India should make climate education compulsory: Nine-year-old activist Licypriya Kangujam

Licypriya Kangujam   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Licypriya Kangujam was five years old when she first heard of climate change. She accompanied her father to raise funds for the victims of the Nepal earthquake in 2015.

Next year, when she moved from her hometown in Manipur to Delhi, she was appalled by the air quality there. Then in 2018 and 2019, when she was in Bhubaneswar, she witnessed two cyclones — Titli and Fani — damaging her house. “All these incidents turned me into an outspoken child, talking about the impact of climate change,” she says over e-mail from Delhi.

Four years later, Licypriya has been protesting regularly in front of the Parliament, demanding stricter laws to battle climate change and compulsory climate education in schools. She set up The Child Movement, a body that aims to raise awareness about climate change and natural disasters. “I travelled to over 32 countries as a part of my movement and spoke in more than 400 institutions on climate change,” she says.

Licypriya’s activism is slowly being recognised in India. Last Tuesday, she became the youngest recipient of the TN Khoshoo Memorial Award, with senior personalities such as Meena Subramanium (artist), Sonam Wangchuk (educationalist), Charudutt Mishra (scientist) and others. The award is presented by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in honour of its founder, the late TN Khoshoo, a renowned environmentalist.

A few media houses have called her ‘Greta Thunberg of India’, referring to the Swedish teenager who is now a world-renowned climate activist. Licypriya, however, dislikes the label — “Greta is one of my inspirations and a good friend fighting for the common cause. But I have my own identity,” she says. She interacted with Greta at the United Nations climate change conference, also known as COP25, in Madrid last December.

“When I first heard the news about the award, I started learning about [Khoshoo’s] works and life. It truly inspires me. Great visionary scientists like TN Khoshoo contributed a lot to this country,” she says in response to the award.

Something missing

She adds, however, “Due to the lack of a strong curriculum of climate and environmental education in schools, my generation doesn’t know such great environmentalists.”

To make climate education compulsory in all Indian schools is one of her three immediate demands from elected officials. “To pass the strong climate change law” and “To ensure plantation of a minimum of 10 trees by every Indian student” are the other two. “India has over 350 million students. If they all plant a minimum of 10 trees every year, then we will plant 3.5 billion trees,” she explains.

The pandemic has hampered her campaign, but the young activist says she has planted over 2.5 lakh trees this year. “COVID-19 was a great opportunity for our leaders to make a green recovery but they have killed it. We are facing a huge climate and environmental crisis, like Delhi’s air pollution and the Yamuna’s water pollution, which can be avoided if they made concrete green action plans,” she says.

Licypriya practices what she preaches: “I minimise flight travel. I use public transport. I gave up meat and became a vegan. My family and my neighbours don’t use single-use plastics. And we avoid food wastage,” she says.

Licypriya is active online, too. Her Twitter handle (managed by her mother) has over 90,000 followers and Facebook page has over 40,000.

She encounters detractors both online and offline. “People tell me that ‘You are too young to get involved in such activism’. But I prove to them that age doesn’t matter when making a difference. I’m strong, smart, intelligent and brave.”

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 9:07:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/india-should-make-climate-education-compulsory-nine-year-old-activist-licypriya-kangujam/article33214027.ece

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