Meet 3 Indian environmentalists fighting to save the planet
Their work will inspire you to do your bit towards fighting climate change
These were the people with a head start, driven by cause, compelled by spirit. From animal welfare to fighting climate change, these environmentalists took the first steps of dreaming of a new future.
Dr Vandana Shiva
PHYSICIST, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST, AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY AND ANTI-GLOBALISATION ADVOCATE
Having grown up in the Himalayan forests played a key role in Vandana Shiva’s ecological awareness. “I grew up drinking water from streams so I refuse to accept the pollution of our rivers as inevitable or natural,” she says. But it was participating in the Chipko movement that taught her how to be an ecological activist. It changed her thinking about knowledge and expertise. “The women of the movement were ordinary peasants in Garhwal and yet were biodiversity experts in their own right. There was no place for sexism, patriarchy, racism and castism there,” she adds.
She feels that the need of the hour is to shed illusions that development is conquest of nature and redefine it as co-creation with nature. “I have lived through all generations of contemporary ecological movements and I believe that severity of the crisis is one reason people are waking up now.”
REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR SOUTH EAST ASIA, EARTH DAY NETWORK (EDN)
After a 24-year career with the US State Department’s Consulate, Karuna Singh joined Earth Day Network (EDN) taking on the stupendous challenge of beginning its initiatives in India in 2010. EDN now engages with over 75,000 organisations in some 190 countries to take the environmental movement forward. “The biggest challenge for us was India’s diversity. There is no cookie-cutter solution,” says Singh. “Explaining melting glaciers to the coastal population and rising ocean currents to those living in mountainous regions, becomes difficult because each place has its own sensitivities,” she explains.
Having trained under Al Gore, former VP of the USA, Singh believes it is important to understand that “we are really all in it together.” She recalls how he began his presentation with the iconic “Earthrise” image of the planet from space. “It showed how fragile the Earth looked from space. And how we were part of one composite,” she adds.
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE CENTRE FOR SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT (CSE) AND EDITOR OF DOWN TO EARTH MAGAZINE
Sunita Narain’s curiosity for environmental issues started while she was still in school, inspired by her mother who was an avid gardener. However, her first brush with a real movement was the Chipko movement. The Padma Shri awardee now plays an active role in policy formulation on issues of environment and development and has been listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in the Time magazine. “As an environmentalist, we strive to ensure human beings improve their livelihood while being in tune with nature. To create a resilient economy that is nature-friendly but benefits the poorest,” she says.
Over the years, she has helped in implementing rainwater harvesting systems across villages, chaired the Tiger Task Force for the conservation of the big cats and has continued to research and advocate local participatory democracy as the key to sustainable development.