Aditya Sahadevan is a 21-year-old climate activist and writer from India. Aditya is responsible for communications and produces content for multiple environmental organizations.
Aditya suffers from eco-anxiety and he converts his eco-anxiety into eco-activism through his writing. He has won the climate change writing competition recently.
‘Even this interview causes 0.7 grams of CO2’
Atlas: How did you become a climate activist?
Aditya: I have got involved into climate change action since 8th grade when I realized that we emit a lot CO2 knowingly and unknowingly. Even this text of mine which is solely intended to spark and speak about climate change awareness, emits about 0.7 grams of CO2.
This is one of the sole reasons why I’m part of this cause. Our micro emissions might appear miniscule, but on the larger picture it leaves a mammoth footprint behind.
My word is my power and through it, I’ll empower people to call out others for collective action to combat climate change. I blended my eco-anxiety and passion for writing to create awareness and that’s how I became a climate activist and got more involved and attached to this cause.
‘I convert my anxiety into action’
Whenever I witness any climate injustice or I feel insecurities about climate change I feel so sensitive, emotional and numb, but I won’t sit. I would do my best to convert it into acts and activism, because there’s no time sitting and procrastinating. since then, I have decided to work as a full-time climate advocate and writer.
I devoted three quarter of my time writing, spreading, striking up conversations on climate change. I believe in the power of individual action which propelled me to adopt more and more green resolutions, that’s how I garnered and got the fuel to research and reach out to more people to spread awareness.
Fixing green resolutions and climate friendly resolutions was my mantra from a very young age. Which kept me going and has strengthened. Researching green and climate-friendly solutions has been my passion since I was very young. This kept me going and empowered me. ‘Climate Resolution for Climate Revolution’ is my mantra.
‘Climate justice is my ultimate goal’
Please tell us how you decided to study Environmental Law. What do you want to do in the future?
I have decided to study Environmental Law to become the voice of the voiceless and to question the injustice by delivering eco-justice. Litigation plays a very crucial role in mitigating the effects of climate change. This monumental decision was chosen in the interest of the whole society.
Earlier, my ambition was to become a Civil Servant, but the rampant and ridiculous politics have made me to alter the decision. Albeit it was hard to make this decision, I was so passionate and prepared for that. But the political pressure won’t let us have the liberty to implement green policies and if we don’t act as per their commands or the strings controlled by them, either we will be sacked or degraded to a subordinate post.
I had lost trust in the system; the gut feeling was at its zenith and my spurred eco-anxiety coaxed me to drop this plan albeit it was hard. Also, I was frightened of my parent’s response that they would be sad, but I had to drop it. I can’t choose it to please. I believe I have the potential and passion in this area. Climate justice is my ultimate goal.
Some of our co-mates are arrested or threatened or their social media accounts blocked for spreading awareness, but they could never arrest our mindset.”
What are your demands from your government and what is the climate awareness situation in your country now?
I have been part of International, national and regional climate change conferences by doing public relations and marketing roles to make sure that climate change awareness is delivered to everyone across the world. Also, it is saddening sometimes to find that we would need to push many people to attend, so that we need to resort to giving them certificates.
This marketing technique is used so that they will sit in the meeting till the end. And at the end of the day, we will make sure they will have something to take home. And we receive good responses from people who showed disinterest in the beginning, I see this as a win. Climate awareness is now in the spotlight.
Climate awareness is proliferating at a good pace. It has risen with the involvement of the youth and many grassroot movements are mushrooming. Many NGOs and individuals are keen on delivering climate education in rural or remote areas and in educational institutions. One of my demands to the government is to attach climate education in the school curriculum.
‘They could never arrest our mindset’
Some of our co-mates are arrested or threatened or their social media accounts blocked for spreading awareness, but they could never arrest our mindset.
Another depressing thing is whenever climate related crisis comes, politicians aren’t ready to term it as climate disaster or won’t take responsibility for their bad climate policies. Also, citizens are to be blamed. They only show interest about saving the planet for a few months past the crisis, then they’re derailed from resurrection.
The government is keen on defacing the green by deforestation to make way for development, but at the stake of the Environment and in many of the mammoth projects the government grants approval for razing down the forest by neglecting it’s long- and short-term impacts.
‘Mollem is under threat’
Recently Mollem in Goa was in the news. Mollem is a rich biodiversity hotspot but is now under jeopardy. The proposed projects run through the eco-sensitive zones. About 50,000 trees were to be cleared for railway projects.
