School students combat climate change in their own ways (June 5 is World Environment Day)

June 4th, 2009 - 12:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Nihar Thadani
New Delhi June 4 (IANS) They are young and enthusiastic and their mantra is go green! Apart from being passionately involved, these youngsters are pursuing their own climate change initiatives for a safe and clean environment.

Meet Lavanya Julaniya, Rishika Jerath, Siddharth Banerjee, Aman Ahuja and Raja Singh - all active members of eco-clubs in their schools when they were just teenagers.

Take 17-year-old Julaniya, who got 86 percent in Class 12 in the humanities stream and has to her credit the launch of a few green programmes in her school Sanskriti.

Right from Sanskriti 350, an event involving over 30 schools to bring awareness of the importance of 350 (amount of carbon dioxide in parts per million that should be in the Earth’s atmosphere), to organising activities like an anti-cracker march during Diwali and holding workshops for the children in the Sanjay Basti slum behind the school to educate them about climate change.

“I wanted to do something unconventional and offbeat. That’s the only way to attract youth,” Julaniya told IANS in reference to Sanskriti 350.

“In Class 12, I became head of the environment council; so I was given the job to implement environment policies,” said the girl who got hooked to environment when she was in Class 6.

No wonder in school she was called the “environment girl”.

“I realised that it only centred on me and it shouldn’t. I wanted everyone to be involved,” said Julaniya, who wants to pursue environmental law.

Her work got her recognition when she was selected as one of two people representing India at the British Council’s Global Change Makers conference 2009 in London, a forum where young climate change activists discussed issues like climate change in relation to their own country.

“It was a life-changing experience. I realised that we have the potential to save the world,” she said.

Like her is Raja Singh of Frank Anthony Public School (FAPS), who began FAPS Greens last year. He initiated the naming of all trees in his school and picking up of litter.

“We have three goals: climate change, cleanliness, and general awareness of environment and our role in the environment,” said Singh, who is in Class 12.

Aman Ahuja and his friend Jaskaran Singh, both Salwaan Public School students, started recycling in their school, apart from writing in the environment section of their school magazine.

“Our school is the greenest in our area,” said Ahuja proudly. The school has a water harvesting system, waste recycling and has changed over from tube lights to CFLs (Compact Fluoroscent Light) to save energy.

He is so passionate that he makes sure that at home electricity and water are efficiently used and trash is recycled.

Environmentalist Iqbal Malik is very happy that schoolchildren are taking keen interest on environment and climate change.

“School students these days are taking an active part in environment-related activities. Many schools and colleges are starting their own green clubs,” said Malik.

“In our time, no one was aware about it and they thought that they had no responsibility towards global warming,” Malik told IANS.

A student of Vasant Valley School, 16-year-old Rishika Jerath is these days busy filming a documentary that focuses on wastage, global warming and water pollution.

“The documentary is just our way to make a change at the smallest level,” said the girl who is in the environment and outreach council of the school.

Sixteen-year-old Siddharth Banerjee is the environment minister. Not in the union government but in Father Agnel’s School.

He said some of their goals have been to maintain cleanliness in the school, building parreriums or bottle gardens - plants kept in an airtight jar.

“This (parrerium) kind of system saves water as the plant only needs to be watered every fortnight as there is an artificial water cycle,” said Banerjee.

Sunita Dasgupta, environmental education coordinator at the NGO Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said: “More schools are creating awareness about the environment and actually linking these real life problems to their own lives.”

She citied the example of St. Paul’s School where eight percent of students and faculty members have started using bikes or public transport to commute.

Raja Singh of FAPS summed up the youth initiative: “Politicians can make environmental policies. Businessmen can make a green establishment and decrease our carbon footprint. But most don’t do that as they are not aware of this issue.

“In the future, we children would be future politicians and businessmen. So if we work from now on, we would be able to create a safe environment.”

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