What is LOHAS?

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action

 While researching on various aspects of sustainable development I recently came across an acronym which people involved in the green movement have been tossing around for a while. I have been involved in the green movement but as a relative newcomer this acronym came as a surprise to me. So to avoid further suspense this acronym was none other than “LOHAS”. Coming up with new movements and trends it is impossible not to have new phrases and acronyms in our daily lexicon. Becoming a hottest trend within companies and consumers across the globe LOHAS stands for Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.

Once I googled LOHAS I soon discovered that this term was coined in late 1990s.  LOHAS refers to segment in the market that is focused on environment, healthy lifestyle, sustainable living and social justice.  It incorporates the businesses and consumers alike. There are a number of industries, corporations, products and activities that are designed to be eco-friendly, sustainable and healthier for the planet as well as people. It can be seen as a growing movement where the LOHAS consumer keeps in mind the values and belief systems before making their purchase. A common example of this can be the emerging trend of organic food though its buying power is limited in the hands of a few. Moreover the LOHAS movement still needs to further assimilate in the markets not limited to few places and people.

Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability is built on the work of a sociologist Paul Ray who undertook extensive research in the mid 1990s in United States. He found out that 25 % of the US population could relate to the concepts of sustainability, health and social justice and how they desired to live their lives.  The 25% of US population was termed as “Cultural Creatives” by Paul Ray describing them as leaders of cultural change. LOHAS defined the emergence of a global trend based on conscious choice in a wide range of industries. However it was difficult to define this cultural phenomenon from the market perspective. Encompassing things like organic foods, eco-tourism, alternative medicine as well as energy-efficient appliances and solar panels. LOHAS describes the marketplace for such products and services and the consumers who buy these.

It should be noted that the known LOHAS market is limited to few developed countries and it still needs to reach the developing world. The trend however has seeped into many places where a level of consciousness has pushed certain type of consumers to spend money on products that are produced in a sustainable way. Hence LOHAS besides being a market segment limited to few countries is a growing awareness where people worry about the environment and want their lifestyles to be eco-friendly. This has given rise to corporate social responsibility too, which didn’t exist few years ago, making corporations responsible for environmental protection during manufacturing and also looking after the workers’ rights.

Even today the big businesses fail at times for example the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh that led to a loss of thousands of lives is a case in point. There are many other incidents both reported and unreported around the world that should be kept in mind when looking at the progress of Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. This does not mean that we should undermine the little efforts but we have a long way to go.

When it comes to organic food which is just one aspect of LOHAS it should be noted that the organic products cater to a certain segment of society, those who can buy it. There must be an extra effort behind the production of organic food without using pesticides but it also limits the buyers. It would be great if healthier options are available to the consumers from various segments of the society depending on their income. The approach of catering the elite class will not save the world as the majority has the power to bring change not a small percentage of population. There is a need for policies that keep in mind the values and belief systems of LOHAS targeting a greater number of population, only then will it be fruitful.

certified-organic01Photo Source Google

It is not a secret that organic food helps protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and optimizes the productivity and biological diversity resulting in healthier lifestyles. But what about the higher cost of organic products? For some people eating organic food and buying organic products is not feasible as it costs more. Here in Pakistan there are barely few shops selling organic products and products like wheat and oil can be three times the price when labeled “organic”. To advocate the importance of buying organic products it is also important that they are sold at reasonable prices so that more people can make better choices.  In some developed countries there might be more options to choose from keeping in mind the healthy choices and budget.

While ushering in spring, we can also think about growing our own food. There might be certain constraints but it is not impossible. While living in Germany I met a very interesting girl almost my age, in her early 20s, when I asked her whether she has a Facebook account so that I can add her when I leave. She said no, that not only came as a surprise to me rather it came as a shock. How can anyone not have an account on Facebook? But later I realized that she was very much living in the real world. Baking her own whole-wheat bread in the morning, it’s appetizing aroma spreading across the building to making her organic tea from the herbs picked from her kitchen garden. She had made a door bell herself too instead of an electric one. And yes I can’t forget borrowing her bicycle which was her favorite mode of transportation. Unlike me preferring a car to travel around and not caring where the food products are coming from, whether it is eco friendly or not. I was inspired to see her lifestyle which she developed out of love for mother nature nothing else, she didn’t know about LOHAS. Making sensible and conscientious choices is the responsibility of everyone.

Awareness has led to a lot of consumers paying attention to claims such as organic, green, eco friendly, environmentally safe and sustainably made. However it is easy to make a claim and difficult to prove it which leads to a lot of people misled about various environmental attributes associated with the products. The marketers have the responsibility to use correct terminology in packaging and promotion for the consumers to better understand it.

Just like trade commission operational in some countries to protect the interests of consumers, green guides should also be provided to consumers providing a list of definitions of terms like ozone friendly, biodegradable, carbon offsets , recycled and other related terms. The various certifications and seals are important only if they give you enough information and are backed by solid standards.

It boils down to the question, are you adopting LOHAS? Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability might be a swift growing consumer trend but are you really living LOHAS?

The big multinationals are claiming to go LOHAS such as The Body Shop or Cadbury. The Body Shop, founded in 1976 pioneered in volunteering where The Body Shop employees had to volunteer for a month about a cause they chose like fair trade or recycling etc.   In many ways they paved a way for “conscious consumerism” movement. The Body Shop realizing that human rights and environmental responsibility are interlinked, to build a sustainable supply chain stepped up it’s efforts, focusing on promoting sustainable alternatives that can improve living and protect the forests too. Moreover the fair trade logo seen on some chocolate bars like Cadbury dairy milk’s bar means that the farmers from developing countries are looked after when it comes to them being fairly paid. Nike is also making organic sportswear and claims to become a responsible global citizen. Nike also adopted some good practices over a period of time when it realized the unfair work practices. Similarly Ford is producing hybrid SUVs. The big corporations everywhere should become part of the LOHAS market as it will not only let them join the green population trying to make a difference but can also help them boost their sales.