The role of politics here in loosening the Environmental laws is staggering. The EIA 2020 draft notification has made it effortless process to get clearances for these industries and projects and the role of public hearing reduced from 20 days to 30 days. The government still under pressure from activist and media. It is ready to seal the protest and keep our mouths shut by offering a short-term remedy, that is replantation.
When the government wants to cut down thousands of trees for an infrastructure project and destroy the rich flora and fauna, it promises: “We will plant 5,000 trees.” This is unfair, this is just to silence the protest, and this is not the solution.
Actually, the replantation scheme of thousands of trees won’t be a solution to cover the deforestation since these traditional or indigenous forest has its own richness and diversity and also many species can’t adjust if they become homeless. That might jeopardize the ecological imbalance and these species might become endangered and sooner extinct as well.
I’m not condemning replantation, but also the carbon sequestration of these indigenous forests are so high unlike replanted trees or Miyawaki forest, this explains why we shouldn’t support this scheme, let the natural forest be protected and sealed there should be no encroachment. So, we should protect these forests at any cost, and we shouldn’t let the government take the planted for granted. This practice can’t be tolerated.
‘My climate and career goals are intertwined’
How do you envision yourself and the world in 2030?
I envision myself in a lot of areas all related to climate activism. Only a person who suffer from eco-anxiety and sheer concern for the planet will understand. Others will term it as over ambitious goals.
Anyway, I won’t be offended to hear that. I normalize my burnouts and places activism at top to reach that level I want to achieve by 2030, but I won’t settle unless I reach my climate cum career goals. My climate and career goals to be achieved by 2030 are intertwined. By 2030, I envision myself as an:
- Writer: I envision myself as a full-time climate change activist and writer. I’ll empower people through my words and will continue to do so till my last breath.
- Green-tech investor: We need more climate conscious businesses, investors and innovators. I will invest in Green tech business and will find and fund innovative Green Initiatives. Because there are many who have stupendous sustainable ideas which is revolutionary but are in short of funds.
- Environmental Lawyer and Minister: I believe that litigation and legislation process can orchestrate many changes if a passionate person like me is involved in the mechanism, I could utilize it to initiate and implement sound climate action policies. And will allow more funds for climate action litigation in the budget (Because I was saddened by the Indian Governments budgetary allocation for Climate change mitigation, it’s in the bottom of the list).
- Vegan food-chain: The number of meat eaters are sky rocketing. I will promote lab and plant-based meat because our diet alone contributes to 15 to 20 percent of Global Carbon Emissions. I will establish vegan food chains in India and will promote veganism throughout the country. I believe this is an ethical business.
I want to grow more connections around the world, not for my popularity or profit but to spread my words.
‘Stop romanticizing development’
If you were given a platform to address the world leaders, what could you tell them?
Act, we won’t fall for your sugarcoating statements during elections anymore. We want action, not intentional or unintentional inaction. We won’t settle unless and until you start sound policies and conferences.
Stop your thirst for power, profit and pleasure, don’t deface the planet from its then pristine to pernicious state now. We are not asking you to choose, we want change and want you to change your priority, and that will ultimately help restore the pristinity of the planet.
Stop romanticizing development which is unsustainable, but just in the name and sake of development, stop buttering for votes. We demand sustainable development. Stop scapegoating other nations, climate change should be above national security, it is a global threat. We are all under the same roof. Redress and restore.
Vaccines are not the long-term solutions to preventing pandemics, but adopting a sustainable road is. Being on the vertex of the world’s best indexes doesn’t give you the immunity to do anything and everything, yes you can. But please do it for the betterment of the planet.
How do you mobilize for your strike and how young people are involved in it? How does your government perceive climate activists in India?
The participation of young people has seen a surge. In India, the way the police treat climate activists is tantamount to the treatment given to the terrorists. It is really traumatizing. During the EIA 2020, when physical protests were not possible and restrictions were imposed in connection with Covid-19, we couldn’t step out and protest. So, we resorted to social media to pressurize the government to repeal the undemocratic, unconstitutional and anti – environment policy.
Also, I think the government foresaw a massive protest against this disastrous draft and it is evident that they were eagerly waiting for a period like this when no one could seriously step out, because of the restrictions in our mind and in their hand. But it seems like the government doesn’t want the future leaders to raise their voice.
