HT Youth Survey: India’s youth not aware of climate change, environmental issues
A majority of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 are neither aware of the negative effect of greenhouse gases nor understand how sustainable options such as renewable energy use can save the planet.
In 2015, there were 4.2 million deaths globally because of pollution, caused by PM2.5—fine particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometer, according to environmental research organisation Health Effects Institute. India accounts for one in four of these deaths — 1.09 million — where research shows the youth are largely ignorant about environmental issues.
The Hindustan Times-MaRS Monitoring and Research Systems Youth Survey 2017, reveals that more than 74% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 are not aware of how greenhouse gases cause global warming. Renewable energy is a mystery to 70.9% of the respondents and 63.4% cannot explain why bio-degradable waste is important.
Sustainable practices are limited to switching off lights at home and avoiding use of “plastic bags as far as possible.”
About 68.4% of youngsters cannot identify eco-friendly products.
They will be forced to act soon, says Mihir Mathur, a former fellow with the Earth Science and Climate Change Division at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The youth will most likely be left with no choice since the next few decades will see a more pronounced impact of environmental inaction.
“The pollution, the landfills, and the food that shall become more synthetic will force the youth to take steps in order to adapt to the future world that we are creating,” says Mathur, a visiting faculty at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad and the Indian School of Development Management, Noida.
Ashim Berry, 22, and Sarthak Anand, 25, who work with the NGO Swechha, are surprised at the Youth Survey findings that 80.2% youngsters have not participated in cleanliness drives. Both are dedicated to the greening cause , participating in river cleanliness campaigns and in literacy drives in slums.
As the environmental education programme coordinator with the NGO, 23-year-old Anshika Srivastava wants studies related to sustainable development and climate change to be built “into the education curriculum”. Children should be taught how waste is segregated, they should understand why the waste problem exists. This has to be done, she says, because our society is consuming more and more.
Mathur feels the youth should build consensus on a future they deeply desire. “What is it that they wish to have, say, in 2040? Do they see a world that is more crowded than today, more polluted than today, more expensive, more poor, more polarised, more synthetic? If they can create a shared vision for themselves, the youth can achieve a lot,” he adds.
Anand, who has a master’s in development from Bengaluru’s Azim Premji University, says his mission is to engage as many children as possible with issues related to environment, hoping they become environment-oriented and consider the effects of their actions on day-to-day life.
As NGOs don’t pay much, campaigners like Anand and Berry say they aim to live a simple life. However, “sustaining oneself and an organisation is tough,” says Anand.
Berry, a musician who supports himself with the money he makes from gigs, says he won’t have it any other way. A green campaigner since his school days, he has been on Yamuna Yatras, tracing the river from its source in Yamunotri to the plains in Brindavan. Seeing how “we exploit the river,” has affected him deeply and motivated him to be a change maker to save the planet.
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Survey Methodology: India Youth Survey 2017 was carried out by MaRS Monitoring and Research Systems in 16 state capitals and major towns in India- Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur, and Chandigarh in the north, Kolkata, Patna, Bhubaneswar and Ranchi in the East, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Indore in the West, and Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi in the South.
Target respondents were both male and female from age groups 18-21 years and 22-25 years, belonging to households with durable ownership of CTV, Refrigerator and at least two of: Car, Two Wheeler, Home computer/laptop, Air Conditioner and Washing machine. The respondent was either currently a student of undergraduate or above or employed with education graduate or above. Additionally the respondent was a regular user of internet on the smart phone and member of a social networking site. Total sample size was 5700, equally divided among men and women and the two age groups. Survey was carried out from July 10 to July 31, 2017.