Published: 10th February 2021
How this Kerala youth+government project is raising a red flag against Climate Change
Project C5 was set up in 2018 to disrupt the narrative around climate change. We find out how they have managed to do this every step of the way through a number of local initiatives
The tides began to turn in 2018.
K Vasuki was the Collector of Thiruvananthapuram at the time and the environment was a major part of her action plan. In a bid to get young people off their devices and on the warpath for nature, she decided to set up a collective. To specifically address manmade environment issues, she brought together over 100 students and IT professionals. Out of this, she personally selected 25 through interviews. And five were chosen out of them for an internship programme that would serve towards this end. One among the chosen 5, Vishnu PR, speaks to us today about what has now become Project C5.
Project C5 stands for Change Can Change Climate Change and it was made up of experts with a plethora of degrees like MSW, B Tech, IT and Accounts. Vishnu himself was an IT guy having established a BPO start-up with his friend. He says, “I had an interest for the social sector and was looking for exposure when this happened.”
He continues, “Climate change was just becoming a buzzword at the time, it hadn’t really grown to this level of recognition yet. When people hear of climate change, they only think of melting glaciers and the rising sea level, not enough about the on-ground impact of the phenomenon. Collector Vasuki’s intention was to disrupt this line of thinking. This is when we joined and began working with the team.”
FIRST TEAM: The volunteers were chosen by former
Thiruvananthapuram Collector K Vasuki
Not long before their formation, the Kerala floods rocked the capital and threatened many lives across the state. They mobilised around 10,000 volunteers who worked in a number of batches. Through this, the project established themselves and won recognition for their work as the first citizen’s initiative for climate change. As the name suggests, the idea is about encouraging changes that people can make in themselves and in their behaviour towards manmade climate issues.
The stakeholders at C5 are mainly members of the state government. On behalf of the district administration, it is the collector who gives orientation and runs the show. Run like a social incubator, the idea is to mobilise volunteers from all walks of life to represent climate change action and spread the word and educate civilians on what steps can be taken. These primarily include NSS volunteers from colleges, a number of NGOs, business communities and resident organisations. Currently there are more that 3000 volunteers in the state capital.
DRIVE CHANGE: The project initiated cleaning and
information drives in public dumpsites
One of the first projects launched by C5 is Udhyanam, targeted at waste management in Thiruvananthapuram. Volunteers come together to clean urban dumpsites in the city and convert them into public gardens. Following this, they visit houses within a 1 km radius of each of these areas and organise a door-to-door campaign in order to educate people about the corporation’s existing waste management plan.
Again, organised at urban dumpsites or dump yards which are urban plots that have been left abandoned, the organisation introduces organic farming. In the same way, they educate people in the area about organic farming and them about subsidies available in the area that could support them in setting it up. The volunteers teach people how to set it up in their homes. Special attention is given to students or young professionals who can follow sustainable practices in their apartments by setting up vegetable gardens in their apartments.
GREEN GAZE: Volunteers are trained to be environmentally conscious
Green event management
One of their most recent projects is involved in green event management which works towards implementing the green protocol during events. The first such event they organised was Vishnu’s own wedding. He says, “We realised that rewards are the best incentive to get people to be conscious! So we award them certificates from the Suchitwa Mission and Haritha Keralam. We tried to inspire people by making ourselves an example.”
In association with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, they have created and mentor Project Adithi. The idea is to ensure accessibility for responsible travelling to more people. It begins from the minute you set foot at the airport or railway station. C5 encourages alternative like an e-auto or e-taxi in the place of an ordinary hire. And Instead of giving your culture to the host community, they teach you to take back their culture and learn from it in what is like in an exchange model whose main aim is to travel without hurting nature.
BOARD ROOM: The initiatives are carried out in various localities
Vishnu says, “Under the fancy names of these projects, our main idea is to spread this awareness. Instead of simply going into campaign mode, we create a model of sorts on our own and based on this, we mobilise the restaurants association or residential groups and lead by example. Although the collector’s initial intention was just to run this for a year, it became unexpectedly successful and continue to this day.”
In April 2019, C5 was officially registered as a non-profit foundation. When K Vasuki stepped out of office, she didn’t want the idea to be diluted, so the 5 social entrepreneurs that she had chosen decided to take the dream forward. In the same year, UN Secretary General António Guterres called for member states to do more than just discuss climate change and urged each one of them to create an action plan for the same.
NAME CALL: Vishnu representing India at UN headquarters
On September 21, the UN held a Youth Climate Action Summit in New York where they selected 100 green ticket winners — climate activists from each country to represent the cause. Vishnu was chosen as the representative from India. He says, “We got this recognition before we even completed an entire year as a registered organisation. This is because we have been able to work together with a single aim.”
Vishnu continues, “I went to the UN, listened to Greta’s ‘How Dare You’ speech, got a lot of exposure and learnt a lot about other countries. Following this, many institutions NGOs and colleges have come to learn from us.” This year, the Earth Day Network has chosen C5 as their South India consultants. Having gotten the attention they needed, the hope is to take the movement to a national level to raise a giant red flag reminding people that the climate needs our immediate attention.