KOCHI: Degrading environmental conditions across the world have prompted countries and organisations to initiate actions to curb and reverse climate change. With back-to-back floods and regular droughts, Kerala has its weight to bear. The future of this planet rests on climate activists who are relentlessly working to create change and spread awareness.
The United Nations under its ‘We the Change’ campaign have selected three such leaders from Kerala as ‘Youth Climate Leaders’. They are Akhilesh Anil Kumar from Pathanamthitta, Sanju Soman from Thiruvananthapuram and Sarath K R from Thrissur. The trio is part of the 17-member-contingent selected by the UN from India.
‘We the Change’ campaign aims to curate innovative, sustainable and equitable climate solutions by young people from the country and focuses on strengthening engagement with governments and civil societies and mooting a more collaborative approach to climate action.
Bringing back green days!
Akhilesh Anil Kumar (21) has been working on climate change since 2019 with Bring Back Green Foundation, a non-profit organisation. “Apart from pushing the issues of fishermen communities, we conducted an in-depth study of the draft ‘blue economy’ policy of the Union government. We submitted a detailed report with suggestions to Kerala’s fisheries minister,” he said.
Akhilesh also runs ‘Sustainability: The Green Game’, a podcast that debates relevant topics on climate change and sustainability. Akhilesh and his friends have recently produced a documentary series called ‘Theeram’ about the plight of the fishing community due to coastal erosion and unscientific constructions in the coastal belt.
Sarath K R, a folk art enthusiast has been working with the Vayali Folklore group for the conservation of Bharathapuzha, which is affected by illegal sand mining and other ecological issues. “When the river turned into a mere stream, Vayali entrusted me to reach out to residents and farmers to find the root cause of the issue,” he said. Then, Sarath volunteered at International Citizen Service by Pravah, a Delhi-based NGO, which selected him for a three-month programme in Madhya Pradesh to study the tribal communities. Sarath has also played a key role in establishing the Friends of Bharathapuzha initiative.
Sanju Soman has been working with vulnerable communities and wetland conservation for around a decade. “I started with Save a Rupee Spread a Smile (Sarsas), a volunteer-led NGO, in 2011. We have organised fundraising marathons for Regional Cancer Centre and Kerala Network for Organ Sharing under Sarsas. We have managed to raise around C65 lakh over the past five years,” said Sanju. The 28-year-old has founded multiple non-profit organisations. At the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), he worked on the conservation of Vembanad backwaters. “With the support of Muhamma panchayat, we started an initiative that upcycles ‘pre-owned fabric’ into cloth bags and other reusable products. Later, we registered as a startup ‘Bhava’ to turn into a successful venture. It turned into an additional income for the fisherwomen,” he said.