Auroville youth show the way in addressing climate change challenges

A symbolic image created to convey the need for urgency in tackling climate change challenges; Auroville volunteers initiate a clean-up drive as part of the Global Climate Strike campaign.   | Photo Credit: Handout_E_Mail

The Auroville community, led by youth, joined the Global Climate Strike movement with creative events, to stress the need for urgency in addressing challenges related to plastic consumption and the consequences of climate change, such as rising sea levels.

On Saturday, as part of the Global Climate Strike and World Clean Up day, over 300 volunteers initiated a litter clean up, plastic waste brand audit, art installations and a climate strike solidarity event.

Tara, 19, a young Aurovilian who led the initiatives, said, “Thinking of the future scares and saddens me, and I want to make sure that I do everything in my power to make it better. There is so much beauty in this world but time is running out. Deep down in my heart, I know we still have the choice to make a difference — but we need to work together”.

“We’re seeing more and more plastic in our waste stream and littered across our landscapes” says Ribhu, Auroville resident and co-founder of WasteLess. “Many brands have switched to plastics and place the responsibility and burden of waste management solely on consumers and the government,” he added.

This was a driving force for WasteLess to register for a global brand audit organised by ‘Break Free From Plastic’.

Globally, over 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year (World Watch) and we are only recycling an average 9% of this waste. According to the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi, India’s plastic production is growing at 2.5 times the rate of GDP growth of the country.

The main clean up event was organised by nine groups including Auroville Clean Up group, Eco Service, Let’s Talk Trash, Mohanam Youth Space, Upcycling Studio, Upasana, WasteLess, Waste Without Borders and Zero Waste Auroville. A total of 1,126 kg of waste was collected but the largest volume was certainly plastics.

The brand audit team of 35 volunteers led by Vivek from WasteLess, carefully studied each piece of plastic and noted the brand, parent company, material and local recyclability. An estimated 1,753 plastic items were studied and a whopping 79% were non-recyclable plastics, often comprised of multiple layers (like chip or biscuit packets).

This audit showed that 10 brands contributed to 40% of plastic litter collected. Pepsi was leading the way in plastic pollution followed closely by Britannia, Perfetti, Mondelez, ITC, Coca Cola, Parle, Nestle and in the last place, stood two local brands Rusi (milk packets) and Aachi (spice and pickle sachets).

Global problems like climate change and plastic pollution are massive and to “defuse the doomsday prognosis with playfulness and humour” Johnny, an inspiring long-time resident of Auroville, wanted to create a powerful photoshopped image. “We are not only drowning in rising sea levels but also in our own consumer extravagance. There are many small gestures and incremental adjustments that we can make to begin feel less helpless and more a part of the solution.”

The Auroville events took inspiration from young Swedish teenager-activist, Greta Thunberg, whose headline-making speech to the UN had clearly laid out that the threat of climate change and its consequences were no longer debatable, and that the “science has been crystal clear for the last 30 years”, while also foregrounding the warnings put out by the scientific community.

If agencies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and NASA warned of devastating impacts from unprecedented carbon dioxide levels, the highest observed in the past 800,000 years (IPCC and NASA), the WWF served a grim notice that the planet was facing its 6th mass extinction with species disappearing at a rate 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction. According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, by 2050, 30-50% of the species on this planet could be gone forever, as a combined result of rising sea levels, more frequent and powerful cyclones, water shortages and severe food insecurity.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 10:31:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/auroville-youth-show-the-way-in-addressing-climate-change-challenges/article29551577.ece

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