Redefined Sustainable Thinking (REST), believing in "combining innovative thinking of the youth with the mentorship of experienced professionals to generate effective, resilient solutions" embarked on conducting the first of many courses to instil values into our communities that allow us to shape society in an inclusive and equitable manner. Collaborating with Rostrum Education, an EduTech company, REST delivered an interesting, insightful and impact-oriented course on ‘Youth Leadership in Climate Change’ to a diverse group of students.
The 5-day course, from 29th June to the 3rd of July, began with our lead speaker, Dr. Rajan Kotru, highlighting the visible symptoms of climate change. From extreme temperatures and intensified weather events to forest fires and rising sea levels, the participants were able to recognize and look into a multitude of discernible signs. With this as the backdrop, the session went on to evaluate the role that Climate Science and Citizen Science play in informing us about climate change. Further analysis led to discussions around causes of climate change and the impact humans have on the same. Participants, curious to explore the global response to this impending environmental issue, learnt a great deal about agreements and organizations such as the Paris Agreement, UNFCCC*, IPCC*, the GCF* and more.
Starting off the next session looking at India’s route to national uptake of actions, our speaker covered various policies and strategies, including the Green India Mission, the NAPCC* and the SAPCC*, and programmes, such as the National Water Mission and the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency. Further investigation of strategies led to examination of India’s alignment with the SDGs* and the NDCs*. Moreover, looking at financing options, the session explored multiple avenues – ranging from financing institutions like the IFC* to business opportunities through CSR*. Finally, the session concluded by exploring the role of youth, briefly reviewing why youth is valuable and how certain COPs* focus on youth participation.
Driving the following session into the direction of youth involvement, our speaker focused on the basic principles of leadership. With help from our participants’ poll question responses, our speaker highlighted some key traits of leaders. From physical capabilities and mental abilities to emotional intelligence and spiritual aura, this session provided participants with a comprehensive understanding of how to step up and take initiative. Analyzing local and international examples, including the Waste Warriors in India and EcoPeace in the Middle-East, allowed participants to recognize their potential as young thinkers and inspired them to share ideas for potential solutions to the climate problem.
Recognizing the fact that the last few years have been fraught with political, environmental, and social changes, the subsequent session focused on the need for actions. Voices of dissent have grown strong, continue to be strong, and need to be stronger, now more than ever. The urgency of climate action cannot be more clearly visible. Acknowledging this urgency, our speaker, Ophelia, highlighted that in an environment where many adults have felt despair, it is young individuals who have risen to the challenge by speaking on behalf of future generations. Taking the example of the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, the session demonstrated to the participants how Greta’s one-person campaign against global warming inspired the “School Strike 4 Climate Action” movement, thereby bringing together teenagers from all over the world. Following this essence, dialogue on how to initiate action, at the local level, was carried out.
Concluding with an understanding of how climate change fits into the global context of megatrends and alternative narratives, the succeeding session discussed bright spots in the current climate of inaction. Not only was the importance of lifestyle changes, at an individual level, stressed upon but the potential benefits, to oneself and the environment, of making those changes was also accentuated. A special emphasis was given to the creation of this valuable virtuous cycle, the foundation of which remains the intention behind which REST chooses to engage with the youth. Putting forth “people without education being like weapons without bullets” drove the topic of educating oneself, skill building and working on one’s character home. The first of many engagements that REST plans to have with young minds, ended with saying that one should invest in themselves whilst taking time to understand the community around them. A final discussion on building on personal habits, whether that was through proactiveness, prioritization, or adopting a win-win strategy, served as an appropriate end note for participants, as they set out to put things into perspective and start making change.
Reflecting on their learning from the 5 sessions, the participants shared their thoughts on the importance of improving one’s self-awareness in the process of becoming a more effective leader. While Mihika stressed on the significance of intellectual humility in this process, Chittish, Rishav and Shubham, amongst others, underscored the need for an open mind in cultivating self-awareness. Farhaan and Farzaan, recognizing the paramount importance of discipline, talked about the process requiring time, effort and an incredible amount of willpower. As Rishi and Shrishti emphasized the significance of accepting and embracing a diverse point of views, Nandini and Emmanuel reinforced this by stating that a leader’s role is more about bringing the best out of the people one leads than it is about oneself. Gayatri concluded this point, stating that a true leader is one who can make people like their voices matter. Similarly, while Zaid talked about self-awareness being an ongoing process in the quest to become an effective leader, Sheik highlighted that self-awareness is achieved when people utilize their strengths and understand their weaknesses. Anish’s remarks, presenting a new perspective on the dialogue, revolved around the importance of mindfulness. Mirroring Anish’s views, REST believes that mindfulness practices allow us to control our emotions, helping us decrease feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. Moreover, these practices also help us focus our attention and observe our own, as well as others’, thoughts and feelings without any judgement.
UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
GCF: Green Climate Fund
NAPCC: National Action Plan on Climate Change
SAPCC: State Actions Plan on Climate Change
SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals
NDCs: Nationally Determined Contributions
IFC: International Finance Corporation
CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility
COP: Conference of Parties