According to a research institute based in US known as Natural Marketing Institute nearly third of the US population adopts LOHAS values based on social concerns and environmental safety. Considering the world is not just comprised of US, Japan, Taiwan or Western Europe that are the recognized LOHAS markets. This global trend needs to have a greater outreach where businesses and governments are taking necessary steps to adopt LOHAS.

On an individual level creating awareness is a step forward. Learning about LOHAS, it’s concerns, priorities and values can also help people to make better choices. It does not only centre on buying green products rather by taking small steps like saving energy, reducing carbon footprint, recycling and saving water also makes you part of the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability community.

Starting from personal development by seeking out new experiences and learning one can start taking interest in mind-body-spirit connections by taking yoga and meditation classes to exercising regularly. It is about seeing the connection between our own health and health of the environment.  The small steps taken on an individual level can contribute to LOHAS. If we look at the mode of transport, depending on the vehicle an annual commute will release two to three tons of greenhouse gases. Using public transport or bicycle depending on the distance is a better choice. Bicycles have a tiny manufacture and carbon footprint. Again keeping in mind the deplorable infrastructure in some places and long distances people do end up using cars. But if you have an option to choose from, go for it. Simplifying one’s lifestyle is related to sustainable living focusing on what you need rather than what you want.

Growing your own food if you have enough space is also a positive step. Nothing tastes better than the vegetables from your own kitchen garden. Growing your own food gives a productive physical activity letting you distress yourself get fresh air and sunlight. It also enables to clear one’s head. When you grow your own food you don’t worry about the contamination and in the end seeing the seeds blossom under your care gives a sense of pride. It helps reduce wastage of food which we can’t afford in this era where many are without food and shelter. Even if you don’t have a backyard or a kitchen garden you can still grow your own food. By taking pleasure in this hobby while contributing positively to the environment is fulfilling and satisfying. At home one can save energy by switching off extra lights; we should admit that we do sometimes neglect that. Similarly recycling at home can be done by utilizing the empty bottles and jars for storage etc. We can also save water and avoid the wastage of water at homes. By taking these small yet valuable steps on an individual level enable us to contribute positively.

Embracing eco awareness and sustainable lifestyle has a positive impact on the people, communities and environment. Sustainable living besides seeking to optimize the use of natural resources also includes reuse. It is a system of living where people become producers rather than consumers only. It does take time and patience to practice a sustainable lifestyle. Passionate about saving the planet we can make it a reality. The only outcome of sustainable living is health.

Developing a sustainable living does require practice and time. With the passage of time these useful habits of sustainable lifestyle becomes a routine. I still sometimes use canned spinach from the grocery store when the season is not right for the homegrown spinach. I still eat fruits that I can’t grow myself. But whenever I switch off extra lights or give extra care when using water or recycle at home I take few steps closer to sustainable living. For my grandparents these practices were practically second nature. With the technological advances our generation first needs to unlearn and then learn to live sustainably. It will be a journey of learning things that are no longer common knowledge and have been nearly forgotten. It is true that we are learning with the passage of time. We have a long way to go but with awareness we can surely make it.

 imagesPhoto Source Google

Time for LOHAS Quiz- How LOHAS Are You?

Take this quiz from the researchers at the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) to find out whether you’re living LOHAS. Answer the questions with rarely, sometimes or usually, then add your points to see which segment you’re in. If you’re response is rarely, give yourself 1 point; for sometimes, give yourself 2 points; for usually, score 3 points.

  1. I care about maintaining excellent physical health.
  2. I care about protecting the environment.
  3. I care about sustainable agriculture practices.
  4. I care about using renewable energy sources.
  5. I tell family and friends about the benefits of purchasing environmentally friendly products.
  6. I care about women’s issues.
  7. I care about social consciousness.
  8. I prefer to buy products from companies whose values are like mine.
  9. I like choosing environmentally friendly products and services.
  10. I’m willing to pay 20 percent more for environmentally friendly products.

26-30 Points: You’re a LOHAS consumer. You care deeply about the environment and society, and you act on those behaviors. You likely buy a lot of organic foods, drive a fuel-efficient car and live in an eco-friendly home. People look to you for advice and information on the environment and society.

20-25 Points: You’re a NOMADIC. You care about some of these issues but not all of them all of the time. You take action in some parts of your life but have not totally adopted a LOHAS lifestyle.

15-19 Points: You’re a CENTRIST. You are slightly more conservative than your LOHAS and NOMADIC peers. While some of these behaviors and ideas appeal to you, they are not top priorities in your life.

10-14 Points: You’re an INDIFFERENT. You are committed to other immediate concerns in your life and don’t think a great deal about the quality of the environment and society.

The Minor Workers on Labor Day

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

It is ironic that on 1 May I witnessed something that was contrary to the reason why we get this day off here in Pakistan. Considered more of a break rather spring holiday when government and private organizations, educational institutions and markets remain closed, 1 May is celebrated across the world as an International Labor Day.

Sipping my chilled drink casually I happened to have a glimpse of another family sitting right next to our table. One striking and odd happening I noticed was that two little girls were accompanying them as their domestic help and were asked to sit away from their table. They must be about 10 to 12 years of age and were there to look after the kids in that family, carrying their belongings.

My previous article was on education for sustainability and how important it is for young children to be educated as they are our future. No doubt it is one of our basic rights to get quality education. I felt uneasy seeing what was happening before my eyes and at the same time I felt helpless too. Writing about various human rights and problems of the world I couldn’t do anything to stop them from doing what they were doing. I just had to filter this reality and move on. I feel guilty even today. Those two girls into domestic labor are not the only ones, there are many hidden from our eyes working in the factories, at home, picking rags and begging on the streets. It does make me question that when I am writing about the right to education don’t I include them? All those millions of children with an uncertain future not even knowing or caring what sustainability is all about.

