Yugratna Srivastava is something of celebrity in her hometown, Lucknow. People recognise her on the street, sometimes they ask for her autograph, and in school children look up to her.
“It’s a good feeling,” she said, laughing. “But I try to behave normally, like any other student.”
Srivastava, 14, is more than an average student. Last year she became the youngest person to speak at the United Nations general assembly as a representative of children from around the world. She hobnobbed with heads of state, diplomats, and leaders, and made a rallying cry for the environment.
Srivastava was in the city over the weekend to speak at the Tedx Gateway conference, a symposium of ideas and innovations.
“Please listen to our voices, learn from the three billion young people in the world,” she exhorted the audience. “We are the future, but not the only future, because the policies governments decide today will be with us tomorrow.”
Yugratna’s tryst with environmental activities began four years ago when she joined ‘Tarumitra’, an initiative to plant a million trees in the country. She later became the representative of Asia Pacific for the United Nations Environmental Programme’s junior board.
“The environment has always been my natural passion,” she said. “Children everywhere can take the initiative, even in doing little things such as shutting down their computers instead of leaving them on standby, planting saplings, and forming eco-clubs.”
Srivastava has traveled around the world, delivering lectures on climate change and environmental degradation. Balancing her globe-trotting responsibilities and school work has been a challenge, especially now that she is in Class 10 and preparing for her exams. “But I’ve been able to manage my work through through efficient time management and support from my school,” she said.