For Sustainability Activist Aakash Ranison, Time Is Of The Essence In His Effort To Mitigate The Ongoing Climate Crisis

The first time I met Aakash Ranison, we were trekking up a steep slope in the Araku Valley of Andhra Pradesh. Despite the challenging terrain, his demeanour exuded ease as he leaned against a rock, taking in the surrounding flora and fauna. Normally, I’m wary of those who effortlessly embrace the outdoors, but with Ranison, it felt different. I’ve known him as someone who travelled across India to connect with himself and communities at large in 2014. He originally hails from Indore but now calls the whole of India his home.

For Ranison, building awareness about the real effects of climate change has been a lifelong project. After finishing school in 2013 in Indore, he spearheaded an initiative that centred around clearing plastic waste. “While my efforts related to environmental conservation were relatively small, including activities like tree planting and addressing plastic pollution, I encountered a significant challenge with plastic waste. Despite my best efforts with the community, plastic waste often ends up being disposed of improperly, contributing to environmental degradation. This experience underscored the importance of addressing plastic pollution and fostering greater environmental awareness,” he says.

The Origin Story

Since 2014, Ranison has actively documented his experience walking over 8,000 km, cycling 20,000 km, and hitchhiking 50,000 km across India (covering Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Amravati, Chennai, Bangalore, Gangtok, Pune, Bhopal) and Bhutan. He is the author of two books ‘Climate Change Explained for One and All’ (2021) and ‘I’m a Climate Optimist’(2023). His latest book is printed using vegetable ink and on responsibly sourced FSC-certified paper, reflecting his commitment to creating a greener environment and fostering a safer and sustainable future. The book delves into pressing issues of our time, including climate change, sustainable development, the environmental impact of various industries, and strategies for reducing carbon emissions.

“It wasn’t an overnight decision to become an environmentalist,” says Ranison. “Rather, it was a gradual process of learning and self-discovery. I started by sharing eco-friendly tips and articles on social media, slowly immersing myself in the journey. As I watched documentaries and TED Talks, I realised the enormity of climate change and its threat to nature. This realisation prompted me to explore what I could do to make a difference. I educated myself about plastic pollution and climate change, and then turned towards minimalism as a lifestyle choice,” he adds. Ranison has also adopted a vegan lifestyle to stay true to his ethos. Eventually, he began exploring avenues like creating content, writing articles and books, developing art installations, and producing documentaries.

The Bigger Picture

Ranison, who has called Ladakh home for a few years now, is cognisant of the fact that the region is at a very fragile point due to the rapid effects of climate change. “My passion for Ladakh and concern for its future were significant factors in my decision to stay there. I felt a deep connection to the region and recognised the urgency of spotlighting its environmental challenges. I believed that by staying in Ladakh, I could contribute to raising solutions to address the impacts of climate change,” he says. Recent research has revealed alarming trends in the western Himalayan glaciers, which serve as crucial water sources for the regions of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. The accelerated melting of these glaciers is attributed to the increasing levels of black carbon aerosols and greenhouse gases, resulting in the darkening of the snowpack in the area.

A study focusing on the Ladakh region’s Drass basin examined approximately 77 glaciers using satellite data. The research aimed to assess various aspects such as glacier shrinkage, snout retreat, changes in ice thickness, mass loss, and alterations in glacier velocity from the years 2000 to 2020. These findings shed light on the significant impact of climate change on the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas and emphasise the urgent need for effective measures to mitigate further environmental degradation. Apart from working with brands to build a more sustainable approach to their operations, Ranison is currently working on a documentary focusing on the Zanskar River in Ladakh, which faces the threat of melting every year.

“It’s essential to bring attention to the Himalayas, often referred to as the ‘third pole,’ as it holds immense significance in terms of climate change. The Himalayas span nine countries, including India and China, yet discussions about climate-related issues are often overlooked, especially in China. In India, while there’s more freedom to discuss these issues, there’s still work to be done in raising awareness. Through my work, I aim to shed light on the Himalayas and the challenges they face, not just through scientific data but also by capturing the emotional stories of the people living in these regions. My experiences in Ladakh have provided me with firsthand insights that I can use to convey the ground realities and emotions surrounding these environmental issues,” he says.

Levelling Up

Ranison spent much of 2023 travelling across Europe as a Civil Society Member, representing Global South Asia at the Paris Peace Forum. During discussions with leaders from diverse European, Western, and African countries, he was focused on addressing climate change challenges in India and neighbouring nations.

“One of the key points I emphasised during these discussions is that the climate crisis is not ‘gender neutral.’ Research shows that women are disproportionately affected by climate change, with UN data indicating that 80% of climate-induced displacements impact women,” he says.

Ranison has also launched the Greener Earth Foundation, where he serves as co-director with the aim to bring on-ground solutions to offset the climate crisis. “Over the past few years, I’ve been consistently active in promoting and building connections with corporations. I’ve worked hard to establish a strong brand and reputation. This means I’ve focused on creating value and trust. Now, if I propose an idea or project, these brands are likely to trust and support me. Writing a book has further enhanced my image and credibility. It’s all about strengthening relationships and trust with these businesses over time. This effort ensures that they are willing to invest in projects aligned with my ideas,” he says.

Read the full story on ELLE India’s new issue, or download your digital copy via Magzter. 

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