May Day, Labor Day or International Workers Day recognizes the efforts of the working class. It acknowledges the hard work and sweat which they pour into the lives to keep the cycle going. And then there are those children who shouldn’t be working but work to feed their families. I once thought that there might be an international day condemning child labor but I didn’t want to wait for the day to write about it.


Photo Source Google

When we are talking about a sustainable future we need to keep in mind the ulcers that plague the society, child labor being one of them. Here we did get to see many advertisements commemorating Labor Day and it being a national holiday many shows were dedicated to it. Then why it failed to create awareness on the simple issue that children shouldn’t be allowed to work, here I am not talking about kids working in the factories or kids begging on the streets but domestic help. It is a choice which that family had to make and they not only conscientiously went for it rather segregated the girls and made them sit away from the table where they were eating. In Pakistan child labor in domestic service is very common. Domestic work is usually done by female domestic workers. These children do not go to school, work for long hours and are separated from their parents for long periods. These children often face the risk of physical or sexual abuse from their employers.

The employment or hiring of anyone below the national minimum working age is known as child labor. According to ILO 2010 report there are 215 million children around the world involved in child labor.  Because of the lack of data it is difficult to estimate the magnitude of child labor in many developing countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to name a few. The problem of child labor is not only limited to developing economies. Many reports evaluate the severity and frequency of child labor in more than 197 countries. The shocking aspect is how widespread child labor really is, with numerous countries at a high risk.  A report classified UK as medium risk with rate of child labor incidences just 2% lower than that of Pakistan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

The root cause of various problems including child labor no doubt is economic disparity. If we want a better future for the world we need to take along the impoverished segments of the society. It is important to attack the structural causes of inequality, rejecting the autonomy of financial markets that are solely based on personal gains to solve the world problems.  It is also important to fully understand the complexity of this issue pertinent in the world today. Developed nations mostly grow up with the notion that every child has a basic right to education. The basic right to have a childhood is also stressed upon. Hence it is mournful that every child doesn’t enjoy this period in one’s childhood. It is also important to highlight that every family has a right to life and to live we need money. Every individual has a right to work and make a living to be able to survive. Looking it through the window of child labor these two rights are at odds. Sometimes in order for the family to survive the children tend to help out sacrificing school.

balloonBangladeshPhoto Source Google

Considering it’s poverty that is the triggering factor, when working towards the Millennium Development Goals the unequal distribution of wealth and the monopoly of few economic giants should also be taken seriously. The concentration of world’s resources in few hands is the root cause of most of the problems clearly. In today’s world we do come across many charity organizations working simultaneously and many nonprofit organizations voicing similar concerns but in the end it is the powerful that maintain control not letting anyone or anything break its strongholds. The mindsets based on profits have been affecting millions and a dire need of a holistic approach is needed to face the monster of inequality.

Keeping in mind Agenda 21 that talks about eradication of poverty in order to increase production and sustainability to meet the needs of world’s majority seems a distant dream at the moment. Connecting the dots is important; in order to build a better future we need to invest in the present. That does not only include monetary investment rather an investment of our time to think and to feel the need to take action. Children are our future, we need to invest in them and make sure that they get their rights. That doesn’t mean that I am looking forward to a cataclysmic change but yes I do look forward to see the decision and policy makers taking serious measures to put a full stop on this.

Pakistan is among 10 nations where children are freely exploited. The government agencies have failed to deal with the problem and stop the increase in child labor both at homes and industries. For the parents struggling to make ends meet education is not their priority sometimes parents themselves sell children into labor. Here the issue of child labor is on the rise. Sadly many laws passed by the government are not enforced properly. There is a need for accountability. Child Labor especially child domestic labor no doubt has become a global phenomenon but just like every other issue it is the developing world or the marginalized segments that are affected by it the most.  According to ILO many countries in Sub Saharan Africa are a leading concern including Ivory Coast, Ghana and Mali. It is no secret that many young children are made to work in picking cocoa.  West Africa grows cocoa as a commodity crop primarily for export. With the rise of chocolate industry over the years, the demand for cheap cocoa has also grown. Many cocoa farmers resort to child labor. Surrounded by intense poverty the children of West Africa begin working at a young age many are sold to the traffickers and farm owners. Once taken to the cocoa farms the children are exposed to dangerous work environment and deprived of education. Many as young as the age of 7 have been seen working on the farms. The bags they often carry are bigger and heavier than the children themselves. Using dangerous tools to expose the cocoa beans these children don’t even know the taste of chocolates which the privileged enjoy bragging about the brands of chocolates. Exposed to various chemicals and insecticides these children cannot even complain. This unfair trade still continues today as I write though the levels may have been reduced still little progress can be seen in this trade making the reduction insignificant.  Violating ILO labor standards it has short term and long term effects on the lives of children. They have little hope to break the cycle of poverty. The governments of West African countries lack the resources and commitment to investigate the violation of labor laws. In addition to the chocolate industry the textile industry of Brazil, Turkey, Paraguay, Bangladesh, China, India Burkina Faso and many others in the list use a large number of child laborers.  The apparel industries also engage young children during cotton cultivation. Similarly in the sports, footwear and leather industry child workers are working in huge numbers. There are many factories in the world today that have employed children like cloth, sports goods and other factories. These factories should be held accountable and there should be a proper check and balance ensuring that these practices are not in the supply chain of these factories. To eliminate child labor putting controls in existing businesses is essential. The policies and procedures should be in place and communicated well monitoring and improving labor standards. Prevention no doubt is better than cure. The optimism shown by ILO in some reports saying that we are moving in the right direction is inapt. There is a need to speed up the efforts engaging governments and policy makers to enforce effective laws making it illegal for young children to work.

child-labour1Photo Source Google

However this again points out to the crux of the matter and that is poverty that pushes for such bizarre actions. Economic growth is a requirement for sustainable development. Seeing the expression “sustainable development” everywhere these days does make one think what exactly it is about? Is it really possible to pursue sustainable economic growth without harming the environment and the societies? Does it mean that if we are pursuing prosperity today we are putting the future of our children and grandchildren at stake?  Seriously working on the issues of sustainable development including economic growth in developing countries, corporate social responsibility and other issues using real world examples in important.

