Speaking to TNM, 12-year-old Ridhima Pandey says that it cannot be a ‘happy’ New Year, unless people get together to protect the environment.

Adults have messed up our future Ridhima Indias 12-yr-old climate change warrior
news Environment Wednesday, January 01, 2020 - 19:09

“We have a right to a healthy and clean environment, a healthy life, and a safe future. But are we getting it?” asks 12-year-old Ridhima Pandey, addressing an audience of close to 500 school and college students. 

“No!!” comes the emphatic answer from the students who've gathered in Kerala’s Thrissur district on Wednesday for the Climate Circle event hosted by Students for Climate Resilience. The recently formed collective comprises students across Kerala, who have been holding awareness campaigns in schools and colleges about climate change.

Emphasising the urgency for working towards protecting the environment, Ridhima, who has been hailed nationally and internationally for her work towards raising awareness on climate change, says that it was time that the students fought for the cause. 

“Humans are the cause of increasing global warming. We are destroying nature for our needs and greeds, and that will affect our generation’s future. It is the older generation that owns factories, pollutes the environment and are politicians who are doing nothing to save our planet. They won't be there in the future, we are the ones who are going to be there. Kids are not the ones polluting the environment, and we shouldn't be the ones suffering,” says Ridhima, a native of Uttarakhand. 

The importance of hosting the event on January 1, the beginning of a new decade, only signifies the urgency of the cause. 

Later speaking to TNM, Ridhima exclaims, “It’s definitely not a happy New Year! How can it be? It could be, for some. But look at what’s happening in Delhi for instance. Any kind of environmental issue, in this case the bad weather, affects the children most of all. They don't want to sit at home because of the bad weather. Of course they want to go outside and play, and move around freely, and that’s the right we all should protect."

The young student wants people to call 2020 a “resolutional New Year,” and be conscious about their actions that deplete the earth’s resources. Despite criticism from various quarters about children’s involvement in the climate strikes globally, Ridhima believes that the youth of the country have already taken up the cause. To detractors, she says, “But it's because the adults damaged the environment that we children have to skip school and protest. To make the adults understand what they are still doing. They have messed up our future, and then they tell us that we have to study and not protest. That’s not done.” 

Ridhima first made headlines in 2017, when she sued the Indian government at the National Green Tribunal, against their alleged inaction in tackling the effects of climate change. Although her petition was later disposed, she was just nine years old at the time. Her petition came years after the devastating flood in Uttarakhand in 2013, which killed hundreds of people. Several hundreds also went missing.

More recently, she made news yet again when she attended the United Nations Climate Action Summit and along with 15 other young activists, filed a complaint against five countries including Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey. The petition was filed by 16 young climate activists including the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, against the five countries for refusing to address the climate crisis. Greta’s Fridays For Future movement that began in late 2018 in front of the Swedish parliament, has since grown into a global movement, with hundreds of school students holding weekly demonstrations to raise awareness on climate change.

Under the movement, Ridhima now leads several such demonstrations across India. She is positive that such public demonstrations by school students will exert enough pressure to bring about changes in policies. 

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