‘We are sacrificing our youth’
This period albeit has seen a lot of young people coming into activism. The government is keen on suppressing our opinions. Social media campaigns were only a relief to counterattack this. The youth led organizations fighting on the frontlines were censored or shadow banned so that the presence is hardly noticed. Also, they are afraid of the fact that this awareness would reach more people.
The government in retaliation to the online petitions against the draconian draft, removed the e-mail petition links from the site so that more people won’t notice and oppose it, so they could effortlessly implement this draft. We the youth sacrifices our youth to fight this cause and goes through a lot of burnouts and are fighting restlessly to combat and arrest the climate violators. To make this a better place.
The treatment given to the climate activists is depressing. The voices of the youth are drowned and degraded by the people in authority. But we won’t submit failure. We will fight till the end and spread information and protest like a wildfire.
‘We need collective action’
What do you think is necessary to stop this climate crisis we are living?
We need collective action to combat this climate crisis and according to me the mental element should be there to fight and to face it. We have to instill this in every person. The urgency to act because our mindset is what drives us to do things. I’m not talking about humungous plans but how can we come to that plans (conclusions) and how can we do it. It matters the most.
We have so much power, but people underrate the power of individual action. It is evident because had it been without that, our oceans wouldn’t have been polluted with 8 million tons of plastic products. Every time someone throws a plastic bottle, they feel it’s just one. But sadly, this was the exact thought 7 billion people had when they threw a bottle. We could set a reverse mindset to this thought by not throwing. So individual action can create impacts which could be either positive or negative. But let’s make sure that it’s a positive one. So, we need to instill this mindset in everyone.
‘We need amendments both at individual and institutional level’
We have to commit additional and Brobdingnagian efforts to protect the natural carbon neutralizers like trees, the oceans and blue whales. Deforestation is skyrocketing and blue whales are slaughtered for meat and in the name of tradition. There are millions to march for the protection of societal norms but sadly not even a quarter to raise voice for the climate. This mentality is monstrous.
Climate change is not racist, speciest and does not discriminate like humans do, everyone will be impacted though it and we need to act. We need to divert this mentality, for that we need passionate policy makers and organizations to aid and to implement strong environmental laws, grassroot movements, and climate education should be a part of the school curriculum.
We need amendments both at individual and institutional level. Our lifestyle is a major contributor to climate change. Fashion plays a hidden and horrendous role in driving the climate crisis. Also, improper discarding and design failure makes it hard to get things recycled. Ecology and economy are also interrelated, a sustainable and sound ecology can only guarantee as an economy which will benefit all on a tantamount scale and ensure pristine living conditions for all. We need more climate conscious individuals, business houses and institutions.
‘I convert my eco-anxiety into eco-activism’
After doing a little research on you, I see you have been suffering eco-anxiety like most other climate activists. It really is a big issue. Please can you tell us how it makes you feel and how do you find ways to deal with it?
I write and that’s how I flaunt the fears and facts of climate change, not to instill panic but to call out others to combat climate change collectively. I communicate and convert my eco-anxiety into eco-activism through my writing.
A day without reading or spreading awareness about climate change is a day tantamount to total dejection. Eco-anxiety has influenced me in some of the monumental decisions I have made, from diet to personal, professional, and physiological changes as well.
Having high eco-anxiety is a stressful and surely strenuous task. This staunchly stokes me to write and spread and research more about climate change far and more. So, I speak my eco anxiety and spark the fear and facts to others.
‘I feel sensitive and emotional’
The psychological impact it has on me is mammoth and it is all about, a sense of insecurity, doubt, hopelessness, helplessness. It clouds my mind with a thousand questions like “Is there enough time?”, “Am I doing enough?”, “Is my activism having impact on people?”. Every time I witness the climate insecurity, I feel so sensitive I feel so emotional I feel numb.
India’s most recently released Environment impact Assessment draft notification 2020 was a big breakdown, depressed and it was a stressful time, really affected my studies I was totally into activism that I had no time for myself and my academics, my friends were supportive as well they did my homeworks to help me that they know that I won’t do it because I’m full into activism and so pressurized also not in a position to.
Just Because the EIA draft 2020 was a bad Environmental policy, we have had to send thousands of researched reports and objection mails to the government (also it was so frustrating that the government declared that they will only read 100 mails out of 17 lakh mails, I mean a lot of us researched day and night and now it’s futile) to convince that it is not good for the planet, can you believe it?