Understanding the complex relationship between economy, society and environment keeping in mind the global inequality should me our main concern. The consequences of unchecked and badly managed development are costly, irreversible and negative. Sustainable development does give us a new way of thinking to manage human impact on the world. An impact that can generate lifelong benefits for everyone, giving million of children around the world a chance to be children and not some cogs in a machine. Eliminating child labor and improving conditions must be a collaborative process including all stakeholders taking on responsibility.

Everyone has their part to play in this including governments, nonprofit organizations and consumers. The worry stricken faces of the girls I saw that day are vivid in my mind.  All the individuals before hiring help, just like the family I watched, should be aware of the role they can play. It is high time we turn the childhood dreams into a decent future. There is a need to develop a multi-stakeholder response system that guarantees the protection of all the children especially the ones facing economic and social challenges. However we should not forget that it is illegal for children under minimum age of employment to work emphasizing and ensuring that children below minimum age enjoy their childhoods in school. Protection in the law and its practice safeguarding young workers should also be emphasized protecting them from abuse and exploitation at work place. These various days celebrated to highlight the importance of issues are not about having a day off to relax, it is about taking out time to think and instead of looking for just one day to feel obliged to think on one particular issue we can do it every day. We need to be informed and we need to be humans.

Knowing Green in Schools

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Take Action

Comprising half of the population, young people under the age of 25 have an important role to play in the present and future state of the planet Earth. Civilization risks destabilization if young people are misdirected towards violence, viciousness and unsustainable consumption.

For the success of Agenda 21 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that highlight the significance of equitable access of education for all, it is important to ensure that favorable steps are taken for measurable and clear post 2015 education goals. Education is not only seen as a development goal in its own right but an important catalyst to reach other development goals. Educating young people from the primary level about sustainable development is also essential to speed up the process. The young people of today are our future. Many children today are oblivious to the role they play in society. Their lives mostly are centered on family, home, school and friends. At this stage they are unaware and might not understand how their actions affect the world around them. From a young age they should be taught the basic values of environmental protection, development and how they can act as agents of change not undermining the role they can play. With the favorable and right information, children will find it fun to go green. Recently the concept of green schools has emerged in many places. The green schools stress the importance of environmental protection focusing on Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It is noteworthy though that it should not be limited to specifically three Rs rather can extend to Respect, Repair, Reflect and Refuse too as has been pointed out by some environmentalists. There has to be a paradigm shift in the accepted models expanding the outreach keeping in mind the differences and focusing on the commonalities which we share as global citizens.

Green schools initiative that has been implemented by some schools around the world that integrates efforts that make schools environment friendly and involve children thinking about issues pertinent for the community in the context of sustainable development. Various programs have been implemented by some schools but still a lot needs to be done when it comes to curriculum development related to education for sustainability at all levels.


During Nektarina’s My Green Planet Competition

Inculcating in young children the importance of planting trees, saving water and electricity etc through fun activities definitely encourages them to develop a world view that is beneficial for future generations. However it is important to bring to consideration the fact that in many places even access to basic education has become a luxury that jeopardizes quality education. Here governments play a vital role to step in and work on reforms that take up the issue of education seriously. According to UNDHR access to basic education is a right of every child. And sadly many young children today have been denied this basic right. In many developing countries the plague of child labor has ruined the life of many children. There are numerous factors that play a role in this and the biggest factor so far is the economics. This vicious cycle traps many people giving them a future we don’t want. The future we want holds the promise of a better tomorrow and no matter how idealistic that might look, it is not impossible. The only action needed is to put the world in a spinning order by taking necessary measures and steps that focus on a greater common good. By understanding the simple concept of going green not pampering the complexities but knowing and acknowledging that it is indeed exciting to go green and it will save us a lot of trouble in the future.

I just want to share a small initiative from here which was taken in Punjab province in Pakistan with the help of Japanese government. Informal education tools were introduced in some public schools focusing on “value education”. Working in the curriculum development team we had to keep in mind the limited resources and in all subjects be it English, Geography or History we did come up with exercises that broadened the outlook of children. Instead of old school methods of writing everything down on black boards it was about taking children out and play. For example tree planting activities not only informed them about the entire process of photosynthesis and components of soil but also made them aware that it is fun to go green. The only reason I share this experience is because sometimes it is not entirely about money. It is about the passion that we all need to ignite in each one of us to contribute positively in whatever small way we can. There is a dire need of conscientious citizens of the world who love the planet and consider it home. It should not be about the fines we pay if we litter or break a signal. That consciousness can save our future generations.

The involvement of children and youth in environment and development is critical to the long term success of Agenda 21. Providing access to education for all citizens will not only help to curtail poverty but will also promote economic growth and pluralism. To engender the core values needed for sustainable societies it is important to integrate sustainability into education for children and young people. Essentially transferring the skills, knowledge and values will enable children to understand diversity in societies, respect for others and natural resources of our planet. Education for Sustainable Development that originates from Agenda 21 helps circular and green economy by bringing together various approaches to education and trainings that equip children and young people with initial knowledge, values, rights and skills to work towards a just and sustainable society. Teaching children about sustainability ensure global citizenship and productivity that let them adapt to climate change and reduce their vulnerabilities to disasters. It prepares them to face the challenges being faced by the world currently and try to come up with creative solutions.


My Green Planet Competition

A sustainable society encompasses the impeccable model where every child in present and future generations have an access to basic health care, food, safe drinking water, education and safe environment to grow, contribute and learn. This ideal society also ensures that it is free from pollution, contamination, violence and dangers of disaster. During the fragile period of childhood a child is vulnerable to stress including conflicts, economic crisis, climate instability and environmental pollution and requires stable surroundings that will help in the emotional, physical and mental development. The neglect of children’s rights has irreparable and detrimental consequences. The prosperity of children acts as a positive development in the way to a sustainable society.

To honor the Millennium Promise that is embedded in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) it is important to accelerate efforts. There is a need for collective responsibility that is not time bound like the promise itself. Post 2015 agenda should center on the rights of children and their well-being. Much needs to be done to meet our responsibility of giving the “MDG generation” a fair opportunity to live a healthy and just life no matter where they come from.

By investing in children we increase the possibility to upsurge collective prosperity, eradicate poverty and move towards equity. Investment in children is a fundamental step to strengthen their productivity as engaged and capable citizens contributing positively to the society and the world at large.

It might sound dogmatic but sustainable development does start with healthy and safe children. Some will definitely agree by arguing that the children of today are the future playing a vital role in shaping a better tomorrow. However in practice the issues related to children and young people often come into the category of “social” issues. It is important to note that issues being faced by children are inseparably linked to guaranteeing economic growth, environmental protection and stable societies. Undermining the role of children would be hazardous to us and the planet we share.

As it has been found in the 2012 report by UNESCO there are 250 million young people including school going children that lack basic literacy. It is promising to note that education has been included as a vital part of the sustainable development framework that is inextricably linked to other development goals but now it is also important to implement education reforms that focus on sustainability starting with early childhood education programs. Sustainable development should be introduced in early childhood education and at other levels. Implementing pedagogy for sustainable development is not common in the field of early childhood education. Many early childhood educators can adopt interesting, appropriate, positive and suitable ways to address the issue of sustainable development which otherwise is seen as a depressing issue that cannot be dumped on young children. However it is important to note that before imparting such a vast concept no matter how interesting and appropriate the approach can be there is a need for a clear understanding at all levels of what is sustainable development. Early childhood education does have a role in constructing a sustainable society. A proper curriculum should be made for children and young people at all levels with the help of educationists, environmentalists and governments keeping in mind the concerns of the developing and developed world.

Many studies have found that the concerns and issues of the developing and developed world vary. In the developing world the basic concern would me child mortality and development during the early years whereas the later might be concerned about curriculum changes to improve the quality of education. The disparities and polar extremes should be kept in mind while dealing with education for sustainable development. It is a challenging task but with a collective effort where all stakeholders contribute positively it is not impossible. It might seem like a long road ahead but each step forward no matter how small the step is can bring us a bit closer to our destination.

Investing in quality education helps to generate immediate and long term benefits across all magnitudes of sustainable development. The development impacts of education do not affect the immediate circle in a positive way but the society as a whole too. Educating children on sustainable development supports action towards climate change. With a better knowledge and understanding children can express a sense of responsibility for the environment as has been seen through some surveys conducted.

Education not only supports action towards climate change but also helps in reducing poverty and supporting child health. There should be a merger of two agendas that are dealt separately including poverty eradication and sustainable development. Both agendas should be tackled simultaneously and both are reinforced by education. Children are not only shapers of the world but also shaped by the world. The core of sustainable development is healthy, safe and enlightened children. Being at the heart of sustainable development children are the foundations of a just and equitable society. When the basic rights and needs of the children especially the most vulnerable and poorest are met a society can thrive. Children are the building blocks of a prosperous society and investing in their education along with other rights yields high and long lasting results.

For the development goals to be truly sustainable and sustained, children rights including the access to basic quality education, equity and MDGs should be fundamental. Ensuring that children have a safe and healthy environment to grow where the risks of social, economic and environmental degradation are minimal is important for the global progress on sustainable development. Recognizing children and young people critical partners for sustainable development being the inheritors of the planet and respecting their voices and participation in needed today. Investing in their education is the foremost step which lets them be critical thinkers not accepting the realities as they are rather coming up with creative solutions, empowering them to be effective problem solvers, advocates and agents for positive change.

It has been shown in the past through experience that young people and children with a better knowledge and understanding of things end up contributing efficiently successfully. To help young children grow into skilled, responsible and capable individuals it is important to have basic education access, their education incorporating the fundamentals of sustainability inclusive of various factors will help us produce effective guardians of the world. The Millennium Development Goals targets should prioritize learning opportunities and education systems that provide quality education including knowledge about the environment and sustainability at large. There is a need of reforms in the current ailing education systems that don’t pay much heed to the significance of sustainable education. Through innovations and potential reforms these existing system can be brought to the cutting edge where the potential of children and young people isn’t undermined.


My Green Planet Competition

Earth Day Sends a Message

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Take Action, Upcoming Events

  tumblr_lv1vn0FMdo1qek3gjo1_500Photo Source: Google

While watching the movie Avatar for me one striking element in the movie was The Tree of Souls. A giant willow tree the closest connection to Eywa, mother goddess for the Na’vi people of densely forested habitable moon, Pandora. The tree had spiritual significance for the Na’vi people. In the movie the destruction of the Tree of Souls would prove disastrous to Na’vi people as a whole, creating a void that would decimate the race in its entirety. Avatar to me did seem a love letter to the glory of nature and humanity.

You must be thinking why on earth I am talking about Avatar, well the answer lies in the fact that 22 April is the International Earth Day celebrated worldwide in support of environmental protection. . For the first time Earth Day was celebrated on 22 April, 1970 mobilizing millions of people from all walks of life and led to the launching of many environmental movements including Earth Day Network. For some people tree plantation might be an epitome of environmental cliché. But I do believe that a nation’s wealth lies in its rivers, forests, oceans, scenic beauty and wildlife. This is all we have. The biological systems are in fact the whole economy sustaining world’s wealth. With the world now becoming highly industrialized giving preference to cutting down of trees so that big shopping malls can take its place arguing that it leads to development, I somehow can’t fathom this equation of development. Cutting down of trees has led to global warming for which it is important to understand the greenhouse effect. We don’t want to stop economic progress that could give millions better lives. Insisting on sustainable development that combines environmental care, economic growth and social justice is the need of the time. Unrestricted growth cannot be supported by our planet.  

Coming back to the greenhouse gases particularly carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is damaging to the environment. With an excess of these gases by human inventions, the greenhouse effect is accelerating and this is causing the rise in temperature that we have been experiencing in the last two centuries. We might not see a red flag here yet but the effects it has on the environment and the organisms that live in it are detrimental. The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and it’s concentration has hit 402 ppm this month and alarmingly that is the highest level recorded in at least 800,000 years. Doesn’t this lead to raise a red flag? Many plants and animals cannot adapt to temperature changes in the environment letting them to become some endangered and others extinct. The trees play a vital role in the carbon cycle. The more trees we have, the less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the more oxygen there is to be consumed by the species that inhabit the Earth. Wasn’t it the oxygen that makes life a miracle on the planet Earth compared to the rest of the planets? We live in an age where carbon dioxide is profuse in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide released through human innovations, such as automobiles, industries, and power plants is damaging and we should do something about it before it gets late. More than ever trees play a significant assigned role in the environment and take some of the excess carbon dioxide out of the air. Unfortunately, deforestation does not let this to happen and with millions of trees cut down each year r various purposes, the amount of carbon dioxide is rising day by day causing average temperature to rise. Ultimately this leads to global warming and its effects are evident now.

Someone rightly said better be late than never. If we do conserve our existing supple of trees we can play our part in securing a better future. So no matter how clichéd it sounds planting a tree, loving our natural reserves, protecting it is essential. We need to think about deforestation.

While watching the movie Avatar and how sacred the trees especially Tree of Souls was for the inhabitants did remind me of Chipko (Hugging) movement. Started in early 1970s the Chipko movement was a non-violent resistance through the act of hugging trees and protecting the trees from being cut down.  Using the Gandhian methods, the movement to protect trees with rising deforestation awareness led to peasant women from the village Rani Khet, India taking an action and reclaiming their traditional forest rights. Their actions inspired many others throughout the region at the grassroots level. The movement had spread throughout India by 1980s that led to the formulation of people-sensitive forest policies, which put a stop to openly cutting down trees in the region. The movement originated in 1970s is an inspiration for many environmentalists where a group of women peasants got together to make a difference. Their efforts cannot ne ignored or forgotten. Today while celebrating Earth Day I want to acknowledge this movement that was started in a small village to save the trees. It was started at a time when there was less talk about protecting environment. Loving something does ignite passion in people that can make them do wonders.

Many have united today who feel for trees the same way the peasant women of Chipko movement or Na’vi people of Pandora planet did. Just love it and then you will feel the need to protect it. Among many Earth Day Network did step forward adding another drop in the ocean with a hope to educate and inspire. After the first Earth Day in 1970 many environmental laws soon followed. The various acts made it biding on the law to protect the environment and everything therein. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) now works with thousands of partners in 192 countries to positively take forward the environmental movement. Millions of people now participate in Earth Day activities each year that makes it the largest civic observance in the world.

Over the last 40 years, Earth Day Network has executed innumerable successful environmental campaigns on issues ranging from drinking water and climate change to saving the whale and many others. To tackle new challenges Earth Day Network created innovative programs with non-environmental partners that were engaging and participatory. EDN’s extensive activities, whether promoting green economic policies or green schools at home or abroad is concerned do inform populations instilling in them the energy to act for a healthy future for themselves and their children. Working with partner organizations Earth Day Network does provide civic engagement opportunities at local, national and international levels. Earth Day Network works to broaden the definition of environment that is inclusive of well being of an individual promoting a sustainable future. This includes creating green jobs, green schools and protecting the environment by stopping air and water pollution. There is a dire need to raise awareness on these issues when many are blinded by the false definition of development, where the shiny and big industries act as eyewash and an epitome of success and prosperity. By no means does this statement reflect that I am against economic growth but too much of everything is bad, we can’t mess with the nature as it’s results would be detrimental, we have already started to experience it’s wrath and it’s time to be aware and act accordingly.

One of the initiatives that did strike me was Avatar Home Tree Initiative. The reason why it struck me maybe was my fancy for the movie Avatar and importance of tree plantation. And this campaign did reflect that interestingly. The Avatar Tree Initiative was a great success and did exceed it’s original objectives aimed at sustainable development and environmental protection. With seventeen partner organizations together with the dedication of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment thousands of trees were planted in six continents. Involving thousands of people these tree planting projects benefitted tens of thousands of people and continue to profit the global environment and all it’s dwellers. To see such projects flourish and affect millions does give hope. We don’t need to belong to the planet Pandora to feel for the trees. These tree planting projects did develop despite the current challenges of natural disasters and depressed international economy.

To protect environment for all people and protect the natural lands The Canopy Project undertaken by Earth Day Network does catch one’s attention. Planting trees to help communities especially the impoverished communities to help them sustain themselves and their communities is an initiative that deserves praise. Instead of focusing on large scale forestry EDN started by reaching out to local communities keeping in mind the think big and start small approach. It is no surprise that the under privileged needs more attention and help as when the atrocities strike they are the ones most affected by it. Ironic as it might sound nature doesn’t keep track of the rich and poor and no one can be saved from it’s rage. Giving priority to the impoverished communities and making them plant trees to achieve environmental sustainability is a positive step. Trees not only filter the air but also provide food, income and energy thus helping the communities economically too.

