It feels surreal that Move for Earth officially started this morning after months of planning and preparation. But after a vibrant and well-attended flag-off from Victoria Memorial, where we met with film director Aparna Sen and other dignitaries, cycling all day, and attending several events, it brings it home that this is finally happening.
After leaving Kolkata, my first stop was Titagarh, where I debuted as ‘Earth Magician VJ’ and did some magic tricks for the youth. I honestly had no idea how well magic would work as a #LoveforEarth challenge and as an engagement tool until I was with these children who had a voracious appetite for wanting to understand how things worked and were constantly asking us pertinent climate questions. The youth had also set up an impressive art and photography exhibition, which I walked through after the magic show. Observing the connection between art and climate action through the lens of these young climate champs was a powerful experience, and a gentle reminder that solutions can come from anyone and anywhere. At Naihati too, the community used art to highlight environmental issues through a ‘Waste to Wealth’ handicrafts mela. Creative solutions such as the mela (fair) are increasingly relevant as our society works on addressing the immense plastic waste issue that is polluting our water sources and land. West Bengal is the 4th biggest plastic waste producer in India, and the community in Naihati is motivated to change the current situation. This should motivate the rest of us to make conscious decisions about our own consumption practices.
After Naihati, it was onward to Ranaghat, where we held two different cycle rides with youth groups in the area. I ended the day with a panel discussion on environmental sustainability, attended by government officials, community members and colleagues at local NGOs.
As I reflect on today’s events, I am constantly reminded of the inquisitive and resilient nature of today’s youth. They are inheriting a world with several interconnected societal challenges, yet they are ready to face it head-on. These children have inspired and invigorated me and I’m going to carry their stories with me:
– The girl who has been doing river clean-ups and then repurposing the waste she collects into art, all the while putting brush to paper to depict the impacts of pollution in her community;
– The group of girls who developed a school project that recycles wastewater into a viable agriculture irrigation system;
– The youth groups in Ranaghat who carry such a deep and nuanced understanding of the environmental issues in their community – whether air or industrial pollution, the links between the climate crisis and public health – because they are already seeing and feeling the impacts of pollution on their own health and other community members. More importantly, they also had solutions and ideas on how to address these issues.
Though this has been a fruitful day of meeting and engaging with people and communities, it is a reminder of the interconnected and intersectional issue of climate change that many of our communities are already bearing the brunt of. This is the first day of my ride, and in many ways, it is also the start of many people’s climate action journey, especially the youth who are seeking out ways to make a difference. We still have a long way to go before we urge and influence system-change that allows everyone to live in a healthy and safe environment, but the movement has started and is picking up steam. I cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings.