Environment

Planet goals 2020: These are the eco-activists you should look out for

The last decade saw millennials and Generation Z spearhead environmental movements from the grassroots. This decade, they tell us how to create change

Jacob Cherian, 37

The founder of Terregeneration.com in Bengaluru has spent the last couple of years familiarising people with the concept of plogging, and thus managing to kill two birds with one stone: first, fostering a sense of communal responsibility towards litter; second, getting to observe first-hand the patterns of plastic waste in India.

“To start with, consumption and waste occur at individual, home, community and industry levels,” he says. “Of these, it is very easy to take the first two categories and work towards change.

Plogger Jacob Cherian

Plogger Jacob Cherian  

On the individual level, bottle, cup, cutlery, straw and bag are the Big Five of single-use plastic — so reusable versions of these are what we should make a habit of carrying with us.” Jacob and friends have done that math. “If we can do that, we can save 5,500 pieces of plastic in a year.Your use of these products is different, but on an average, people use at least three of these each day,” he says.

The biggest weapon that households have against landfills is waste segregation. “Segregate into two bins at least, if not three. Don’t think in terms of wet and dry waste; instead categorise it into food, natural, and unnatural waste. Moreover, you can segregate all you want, but if your waste is dirty, it won’t get recycled. So rinse those Swiggy vessels before you throw them out.”

R Bharath, 28

“I’m just a fisherman,” says R. Bharath. Although fishing is his bread and butter, the resident of Gunangkuppam village near Pulicat, in Tamil Nadu, spends more time fighting for the rights of his people and the environment, than at sea. On an refular day, you will find him at the small library he set up near a school in his village, listening to issues that people bring to his notice. “I head to the library at 10 a.m., after coming back from sea — I set out to fish at 3 a.m.,” says Bharath.

Planet goals 2020: These are the eco-activists you should look out for

At the library, he brainstorms with friends for solutions and comes up with ideas to make their lives better. He is now dealing with the expansion of Adani Ports in the region. “If this is done, it will destroy 32 villages in and around Pulicat,” he says, talking also about irreplaceable damage to the environment. “The expansion will also destroy the stretch of the Buckingham Canal that runs through Pulicat,” he says.

Bharath adds that fisherfolk know they need to fight back, but are unsure of how. This is where he comes in. He files petitions on their behalf with the Government and organises people’s protests. Recently, Bharath got some school children together to clean up their beach. “We also went around the local market distributing pamphlets on shunning plastics and asking people to bring their own bags,” he says. Change is evident. “Shoppers take anna koodai (a wide-mouthed cauldron balanced at the hip) and don’t ask for plastic bags,” he points out. The trick is to educate people. “We’ve stopped using plastic to a large extent in our village,” he adds. Imagine the magnified effect if such work is replicated across the country.

S Vishnu Priya, 32

It all begins with children. “They are our best resources,” says S. Vishnu Priya, who travelled across the country for four years while working on her documentary film Meel. It deals with problems and solutions for our country’s  waste. “It traces the journey of three kinds of waste: household, bath, and toilet waste, seeing where they go and what they do to our environment. It also talks about how sanitary workers deal with this,” she says. While she is working on the post-production  of her film, the architect  has taken on another project: a book for children on alternatives to plastic products in their everyday lives.

Planet goals 2020: These are the eco-activists you should look out for

It all begins with children. “They are our best resources,” says S. Vishnu Priya, who travelled across the country for four years while working on her documentary film Meel. It deals with problems and solutions for our country’s  waste. “It traces the journey of three kinds of waste: household, bath, and toilet waste, seeing where they go and what they do to our environment. It also talks about how sanitary workers deal with this,” she says.

While she is working on the post-production  of her film, the architect  has taken on another project: a book for children on alternatives to plastic products in their everyday lives.

Arun Krishnamurthy, 33

His Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) has spread its roots to various parts of the country — touring neglected lakes in Ahmedabad, creating water conservation structures in drought-hit Marathwada, and restoring 54 water bodies in Chennai alone. EFI’s primary focus has always been on getting the local community involved. After a decade of coaxing people to fight for their own environment, Arun has much to say.

Planet goals 2020: These are the eco-activists you should look out for

 

“EFI’s points of focus for 2020 are water literacy, water responsibility and water sustainability. Literacy means understanding where my water is coming from,  where it is going, and what condition it is in after use. Responsibility means knowing how much water I use, and for what purpose. Sustainability means understanding that everything I buy, everything I do has a water impact, and acting accordingly. Like knowing how much water was used to make that jeans I am buying,” he says, using the heavy water costs of the textile industry as an example.

This is information we are more than capable of getting,  says Arun. “If we think we can do nothing, we are underestimating ourselves. We have knowledge at our fingertips — we know about everything from the impeachment of the U.S. President to the situation in Crimea. We have mobilised  against CAA and NRC, so it is clear that we do care, and  we want change. This is an immediate crisis that will affect our lives: we need to invest time and energy in water literacy.”

Gary Bencheghib, 25

Meet Bali-based Bencheghib brothers, Sam and Gary, whose organisation Make A Change World cleaned the Citarum in Indonesia in 2017. It was then the world’s dirtiest . A film  about the project went viral as Sam (22) and Gary were seen rowing down on a raft made of plastic bottles. It attracted the attention of the President and 7,000  troops were deployed to the river, and nearly 70 industries based along it which were illegally dumping waste, were shut.

Planet goals 2020: These are the eco-activists you should look out for

 “Creating relationships with Governments is integral for making sure that millennials are not just seen and heard but also followed,” says Gary. “I recently launched Sungai Watch, a project which focusses on river clean-ups. But we are officially launching this, along with the website, at the World Economic Forum in Davos at the end of January,” he announces. This project leverages technology to clean up rivers. Using his home island of Bali for pilot projects, he and the German company Plastic Fischer created TrashBlocks and TrashBrooms, which filter out the garbage from the rivers as they join the sea or  ocean.

(With inputs from Akila Kannadasan, Divya Kala Bhavani and Meghna Majumdar)

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:13:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/planet-goals-2020/article30442873.ece

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