The reality is that unpredictable weather patterns are increasing and are more frequent. We have been experiencing violent storms and floods. Trees not only help take excessive carbon dioxide from the air but also help to prevent soil erosion that has led to devastating floods. It is true that first line of defense against global warming is planting more trees. We definitely need to go green and that is why in 2012, Earth Day Network made a commitment with the Global Poverty Project to plant 10 million trees in impoverished areas of the world over the next five years. This commitment needs to become a reality and with perseverance and help from everyone it can become a reality.

The Canopy Project has planted over 1.5 million trees in 18 countries over the past three years. In many states in the US, projects to restore urban canopies have been completed. In Haiti alone Earth Day Network planted 500,000 trees. The earthquakes causing landslides on deforested hillsides that led to horrific devastation in Haiti s known to everyone. In many high poverty districts in Uganda EDN planted 350,000 trees providing local farmers with food, fuel and stability of soil. The Canopy Project of the Earth Day Network has been active around the world. In Australia, Landcare Australia working with national parks and land care groups focused on areas with endangered animal species.  In Belgium, Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen  or Organization for Forests in Flanders worked with private landowners  to afforest their properties to fight the environmental effects of intensive livestock and agricultural production. In Brazil SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation worked with local communities to plant innate trees as a means to restore one of the most biologically diverse Atlantic Forest. In Canada, Tree Canada joined the Avatar Home Tree Initiative to restore pine forest that was devastated by 2005 hurricane. In France,  Kinomé’s Trees & Life program helped young children in southern France to plant their own trees. Kids of the same age in Senegal planted two trees for every tree planted by children of France fostering global reforestation and intercultural awareness. In Germany, The Berlin Energy Agency’s and Club-E  planted trees in southern Berlin as part of its mission to raise awareness about sustainable development among young people. In Italy, San Giovanni community and municipality in Persiceto worked on the Cassa Budrie reforestation project that helped to promote local water security and prevent soil erosion. In Japan a tailored tree-planting at a Japanese school provided students and teachers the opportunity to plant trees on their campus and engage in related green schools activities. In Mexico, Sierra Gorda Ecological Group (SGEG) has been working since 1987. The SGEG worked with local communities and farmers to plant trees directly benefiting local communities restoring watersheds. In The Netherlands, Stichting wAarde or the Earth Value Foundation worked with local young prople to plant trees in Amsterdam and Utrecht. In Spain, Plantemos Para el Planeta planted trees in southeastern Costa del Sol, which was destroyed by wildfire in 2009. In Sweden, Under Sweden’s Skogen i Skolan or Forest in School program, various trees in northeast Sweden were planted by teachers and students.

Supported by and carried out in partnership with nonprofit tree planting organizations throughout the world like some examples stated above Earth Day Network is slowly moving towards it’s goal of planting 10 million trees within the period of five years. Many sponsors and individual donations have also contributed in making this project a success. Working in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme’s Billion Trees Campaign Earth Day Network does wish to contribute positively towards the green movement.

We need to protect our Tree of Souls to continue living in a sustainable world. The Na’vi people of Pandora planet did win in the end. Looking at reality rather than fiction does make me say that we can do that too. Interestingly Avatar was released on Earth Day in 2010 which wasn’t a coincidence. Avatar has inspired a worldwide tree-planting campaign, that involves a million trees in 15 countries and that campaign is The Canopy Project of Earth Day Network. Avatar aligning with Earth Day Network is also a deliberate attempt to press for the need of planting more trees. After the film James Cameron and actress Sigourney Weaver went to the Amazon rainforests and they have been talking about the importance of preserving the environment. Film is an important medium to spread the message using an entertaining tool and it’s about taking everyone along, people from all walks of life to make a positive change.

It should also be kept in mind that narrowing the focus on global warming and losing the broader focus of protecting life on this planet can lead to adverse outcomes. It should be about protecting the forest as an effort to sustain the world’s biodiversity. It is important to look at what is causing the rise of carbon dioxide targeting the current energy system to curb this crisis. It is important to look at all the aspects rather than looking to forests only to solve the current climate crisis.

NB: Nektarina Non Profit is the official partner of Earth Day Network since 2010

Earth Charter; A Glimmer of Hope

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Take Action, Uncategorized, Weekly news

Originated in 1968 the idea of sustainable development to be incorporated in a charter by Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev led to a lot of organisations stepping forward and try to make it a reality. The charter was created by a global consultation process endorsed by various organisations, representing the hope of millions to work towards a sustainable future which focuses on the well- being of human family at large.

It comprised not only of global connectivity which we as a human race have been sharing for a long time rather it also obligated to keep in mind the future of mother earth along in it’s struggle for a better world for future generations.


Photo Source: Google

On this road to forming a sustainable global community Nektarina founded in 2009, wanted to carry this message forward. The message was simple which is to create a sustainable global community respecting nature, human rights, economic justice that promotes a culture of peace. The only hindrance now was making it a reality not letting the message get distorted on the way like the Chinese whisper.

Mustering up courage along with other organisations Nektarina wanted to implement the four basic principles of Earth Charter in all it’s projects since it’s inception. Enthusiastic to make a difference and ardent to make a positive contribution it developed projects that aimed at engaging people from all over the word, declaring responsibility to one another, the greater community of human existence and to future generations.

Projects like Nektarina Connect through Art, My Planet and Me and Nektarina Visual Essays invited people from all over the globe to participate using non formal, participatory methods like the medium of arts to express themselves focusing on caring for community with love, understanding and compassion. Young people, women and children participated wholeheartedly in all these projects. Using sustainable art that comprise the use of various mediums like photography, painting  etc to engage people, raise awareness, helping them to improve their lives and communities with a better understanding of living in a global community that disseminates the message of protecting the environment .

