“How does it matter? It is just one straw,” said eight billion people.
This is the thought that explains that if it is the action/s of individuals that contribute to the degradation of the environment on the Earth, it is the action/s of individuals that can bring about the change, especially so when these individuals push so much that others are inspired to take similar actions.
Coinciding with Earth Day on April 22, the more than 150-year-old institution, the National Geographic will be launching a series ‘One for Change’ highlighting extraordinary individuals who have worked for making the planet a better place to live.
Awareness is the key and young and chirpy Varsha Raikwar lives it every moment through her work as an RJ for Radio Bundelkhand 90.4 FM.
Coming from a background where the first thing parents think of is getting the girl married at the earliest, Raikwar is not just breaking the stereotypes but also inspiring others, majorly women, from across the four districts of Bundelkhand to spread awareness about climate change.
“We have a collection of 3,000 traditional Bundelkhandi songs, suitable for every kind of occasion. Our daily programme Shubh Phal comprises an expert interview, a song and of course, information sharing,” Raikwar said adding: “There is one-hour live programme that has an interactive segment and therein we ask people to talk about their problems, possible reasons and also make them discuss the solutions.”
If Raikwar is reaching out to rural classes, Vani Murthy is an out and out urban soul and therefore any person in metro city can directly relate to her work. Known as ‘worm queen of India’, she said: “There is lack of awareness and therefore reluctance on part of the city people. (But) One cannot force anyone to do something. All I can do is keep on talking and talking and spreading awareness about why composting is necessary, what is its role, why do segregation-at-source for the waste one generates.”
“It is ultimately all about an individual’s choice. By composting, I pay the rent for living on this planet daily,” the ‘composting crusader’ said.
Another person who exercised her ‘choice’ is Rukmani Katara from Rajasthan’s Dungarpur district. Married off at the age of 13 and getting her first child at 14 were no hindrance to the illiterate-yet-gutsy Katara, who started from a simple Kirana shop, working as labourer under employment guarantee scheme, forming an SHG of women and ultimately getting opportunity to not just assemble solar lanterns but also market them.
“When we started in 2017, the work was not at all easy in the patriarchal set up, we were apprehensive but with help we managed. Today, we are 55 women managing and manufacturing a large solar lantern assembly industry and marketing it too.”
Another changemaker who discovered the power of women is Assam’s Purnima Burman Devi, who proudly tells the story of her ‘Hargila Army’ that is working towards the protection of endangered Greater Adjutant Stork (called Hargila in their language).
“My PhD was on these storks but till then I was never into conservation. But one day, a neighbour felled a tree that had a nest full of Hargila chicks. I myself had a two-year old child then and as a mother, I could feel the pain. That was when I decided to do something for this endangered species,” Burman said.
But it is not just the endangered species that need protection. “Each one can start from his or her balcony, from his or her own backyard and look for everyday birds and animals too,” she said.
Vidyut Mohan, co-founder of Takachar that uses agro-waste to churn out fuels, fertilizers, and specialty chemicals and helps reduce air pollution; Tejas Sidnal runs Carbon Craft Design, a Mumbai-based StartUp that is turning polluted air into affordable carbon tiles, and Venkatesh Charloo, a passionate marine conservationist who had earlier quit his cushy banking job to start a Citizen Science initiative for certified scuba divers that monitors and helps coral restoration in Goa were among the other changemakers.
Others who were announced but were not present include Poonam & Aditya Singh, Thulasi Gowda, and Sonam Wangchuk. Singhs, a sculptor and a photographer duo respectively by profession, have transformed a barren patch of land into a lush forest inhabited by a variety of wildlife to restore the balance of nature right next to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
Padma Shri Thulasi Gowda from north Karnataka, is known for over six decades for planting saplings and maintaining the nursery facilities for working towards conservation of trees while Sonam Wangchuk, an engineer turned into innovator, founding director and brain behind the designing of the SECMOL campus in Ladakh, the inventor of the Ice Stupa technique that creates vertical artificial glaciers and now setting up the first cold desert university for the upliftment of the Ladakhi youth.
Apart from NatGeo, the entertainment channels a Disney Star too would support the initiative by featuring the films on their network.