Climate change is the buzzword these days, and it seems like no conversation is complete without mentioning it, even if it’s dropped by chance, understood or misunderstood. I will not go into this debate. However, what is important is that it caught people’s attention and concern. Are we heading towards an apocalyptic day?
Unfortunately, it seems so. As the recent IPCC report on climate change sounded “CODE RED”, every part of the earth is experiencing climate change.
Mahatma Gandhi had said that “The Earth has enough resources for our needs but not for our greed”. It’s so true. Humans, seeing themselves as superior beings, have always wanted to conquer and control every part of the universe, including the environment and nature. This unsustainable path of development comes at a price, which we are paying today, and sadly, there seems to be a path of no return for generations to come.
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As we strive to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to save our planet, it is the most marginalized children and their families who are affected by environmental degradation, protracted disasters and climate events, without their being responsible. They may contribute the least to climate change, but face the maximum impact of stress and shocks, so much so that sometimes their own survival and existence becomes a question mark.
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The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in its report “Children’s rights and violations of their environmental rights” stated that environmental damage can have irreversible, permanent and even transgenerational consequences. Children are said to be particularly vulnerable because of their changing physical and mental development and their status in society. The report also states that more than half a billion children live in areas at extremely high risk of flooding, 115 million are at high or extremely high risk of tropical cyclones, and nearly 160 million are at risk of extreme flooding. high or extremely high drought.
Some theories even suggest that COVID-19 might just be the starting point. Humanity may in fact face more pandemics as we continue to reduce forest cover and biodiversity, creating ecological imbalance and exposing us to disease and threats.
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India is a young country where 40% of its total population are children under the age of 18. This means that any environmental, disaster and climate related impact will significantly affect nearly half of India’s population, many of whom are on the margins, in terms of basic health and nutrition needs, learning and protection. The devastating consequences could range from an increase in vector and bacterial-borne diseases, hunger, loss of learning and livelihoods, to exploitative situations such as child labor, trafficking and trafficking. child marriage to name a few.
As in any humanitarian crisis, it is women and girls who are most affected, differently from men and boys, and also have unique needs, which are overlooked most of the time. They are the first to adapt and compromise on their needs, and the last to receive access to information, services or benefits, especially in a country like ours where gender disparity exists. at all levels of life, is deeply rooted in patriarchy and harmful social and cultural norms. Climate change may actually expand the existing genre even further.
Inequalities, with women and girls seeing less food on their plates, unable to continue their education due to fewer resources at home, or lacking access to safer transport and mobility during floods or frequent landslides. Here, most women are engaged in the informal sector, including auxiliary and home work, and their livelihoods will be greatly affected by protracted disasters and climatic events. Women invest their income largely in their children, and any loss of income will have a direct impact on general well-being. Women will also be forced to take up jobs that provide them with meager income, less safety and security, and expose them more to exploitative situations.
This situation may seem accentuated. However, not all can be lost. The call of the hour is for collective action by the government, civil society organizations and citizens. As protracted disasters and climatic events are localized, a universal family allowance program that can be tailored to the given situation would greatly help children overcome shocks and stress. Localized climate change resilience and adaptation programs, specifically addressing the needs of children, should be included in local governance plans, both rural and urban, and should be developed in consultation with affected communities, including including children and women. India is one of the countries with a large number of social protection programs and this is an opportunity to review them and make them climate resilient by keeping children at the center, thus benefiting many. children and their families. Since women and girls are affected differently during disasters and climate events and have their own needs, all government programs to mitigate climate change must be gender transformative and child-sensitive.
The fight against climate change is everyone’s responsibility. Therefore, the government should significantly involve and engage Panchayati Raj institutions, urban local bodies, schools, resident welfare associations, self-help groups, youth groups, businesses, organizations. from civil society and others to create a mass movement where children, youth and communities take concrete, localized action towards net zero carbon emissions.
For example, schools adopting green measures, including switching to clean energy, recycling waste and gray water, should be rewarded. Waste management, wastewater recycling, rainwater harvesting, use of clean energy and maintaining minimum tree cover should be made mandatory for all resident welfare associations. Self-help groups should benefit from cheaper loans and appropriate technology for green businesses, creating green assets such as afforestation of fallow land, conservation of local forests, better watershed management, maintenance of traditional water supply systems, grain banks and conservation of local biodiversity.
Livelihood options such as ecotourism should be encouraged not only to advance the local economy, but also to promote sustainable tourism and conserve nature. It is our responsibility to imbue ourselves with a sustainable lifestyle that is not only respectful of the environment, but also does not harm mother earth.
As Chief Seattle quoted in one of his famous speeches: “All things are connected. Everything that happens to the earth happens to the children of the earth. Man does not weave the web of life; it is only a bit of it. Whatever he does on the web, he does it on his own.
(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent those of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also do not endorse the views of the author.)