The rate at which the climate is changing leaves the possibility of picturing a future difficult, if not impossible. The extravagant thirst of humanity, its unleashing appetite for unending ‘wants’ and the short sightedness of power-mongering leaders all put together makes for a doubtful tomorrow. There is little vision for what the coming generations will have to face.
But far from being passive victims, the youth of today are the future leaders. The world knows Greta Thunberg; in 2018, the 15-year-old from Sweden sparked a global movement of school-going students demanding appropriate action from the government to fight the climate crisis. Now millions are marching for the same cause.
The youth are immensely aware of the challenges and risks of the climate crisis and of the opportunity to discover, propagate and establish sustainable development. The youngsters’ massive mobilization around the world shows the enormous power they possess to hold the decision-makers accountable. Their message is clear – the older generations have chased their desires to the extent of leaving little for the coming times, except for the consequences.
However, the youth are not only the victims, but also valuable contributors to climate action. They are agents of change, entrepreneurs and innovators. Through their budding talents, they are scaling up efforts and using their skills to accelerate climate action. For instance, in Mongolia, air pollution is a source of health problems for many. The younger generations there have been trained to monitor the air quality and use the data they collect to call on the government to take appropriate action. Empowering the youth to monitor and question the situation is a thoughtful step in the process.
Youth in Islamic History
The humble yet consistent effort of youngsters could positively and dramatically change the world. Look around you – it is happening in real time. Nevertheless, we often hear from the young generation around – “I am young, what can I do?” They feel that their contributions are insignificant and a drop in the ocean. Sadly, our youth remains unaware of the substantial role played by young people in Islamic history. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was very young when he challenged the disbelievers and destroyed their idols. Ali bin Abi Talib (RA) was the first young adult to accept Islam and support the Prophet ﷺ in his mission. Mus’ab bin Umair (RA) was a teenager when he was selected to present the true message to the people of Madinah.
Youth is that stage of life during which individuals are most enthusiastic, energetic, creative, open to learning and physically strong. It is in the best interest of our communities to re-evaluate this strength and contemplate on the significant contribution they can make and prepare them to lead humankind to glory. If they are given the correct head-start, provided with positive reinforcements and acculturation, they can bring about a revolution.
Climate Movement in India
In India, a striking reality about the climate movement is that for the longest time, there wasn’t anything to speak of. The India Youth Climate Network (IYCN) established in 2008, sought to bring about climate action through ‘climate satsangs,’ workshops and training. An India chapter of 350.org, which focused on youth was formed a decade ago – it is named after its key demand to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the present high levels to a safer threshold of 350ppm. Then emerged FFF, Fridays for Future, the Indian chapter of the international climate strike movement started by the environmentalist campaigner Greta Thunberg. Another movement which has its presence in 75 countries including India is the XR – Extinction Rebellion – this was launched in the United Kingdom in the year 2018 as a response to the report by the UN on climate change, which declared that, “we only have 12 years to stop catastrophic climate change and our understanding is that we have entered the 6th mass extinction event.”
Repercussions and Crackdown
However, these nascent and rapidly growing movements of young people, school and college students, who are concerned about climate change are additionally confronted with having to deal with the chilling effects of police action against some of their activists. All they wish for is to converse, negotiate and lead a recovery plan that will benefit everyone and not just those with deep pockets. Climate crisis is right in front of our eyes – the Kerala floods, Fani and other cyclones, the Chennai floods, drought in other parts etc. The youth is witnessing it all and cannot imagine what the future holds if the present apathy continues.
Worried by the huge mobilization by youth organizations, the Indian government last year had blocked three websites – Let India Breathe for 26 days, FFF India for two weeks and There Is No Earth B. This was done because they were opposing new proposed regulations that would allow industrial projects to process before receiving environmental clearance.
For this nonviolent approach and agenda of theirs, they are constantly under the police radar and minor and inconsequential ‘evidence’ is used to put them behind bars and ensure that the others do not speak up in solidarity. Disha Ravi’s arrest along with two other activists Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk jolted many young people. Many have withdrawn from social media platforms and deleted everything related to FFF or climate activism.These are disheartening trends and have ensured a chilling effect on environmental collectives. But until democracy – even its flimsiest promise – exists, there is hope. The Indian constitution is embedded with certain strong fundamental rights, which cannot be easily altered. There is a re-awakening among the citizens, and the younger generations in particular. They dream and work hard for their dreams, and until this passion continues, there is a future.