Youngest climate petitioner of Bangladesh reflects on her journey as an environmental activist
I was only 13 years old when I started believing the climate crisis beyond a piece of scientific information as an emergency. Since then, whenever I close my eyes and think about the climate crisis, I see a grim, bleak and dire reality: A world in which many up to 200 species may go extinct every single day.
People are suffering from extreme hunger and poverty. Water is seemingly everywhere, but not a single drop to drink. Frequent floods, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and super-cyclones affect the lives of millions of people on our planet. Children in super-congested refugee camps grow up without fundamental rights such as food, clothing, shelter, education, clean water and environment. We are about to lose a generation without hope. Destruction of habitats and the entire ecosystem has been endangered due to the climate crisis. Airborne and waterborne diseases are killing millions of people every year.
Today when I am writing this article, I am a 15-year-old schoolgirl. I have always found myself incredibly concerned and passionate about climate justice as I have my entire future on the frontline of this crisis. In the last two years I have engaged as a climate activist, and this has made me realize that we, humans, stand accused of creating this catastrophe.
I could not merely sit and speculate how our future might turn out, nor could I wait for someone to act and for our systems to change as it is my future and our planet that is at stake. It seemed more complicated to me to accept the reality of this crisis as a “fate” than to do something with a view to make the crucial changes happen. I felt that some pressure just came on me.
From now, 2021, we do not have much time to get on track for climate justice. Time is running out. So, we must act now with speed at least equivalent to that of a crisis.
Fridays For Future, the global climate movement launched by the-16-year-old Greta Thunberg, declared 19th March 2021 as the Global Day of Climate Strike “No more Empty Promises”. Indeed, with empty promises, an empty future is seen, and hope is nowhere in sight. I aimed to initiate an action for this occurrence in my country which will amplify the voices of citizens and will also carry them to the policymakers for climate justice.
Then, the idea of a petition came to me, which embodies the democratic concept of carrying, conveying and centering the voices of citizens to the authority in written form.
Ideally, it converts people’s signatories to the force of democracy to have their demands be heard by the authority hence, our policymakers realize what we, the citizens want. Indeed, science and democracy are interlinked, as Greta Thunberg wisely said.
I knew that some might call me too young to initiate this as I am the youngest person yet to launch something like this in Bangladesh. But I strongly believe, as Greta Thunberg says, we are never too small to make a difference.
Our parliament (Jatiya Sangsad) commendably made Bangladesh the first country in the world to adopt a Planetary Emergency Declaration on November 13, 2019. It was indeed a major initiative worthy of being applauded for but alone the declaration is not enough to face the catastrophe that has risen. I felt we could do a better job in implementing this declaration. We should rapidly execute a real, target-oriented and sustainable roadmap to transform this declaration into action. It seemed essential to me for implementation.
So, I titled the petition “Petition to implement the Bangladesh Planetary Emergency Declaration and incorporate climate education in school curriculum.” This petition has a target to collect 10,000 signatures from all around the world within September 24, 2021, the day of Fridays for Future Global Day of Climate Strike “Uproot the System”.
The petition has collected more than 2000 signatures till now. Prominent citizens of our country such as, Prof Saleemul Huq, Prof Ainun Nishat, Prof Anu Muhammad, Advocate Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Farah Kabir, Sadat Rahman have also added their prestigious signatures in support of this petition.
The petition mainly urges the authority to emphasize issues like Fossil Fuels, Plastic pollution and public transportation in the roadmap.
Firstly, we need a quick transition from all fossil fuels; coal, oil and natural gas-based energy to clean, green renewable energy, which is also closely aligned with the recent Green New Deal demands. Continuing to use fossil fuels as energy sources will result in Greenhouse gas emissions to heighten and soot particles to pollute our air and water. It will also destroy natural habitats and wildlife species hence, becoming an obstacle for environmental and natural conservation.
Then the rapid establishment of recycling systems for plastic wastes currently has become a crucial task for our government to make a real priority. Without this, local adaptation will be quite difficult as improper plastic trash management is causing water and air deterioration, health hazards, water logging, soil infertility and harming aquatic beings, fuelling the climate crisis additionally.
Finally, detailed climate and environmental education in our school curriculum and appropriate training for teachers to teach about climate and environment regularly, creatively, and engagingly in the classrooms is also another important clause of the petition.
To tackle the climate crisis, the changes required are broad and deep at every level of society requiring elaborate knowledge and awareness from the grassroots. An ignorant and uninformed society is more likely to act unwisely. We, young people, must need to have the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes we require to build a clean, safe, green, low emission and climate-resilient future.
From my learning, I think there is nothing more powerful in the world than young people becoming a hope for themselves and the planet. Real hope comes from our concrete actions. No one is too small to make a difference, nor are our steps.
Aruba Faruque is a 9th grade student at Rangamati Govt. Girl’s High School, Rangamati and a young climate and environmental activist. She is the youngest-yet petitioner of Bangladesh. She can be reached at [email protected]