the forests in the name of development and several green pastures have been turned into mining lands. It seems like there is no end to it. And we cannot talk against the Chinese government as we are already in exile. As students, we can only gather support from every part of the world to save Tibet for future generations."
Free Tibet: Students for Free Tibet (Bengaluru Chapter) said that it was important to save tibet and its natural resources from being exploited (Pic: Students for Free Tibet)
Masks for all
Thanks to the bad quality of air, many people in Bengaluru are forced to wear masks. Therefore, Avijit Michael wears a mask and distributes them to others whenever he attends such campaigns. He is an Executive Director of Jhatkaa, a campaigning organisation that works with citizens to build the power to question the actions of the government. He distributed masks among the people and informed them about the amount of air pollution, especially gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, Bengaluru produces every year.
Avijit explains, "The reason behind giving these masks to people is the bad air quality of the city. We are working with researchers and doctors to study the impact air pollution has on our health. According to the recent research conducted by Dr Rahul Patil of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, in the last ten years, the number of heart attacks suffered by people below 40 years of age has gone up. He was also able to inform that it is people like cab drivers, lorry drivers and petty shop owners, who’s shops are situated on the roadside, who are the victims of a heart attack. And all of them are non-smokers. It is the bad quality of air that is the cause behind this."
In a few days, Avijit will be holding another protest in Bengaluru, but this will also include placing demands in front of the Transport Commissioner on how they can act upon older vehicles which emit a lot of carbon and how they can be banned from the roads.