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Tale of a Bangladeshi-American teen, fighting for climate action

  • Published at 11:08 pm December 3rd, 2019
Rebeca Sabnam
Rebeca Sabnam Collected

The climate crisis is also a human rights issue, the 16-year-old says

With every passing year, the number of people suffering due to climate change issues is increasing. 

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the concentration of planet-warming CO2 in the atmosphere has reached levels not seen in three to five million years.

The adverse effects of climate change has compelled youth activists like Greta Thunberg and Rebeca Sabnam to voice their concerns about the crisis the world is facing.

Greta is known to all because of her speech about climate change, but there are many more activists like her whose stories are yet to be told.

Sixteen-year-old Rebeca Sabnam is a Bangladeshi origin US citizen. She is one of the youths trying to raise their voice and contribute to the process of saving the world.

The high school student lives in New York with her family, who migrated to America when she was six years old.

In September this year, more than 200,000 people marched in Manhattan for an environmental demonstration for climate change action. 

Rebecca stood in front of a crowd of thousands during the march and shared her experience of the effects of climate change.  

She recalled the times when her uncle had to carry her to school on his back during floods in Dhaka, reports Al Jazeera.

Rebecca said: "I am from Bangladesh, a country that exemplifies how interconnected the climate emergency is to racial justice and poverty."

Later, while talking to Al Jazeera, Rebecca said she did not expect much response when she mentioned Bangladesh in her speech, but instead she got an overwhelming response from the crowd.

"The climate crisis is not just an environmental issue, it's an urgent human rights issue," she said.

The 16-year-old said: "Bangladeshi women are extremely vulnerable to post displacement trafficking, magnified by the climate crisis. We want Bengali women, as well as the Rohingya people living in Bangladeshi refugee camps, to know that youth around the world are striking for their lives and security."

Leaders from across the world, including Bangladesh, come together in Madrid, Spain, for the UN Climate Change Conference, COP25. 

World leaders will deliberate on the environmental crisis facing humanity in the 12-day conference, which began on Monday.

A wide range of issues, including the global tourism industry's work to implement climate-friendly initiatives, tracking progress on the Paris Climate Agreement 2016, will be discussed in COP25.

According to a Unicef report published in April, around 19 million Bangladeshi children are at risk due to climate change disasters such as floods and cyclones.

Two weeks before the conference began, Rebecca told Al Jazeera: "We want COP25 to not simply take note of [the] alarming data [on the rise in temperature], but to advocate for the end of the funding, expansion, and use of fossil fuel.”

In the September speech in New York, she stressed on the need to understand how the effects of climate change intersect with some of the most vulnerable communities around the world.

Her focus of the journey ahead is to try and figure out a way to use the current momentum and put Bangladeshi women, children, and Rohingya refugees at the forefront of the global climate change debate.

Rebecca said she is trying to ensure that Bangladesh is not forgotten along the way after the Climate Strike.

This is an excerpt of an article, which was first published by Samira Sadeque on Aljazeera. 

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