We are teaching and begging literally or convincing the statutory body that is Environment ministry which is obliged to protect the planet and change their Decision. So, had it been without this bad Environmental policy this wouldn’t have happened, the ministry received 17 lakh mails as objection. Then I do my fast math, I know that it is the only way that is striking digitally when covid 19 was hitting hard with regulations stepping outside, I calculate like, an email emits about 10gms of carbon dioxide that is 17lakh mails multiplied with 10gms. My anxiety attack advances when I calculate these stats.
‘I feel guilt’
Even Climate change conferences emits about thousands of kilograms of Carbon dioxide, we access this through our digital devices which is powered by nonrenewable sources and carbon is emitted. But it’s for a good cause that is to create awareness and Digital conferences emits only a small amount of carbon footprint than the real one.
Here what I’m trying to convey is that we have reached at a point where even Carbon footprint is there for good things like this conference, so my objective is to create awareness on Carbon footprint of products or services which we emit knowingly and unknowingly, it is a less known fact.
I feel often guilt like this: “Ohh my activity has released carbon footprint even if it’s like 10-20gms it creates the eco anxiety that what if 7 billion people are doing this, painting a bigger picture, it is really frustrating and frightening.” And all I think about is neutralizing the carbon emitted and reducing my personal Footprint by cutting goods or foods that harm the Environment by making changes in lifestyle and diet. These are some ways I control (eco-anxiety) and cut short my Carbon footprint:
- Music streaming and OTT Platforms: I have altered the usage of both these streaming cloud services. This is literally steaming the environment. Watching Netflix emits 0.6 kg of carbon emissions per hour. I use streaming services only to look out for new songs. If the song is already on your favorite playlist, I would staunchly recommend downloading the songs because every time we replay the songs or stream online, it creates carbon emissions. So, it is better to download and hear offline.
- Screen time: When I watch or read anything on internet or on the phone, I will make sure that I am not watching it time killing. I will make sure that I will use it for productive purposes only. Also, the bigger the size of the screen and the quality of the video or content resolution, more the carbon emissions. Also, I will make sure that I will not leave my phone with screen on.
- Food Waste: I will make sure that I won’t waste food or buy excess food and the waste will be either disposed properly so that it won’t result in the release of methane emissions and the amount of labor, resources and final food product that is food will all go futile if we waste it, also with human population, proliferation and increase in poverty, we should be more cautious.
- Dishwashing: Cautious dishwashing is seriously a job to do. I have made sure that I won’t let the water run freely without the usage. Also, when it’s under use or if it’s running reduce the speed. Inappropriate dishwashing emits about 500 grams to 8 Kilogram of carbon emissions. So, I prefer washing the dishes in cold water than warm water.
- Walking: I always prefer to walk even if it’s quite long. Also, I have started using an app named ‘Step Set Go’ which counts our steps and rewards us with coins. This app has motivated me to walk more but not to collect the coins, but it gives me a satisfaction, I would prefer others to use this app. Walking also emits carbon emissions. It depends upon our diet, but anyway, walking is better than using vehicles for short distances.
- E-mails: A sound e -mail (spamless mail box) habit can reduce about 20 million tons of carbon emissions. An e – mail emits about 10 grams of CO², most of our mails are junk or spam mails. Unsubscribe from them to cut short your carbon emissions from spam mails. Also, even deleting spam mails also emits CO² but it has to be done anyway or take a precaution by not subscribing to mails or newsletters when you won’t read it.
- Shampoo Bottles: I’ve halted the usage of shampoos since it contains toxic, micro plastics and it is in a plastic bottle. And also, most of these will end up in the landfills or in the oceans. I would prefer and I would love to use toxic free natural shampoo, which is home – made. A shampoo bottle emits about 16 kg of carbon emissions.
- Diet: Eco – anxiety had coaxed me to make changes in my diet as well. I have halted the usage of soft drinks, snack packets. Also, I always carry a steel straw.
- Text Messages: A text message emits about 0.07 grams of carbon dioxide. But it is not a big deal. I have made sure that I won’t spam message. Also, I leave from whatsapp groups which I find futile since it is totally pointless. If you don’t read them, just being a part of the group can harm the environment. Make sure that the group is productive because every time we send and receive messages, it emits CO² and if you open the group or not, carbon emissions will still be there.