No act is too small to save the planet: Earth Day Network's Neela Majumdar

Kolkata, India: After 2020's Earth Day celebrated in the uncertainty of the future (COVID-19 was taking shape) we're on the crossroads of another, fresh day, to celebrate and reflect on saving planet Earth. 

One year over, and a lot has changed. More than three million people have lost their lives to the deadly contagion so far - that's more people than some countries combined vanishing from the face of Earth.

And the reason behind the debacle of great magnitude is humanity itself. We've failed to sync with Mother Nature. 

Climate change, human activities are more closely related to pandemics than one will generally realize.

Many of the underlying mechanisms of climate change raise the likelihood of pandemics.

Deforestation, mostly for agricultural purposes, is the leading cause of habitat destruction globally.

Loss of habitat causes animals to migrate, where they can come into contact with other animals or humans and spread germs.

Large livestock farms may also be a vector of infection transmission from animals to humans.

Reduced demand for animal meat and more humane animal husbandry could reduce the risk of emerging infectious diseases and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As we welcome the second 22nd April in this unprecedented time,  we look back and condole the incomprehensible loss of our kind we've made, and we continue to. 

Organizations like Earth Day play an active and global role in taming the storm called climate change. It is one of the world's biggest NGOs working to save Mother Earth.

Also read | Air pollution costs Indian businesses $95 bn a year: study 

This Earth Day, We The World Magazine speaks to Earth Day Network India's senior projects development manager Neela Majumdar, about what has been the journey so far, and where are we heading to. 

Here's the slightly edited (for clarity) interview:

We The World:  It's Earth Day and we ought to reflect on the progress we've made. What would you say when it comes to India?


Neela: India is aligned to its Paris commitments and as per the report by Moodys, it exceeds climate compliance as per the agreement.

According to Moody's analysis, the share of generation capacity from non-fossil-based fuel sources in the country will likely increase to 45 percent by 2022 as India plans to increase its renewable energy capacity.

On Earth Day, our advisor Prof Chetan Singh Solanki is spearheading an event ‘Million Pledges, Billion Hopes.’  This calls upon millions to pledge to reduce energy use and adopt clean and green energies such as solar. 

We The World: Earth Day drives billions of people in Asian nations with Earth Day Network to take action to save Earth. What has been the experience like in the year of Pandemic?

Neela: To mark our 50th anniversary, we launched #MyFutureMyVoice as a special initiative in 2020. This initiative places at center stage the role youth play across the globe as responsible, environment-friendly citizens.

It brings together youth from different countries to join hands for common aims such as working toward a greener, cleaner, less polluted Earth, for a world where there is judicious use of natural resources and switches are made to renewable energies.

Also read | 'Dhara Vikas:' How Sikkim is leading India's natural spring revival?

At present we have 150 dynamic youth from 68 countries. 99% of all Asian countries are represented. They are from different backgrounds, but all united by the common aim of a greener Earth.

There are authors, actors, musicians, NGO heads, grassroots workers, government officials, among others.

We The World: Did the pandemic change, affect, or alter the way people perceive climate change? In other words, from an environmental activist's point of view, has the pandemic been a bane or a blessing?

Neela: When lockdown happened, the Earth was able to restore itself. It also brought nature closer to humans, in particular to those in urban spaces.

For instance, people in Bombay saw peacocks, and in Chandigarh, we were able to see the mountains normally shrouded in the distance due to air pollution; we saw the Ganga river water become blue rather than turgid.

But as soon as there was a little let up by COVID, it was business as usual. This puts a greater responsibility on many different segments of society that can reach millions in a short time.

Media outlets, such as this, included. Do share with us how We the Word Magazine will carry environmental messages on a regular basis.

We The World: What would you say about the people of India's in-general attitude to the cause of climate change?  

Neela: People in the rural areas are still connected to Nature because they are dependent on it. The closer you work with the land, the more dependent you are on it and the greater the reverence for it.

They understand the causes of climate change, but may not have the financial ability to adopt a switch to environmentally friendly methods.  

From burning carbon-emitting fuel such as twigs to paying for conversion to solar, might not be a financially viable option to rural women.


We The World: What would you comment about the involvement of India's youth in the global climate change movement.

Neela: It is fantastic to see so many youths taking the lead in this. Our My Future My Voice campaign alone and the EDN Rising stars that we regularly award are shining examples of youth taking climate action.  

We The World: Even to this day there're climate change skeptics. Do you have anything to tell the deniers of climate change?

Neela: We need to tell them to wake up and face reality, and not bury their heads in the sand!

Also read | Climate change cause spring flowers to bloom early, confusing bees

We The World: Several lifestyles are attributed as climate change-friendly. Like veganism, eco-conscious lifestyle, plant-based living, and so on. There's also this common conception in India that to help save Earth it is often heavy on the pockets. Like electric vehicles are much expensive than conventional gas and petrol ones. Similarly, plant-based milk comes at a higher price than dairy and many more. People often feel sustainability comes with a hefty price. What would say to them?

Neela: Yes, we need to increase greater awareness, leading to greater demand. A few years ago we started an organic campaign with a dinner with a Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata and invited vendors to showcase their products.

There was only a handful, but the trend has changed and with increasing demand, there are so many more vendors now at our Go Organic events. Greater demand will bring the prices down.


We The World: In addition to making smarter buying choices, what people can do to help save Earth?

Neela: Every Act Counts! Everyone needs to understand that there is no Planet B. That the Earth will exist as a hot or cold planet but can humanity exist? No act is too small. Even fixing a leaky tap is important.

We The World: In India scores of women are homemakers. They're the backbone of the nation. What active role could they play when it comes to saving the planet?

Neela: We firmly believe that women are the backbone that leads to a Green Economy. Even sitting at home they can earn livelihoods.

We honor women’s groups that contribute to the welfare of the environment and to the enhancement of livelihood.

We announce these Earth Day Network Star Women’s Group Awards every 8th of the month. This month we awarded a Group that makes Kantha, a traditional activity done by women at home.

Also read | Beijing 'sandstorm' was actually a dust storm. And it's concerning

Our Healthy Energy for Women focuses on ways solar energy and other clean energy alternatives can replace the traditionally used, carbon-emitting fuels such as coal and kerosene for cooking and lighting in rural India.

Our presentation to women Panchayat leaders puts them in touch with local banks, the state nodal agencies for renewable energy, the system suppliers, and local NGOs working in the same sector so they can benefit from bank loans and government schemes.

We The World: Climate change has aggravated the visible signs of environmental damage. Summers are harsher, winters less cold, tropical cyclones more destructive, rainfalls erratic, and so on. Red signs are everywhere. Is the GOI on par with leading nations in tackling the bane and policy-making?

Neela: Our Constitution and laws are very well designed to protect the environment. What is needed is an implementation of these laws, and that will only be effective if we educate people about the need to be stewards for the environment. 

We The World: President Joe Biden is set to address the Summit on April 22 that’ll coincide with Earth Day. What can we expect?

Neela: We know that President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate will be seen as a significant event as a collection of world leaders gathers to discuss how to build a clean energy future and avert a future of climate chaos by keeping warming below 1.5°C. 

Keep checking back our Environment tab for more reporting and coverage on what is up with our goals to save Mother Earth. 

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