The Personal is Political and so is Climate Change by Youth for Climate India
A recent survey in G20 countries showed that people in developing countries showed greater willingness to do more to protect nature and the climate than those in advanced economies. The same survey found that 90% of Indians surveyed felt that they would like to do more to protect nature and stymie the effects of climate change. Now, the burden on civil society is to figure out a way to capture the interest, motivation, and willingness of 90% of our population to help face and fight climate change.
Photo Credit by Slow Factory
Our group, Youth For Climate India was formed as a product of the realization that there were certain gaps in the climate movement in India which needed to be addressed systematically and urgently to be able to absorb this willingness. First, the language barriers had to be removed especially because forest laws, and detrimental developmental projects tend to affect those who usually speak only a local language.
Further climate literacy which was localized, helped form a bond with nature, intersectional and not too fixated on individual solutions had to be facilitated.
Many of us also felt that there was this overwhelming dependence on digital tools as a means of protest among youth groups.
This is detrimental on two fronts. One, it's highly exclusive as platforms like Twitter and Instagram tend to create echo chambers consisting of a certain class of people who consume English content. Second, it fails to unlock the revolutionary potential of youth organizing which has always been the most effective at mobilizing large masses of people to advocate for a certain cause. Finally, climate concerns need to be tied to other human rights issues overtly. For example, after the second wave of the pandemic in India, we joined many other civil society groups to demand health workers' rights, vaccine accessibility along with a green recovery. We will soon be releasing a magazine capturing all of these concerns, and tying them together. This also helps build cross-movement solidarity, and underline the fact that climate issues are human rights issues.
The idea of reaching not preaching can be best understood from one of our campaigns where we put to use a mix of methods to reach a wider audience. During June-July of 2020, there was a lot of uproar against the draft EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) of 2020. We wanted to spread more awareness around EIA and environmental laws in general so our learning team created a presentation on the history of environmental laws, how they affect the management of our natural resources, which companies have been flouting these laws, and more on the draft EIA 2020. This presentation was delivered in roughly 10 colleges which also helped get many more people involved in the advocacy against the dilution of our environmental laws. Teaching people about the broader topics of evolution of environmental laws, their importance, and eventual dilution was important for giving people a more wholesome picture and
making sure that their concerns are not just raised for a single issue but also the systemic issue of governmental policy and judicial rulings letting polluters go scot-free.
Further, we identified a list of celebrities (famous journalists, actors, sportspersons, filmmakers, human rights advocates, and social media influencers) who might be willing to talk about this issue. We invited a bunch of young people to help us reach out to them by leaving a ton of comments on the influencer’s recent picture talking about what EIA is and why it needs our urgent attention. This method worked wonders as many of these celebrities shared about EIA on their social media and urged people to raise their voices against it. We emailed all state pollution control boards asking them to release the EIA notification in the state language. When these requests were ignored, we engaged in the collective effort by several climate action groups to translate the draft EIA into different local languages.
Photo Credit by Youth for Climate India
We also reached out to over 100 media outlets (national and local) with a press release on the issues of Draft EIA 2020 as being highlighted by several ex-bureaucrats and civil society members. The translated drafts of EIA helped us reach out to many more regional newspapers than would be otherwise possible. This was somewhat successful as 1/4th of the outlets we reached out did cover the issue in their digital and print media. Finally, we also facilitated on-ground actions in over 7 cities where people engaged their local administrations, protested on the streets, and raised awareness in public spaces about the draft EIA.
While thinking about our campaigns, we often refer to this diagram here, showing the Circles of Commitment outlined in Purpose Driven Campaigning, a resource by the Commons Library.
Picture Credit by Commons Library
The entire motive of community organizing is to try to get people from the outer circles of commitment to the inner ones, where the level of action and commitment is progressively higher. COP26 has underlined the value of community organizing as several indigenous, migrant, workers’, women’s, and youth groups effectively organized to demand a more human rights-based approach to most agreements signed at the summit. It is because of effective advocacy by these groups that for the first time a COP agreement has the word ‘fossil fuel’ included in it. Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University has shown that it takes 3.5% of the population actively participating in protests to ensure serious political change. Our lifelong motto thus remains to make climate change a priority for people and politics.
About the Author
Youth for Climate India is a group run by young people who wish to make climate justice a priority for people and politics. We strongly believe in a bottom-up approach, whereby we work towards mobilizing and building leadership among youth to drive climate action. Our team would love to connect with any other groups with common interests, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org