Tired Earth: A Short Interview With Licypriya Kangujam, The Indian Climate Activist

Hello, dear Licypriya!
First of all, thank you for accepting this short interview.
You are only eight years old and you are currently India's most famous climate activist. You have won the World Peace Prize for Children in 2019. However, you have already spoken in more than 20 countries. You were the youngest speaker to address the COP25 in Madrid.

1.    At what age did you first become interested in climate change? What exactly happened?

Ans: When I was just around 4 years old, I accompanied my dad to raise the funds for the victims of the deadly massive Nepal Earthquake of 2015 where more than 10,000 people had died & thousands of people got injured. We went to Nepal all the way from India by road to drop food stuffs, medicines, clothes, etc. for the victim’s children and families. I get scared when on television I see people suffering and dying because of earthquakes, floods and cyclones. I cry when I see children losing their parents or people becoming homeless due to dangers of disasters. My country has many disasters like earthquake, flood, landslides, etc. My heart feels sorrow for people who cannot help themselves when disasters strike. But I know there are millions of brave people who come to lend their hands with courage to save those in need. I get very happy when I see rescuers saving children and their parents from dangers. This was the first time where I learn the words “Climate Change” & “Natural Disasters”. But I couldn’t realize what exactly it is as I was a small baby. 

I just realized now that this could be the main reason why I am concern about our future and the planet in such a very young age. We don’t treat our planet with love and respect it deserves!

In July 2018, when I was just 6 years old, I got a chance to attend one United Nations Disaster Conference in Mongolia. I got lots of Inspiration and new knowledge from the people who spoke at the conference. It was my life changing event. After return back from Mongolia in July 2018, I have started my organization called The Child Movement to call the world leaders to take urgent climate action to save our planet and our future. As a part of my movement, I travelled over 32 countries.

In February 2019. Since then, at parliament house of India, I am standing and I am telling to our Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi & our MPs to pass the climate change law as soon as possible from the paper to become action. If they pass the climate law then we can control the carbon emissions and other green house gases. I dropped out my school since February 2019 due to my protests every week in the parliament house.

2.    What are the signs of climate change taking place in India? Do you have any ideas or plans to educate Indians about the negative consequences of climate change?

Ans: In India, Air Pollution, extreme heat waves, frequent flood and droughts, cyclones, etc. are common signs of climate change. These are mainly results due to cutting down of millions of tress in our forests, construction of huge dam in rivers, destruction of nature for developmental activities and lack of transparency in our leaders. For example, I hope everyone knows about Majuli Island of Assam in North East India. This rich biodiversity hotspot going to loss completely by 2040 due to climate change. This largest river island in the world – Our pride has been waste away by frequent floods of Brahmaputra River. Total area of Majuli in 1890 was 1500 Square Kilometers but now only remaining 520 square kilometers. No one panic till today. Recent super cyclones like Amphan displaced  more than 7 millions people to homeless and hundreds of people killed. India is the 7th most vulnerable country in the world due to climate change.

And also you can see in Delhi, how air pollution is too dangerous. Even children can’t move outside of their homes. I am worried about the health of the school children and small small babies. Government announces holiday for 5 days and again for 3 days, but this is not the solution. Our leaders are just busy in blaming each other instead of finding a long term solutions. They are just telling the speech. They are not doing anything. I want our leaders to do more actions. Otherwise our future will be dying soon. They must act now.

I also request to our government to include Climate Change as a compulsory subject in our school education curriculum and also student must plant minimum 10 trees in a year to pass their final exams. In India we have 350 million students. If 350 million students plant 10 trees every year then we will plant 3.5 billion trees a year. Trust me! India will be green in 5 years. 

I have very good news for everyone. I got an email from Rajasthan & Gujarat Government that they will be the first state in India to include climate change as a compulsory subject after my request. From 0 to 1,45,596 (One Lakh Forty-five Thousands Five Hundreds Ninety-six) schools will starts climate change as a compulsory subject in school curriculum. This is the real change brought by just 8 years old kid. Now it will follow by other states and India will become the first in Asia and second in the world taking such initiative after Italy in the history. This is the real change we want!

Licypriya Kangujam

3.    What measures have the government taken to reduce the consequences of climate change? Are these measures satisfactory?

Ans: India’s population and emissions are rising fast, and its ability to tackle poverty without massive fossil fuel use will decide the fate of the planet. The present Government failed to address the voice of young people rising to fight the climate crisis. Air Pollution can’t be address currently. And also rising carbon emissions from vehicles and industries becomes peak every day.

Cutting pollution also cuts carbon emissions, but filthy air is not the only incentive to act. Unchecked global warming will hit India hard, increasing extreme weather, like the floods that killed thousands every year, and affecting the monsoon upon which India’s farmers depend.

Heatwaves already cause thousands of deaths in India and rising temperatures that make outdoor work impossible have already seen the labour equivalent to about half a million people lost since 2000. But in coming decades, heatwaves could reach a level of humid heat classed as posing “extreme danger” for three-quarters of the population. But India’s vast population means that even small increases in emissions per person add up to a huge amount of carbon dioxide and India is likely to become the world’s biggest polluter. 

There is no specific law or policy to address the entire above burning climate issues. 

4.    To fight climate change, you have to fight scientists, intellectuals and politicians who are climate sceptic. What are your plans for today and for the future?

Ans: I have 3 major demands: 
Firstly, I want our government to enact the climate law so that we can regulate the carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. And also this will bring transparency and accountability to our leaders. This will benefits specially millions of poor people of the country.
Secondly, inclusions of climate change as a compulsory subject in our school education curriculum. This will helps to fight the climate change from the grassroots and also it will helps to educate our leaders about climate change by their own children and grand children as they can’t believe in science and the climate change is real. 
Thirdly, minimum 10 tree plantations for all students of India to pass the final exam. In India, we have 350 million students. If 350 million Students’ plants minimum 10 trees every year then we will plant 3.5 billion trees a year. Trust me! India will be green in 5 years.
All the above three policies are possible to change and others countries of the world can follows the same. This can help to fight the climate change and also to change the system of the world. I will continue to fight on this.

Licypriya Kangujam

5. As a climate activist, tell us what you like.

Ans: I am planning to taken up a new initiative called Green Olympic Game. Green Olympic Game is an Initiative taken by me to transform Olympic game into a green Sustainable and carbon neutral competition. I first plan to launch it in the Tokyo Olympic Game 2020 from July 27 to August 8 in Japan. There will be no firecrackers, zero carbon emissions, and no single used plastics during the Olympics games from this year onwards. This will be another new chapter in the history of the World.

The 5 main charters of Green Olympic Game are:
1) Host Country (Japan Government) to calculate and offset all emissions associated with the organizing and running the Olympics;
2) All transportation to and from the Olympic facilities to be emissions-free;
3) Each Olympic athlete to be given the chance to plant a tree (which means total 10,000 trees);
4) No single used plastics will be allowed at any of the venues;
5) Using of drone display, laser and sound light show only instead fireworks show in the opening and closing ceremony of Olympics.


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