Bhubaneswar: Be it the all-consuming wildfires that ravaged the American West or the devastating heat waves that swept through Southern Europe, extreme weather events, so common nowadays, remind us again and again of the ruin we have made of our planet. Though climate change, the cause behind these extremities, has long been established as a consequence of human behaviour, initiatives to reverse it and mitigate its consequences have never been enough.
As it is a problem that needs collective action, cooperation between governments, and mobilisation of people, numerous events and talks are arranged each year at multiple levels to create awareness and enhance the process of climate action. On the occasion of its 49th birth anniversary, leading Odia daily Dharitri organised such an event in the City here, Thursday. The focus of the event ‘Dharitri Youth Conclave 2022 — Climate Change: The Power of Youth’ was to highlight the work done by young climate activists and create awareness among the youth about a host of issues – from biodiversity preservation to behavioural change. The mega event saw participation of various stakeholders such as young climate activists and members of civil society and officials from the government, nongovernment organisations, and international bodies like UNICEF.
Several talented young climate activists from different parts of the country participated as expert panellists and shared their experiences with the audience. Besides, many young speakers from reputed educational institutions of the state were also in attendance. Young environmentalists Arun Krishnamurthy, Neelima Mishra, UNICEF Odisha office-in-charge Sugata Roy, Forest, Environment & Climate Change department Director-cum-Special Secretary K Murugesan, UN Youth Climate Leader Neha Shivaji Naikwade, RJ Varsha Raikwar, wildlife biologist Prakash Mardaraj, author Sagar Pradhan and Dharitri & Orissa POST Editor Tathagata Satpathy were on the panel.
Split into two sessions, the event was moderated by Bakul Foundation’s founder and volunteer Sujit Mahapatra and KSOM Assistant Professor Surya Narayan Mishra. The event began with the welcome speech by Dharitri and Orissa POST Chief Executive Adyasha Satpathy. She said that Dharitri will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The leading Odia daily has been offering unbiased news for the past five decades. And it has always given priority to the youth and environment, she added. About the event, the Chief Executive of the two newspapers said that the conclave is an effort to drive consciousness on climate change at the grassroots. The initiative, she said, provides a platform for brainstorming on the climate change and possible solutions for a liveable tomorrow.
The leading Odia daily, in order to encourage climate warriors at the grassroots, has instituted ‘Dharitri Climate Fund’, she announced. According to young climate activist Soumya Ranjan Biswal, climate change will impact one and all. “Hence, it’s a collective responsibility of all to act today for a better and liveable tomorrow,” Biswal said. Dharitri and Orissa POST Editor Tathagata Satpathy said that media plays a key role in making people aware of the impact their actions have on the environment. Initiatives like ‘Dharitri Youth Conclave’ go a long way in motivating people towards actions that will help reverse climate change. K Murugesan said that Odisha is the first state to act on the climate change action plan. “Odisha is prone to natural calamities like floods. We also have the largest population residing in coastal areas. The state has been witnessing a rapid industrialisation in the last few years. We’re also the first state in the country to get the green climate fund and prepare special climate budget. Odisha is leading in climate action but we need support of youths,” he said.
According to Sugata Roy, about 10 million children were displaced owing to climate-induced migration in the last five years. “It’s the reason for which they don’t have access to education and healthcare facilities. Hence, we’re violating the child rights if we cannot take care of climate change today,” Roy said. Neelima Mishra highlighted the real picture of Arctic area through a video. “You can find your Arctic in your area and home and can change that. I have tried to be minimalistic as possible and try to send message that waste management is crucial,” said Mishra.
According to Arun Krishnamurthy, Odisha is like a mother with resources for everybody as the coastal state has turtles, elephants and lush green forests. He added, “Dharitri will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. And let’s pledge to bring some change by the next conclave.” Vasu Dixit, through his music, tried to narrate a story about the environment. The audience was mesmerised by his soulful voice. Young Odia writer Sagar Pradhan said Dharitri is setting an example for other media houses in the state by organising such an event. He also said, “More than focusing on ‘Smart City,’ we must focus on the idea of a green city.” Prakash Mardaraj said that unlike humans, animals do not have ways to protect themselves from the effects of climate change. “Due to human encroachment of forest areas, animals are entering the urban localities, leading to conflict and their unfortunate death,” Mardaraj added.