21st century is a century of peaceful coexistence. We must acknowledge the fact that we live in a pluralistic, diverse world. We stand at a moment in Earth’s history where we must choose our future. The future holds great perils and promises simultaneously as the world becomes increasingly interdependent. To move forward we must keep in mind that as a human family and earth community we must move forward with a common destiny. Bringing forth a sustainable global society that is founded on the values of universal human rights, respect for nature , economic security and justice and a culture of peace we must join together.

Keeping in mind the first principle of the charter that is respecting and caring for the community of life, Nektarina engaged various communities in all it’s projects focusing especially on the Roma rights.  The Roma people have been segregated since a long time and integrating them into the mainstream is a challenge in Europe. The campaigns and projects of Nektarina rejects the isolation of communities based on ethnicity, cast, creed and religion. Moving on with empathy, compassion and love to build just societies has been an essential objective of Nektarina. Projects like Connecting Through Art and Nektarina Web Magazine invites people encouraged everyone to voice their opinion. Connect through Art was a space especially for women from conflict areas to express themselves using art forms. Moreover the Visual Essay competition especially invited young people engaging them to learn more about issues relevant to their communities. To express their thoughts in creative visual styles invitations were sent to around 300 educational institutions from all over the world. Young people were asked to contribute on the issues of human rights, minorities, environment and integration.

Nektarina’s various educational campaigns centre on recycling, reducing carbon footprint and development of sustainable cities keeping in mind the ecological integrity principle of Earth Charter. The campaigns focused on protecting Earth ecological systems preventing harm as the best method to protect the environment.  To advance the study of ecological sustainability promoting open exchange and application of acquired knowledge Nektarina has dedicated a space for the publication of researches, articles, and other publications that stresses on the need to adopt patterns of production, utilization and reproduction that safeguards the ecological system.  All Nektarina’s publications including the web magazine are for everyone under creative commons licensing. The essential aspect behind these various projects and publications is to connect people from across the globe to share ideas, educating and inspiring them to work for a peaceful global community.

To promote social and economic justice strengthening democratic institutions and promoting a culture of peace and non-violence Nektarina came up with an initiative Education for Sustainability. The aim of this initiative is to make sustainability part of the educational institution’s curriculum. To inculcate in children the importance of a sustainable world that safeguards their future. Education plays a vital role in human development. Educating young people which will enable them to gain an understanding, knowledge, values and skills and address environmental and social changes issues. Education for sustainability is a step forward to include sustainable education in the “official” curriculum with the help of education ministries and departments, institutions and councils and boards relevant to the field of education around the world.

Children of today are our future, our hope for a better world. Letting them learn to think ecologically and developing a capacity to apply this understanding effectively to develop better communities is an essential measure in today’s age and time.  A true sustainable community is diverse, dynamic and continuously evolving. Starting off by educating children encourages us to dream and hope for thriving, sustainable human communities. We can learn this from the nature’s ecosystems which are sustainable communities of animals, microorganisms and plants. Education itself centres on environmental or sustainable education where students are taught that they are a part of natural world, now they should also be taught to protect the natural world.

In Pakistan the local education ministry at provincial level tried to incorporate value education which was related to sustainable education in the public schools. With limited resources they developed curriculum and trained the teachers to pass on the knowledge of how children can take small steps that will make a big difference. Those small steps starts from saving energy my switching of unwanted lights, closing the water taps while brushing, keeping a litter free environment to the importance of recycling to name a few.

A curriculum especially designed to impart knowledge on waste management, protecting the forests, looking after each other and thinking about a greater community, a global community will equip the children with a better understanding of the world. The project Education for Sustainability is in line with the fundamental principle of Earth Charter that talks about Integration of knowledge, values and skills needed for sustainable living into formal education. The importance of educating children to understand and act on the issues of sustainable world was seconded at Earth Summit. Keeping in mind that today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers helping them engage in debates , letting them acquire a better understanding of the world and global community will be a positive step for the future.

We live in a unique time in history where the technological advancements are prodigious. These advancements added both to the progress and recession of world communities. Keeping in mind this juxtaposition we need to work towards an impact that only contributes positively. Living in a globalized world where the distances are becoming less with each passing year, globalization is bringing people and cultures together. We have transcended the geographical and national boundaries in communication.  This definitely proves the point that we are at stage where the problems associated with the Earth are no longer affecting one region or group of people rather we all are affected equally by the problems that affects the marginalised groups more. This is an important time in history where we have to take each other with us on our struggle to build a better world.

The Earth Charter is based on intercultural dialogue fostering the need for unified responsibility. Nektarina has been acting on this principle of integration. Nektarina comprises  of a multicultural team from all over the world including Pakistan, Croatia, France, India, Fiji, Trinidad & Tobago, Spain and people working in Nektarina have travelled extensively getting to know various cultures, equipping themselves with a better understanding of the world communities. Nektarina in upholding the Earth Charter principle of mutual respect and understanding by giving equal opportunity to everyone involved in it’s mission.

The principles and values in the Earth Charter reflect the influence of a rich diversity. The vision of shared values in the Earth Charter is especially focused on environment.  However, the inclusion of ethical vision reflecting the realization that political, socio-economic and cultural challenges are interrelated. Nektarina is trying it’s best to take everything together keeping in mind all the principles. Nektarina recognizes the interconnections between human rights and protection of ecosystems promoting a culture of justice and peace. This holistic understanding is reflected through Nektarina’s various projects and campaigns that do constitute sustainable development in it’s core.

At the heart of the Earth Charter is a tenet of respect for life on the recognition that all beings are inter-reliant and all life forms have value irrespective of their worth to individuals. Beginning with an attitude of respect for others and finding expression in caring, preventing harm and promoting well-being these tenets inculcate a sense of ethical responsibility. Earth Charter encourages everyone to identify with the global community as well as their local communities and to be compassionate towards the entire human family.

The ethics of Earth Charter and Nektarina are grounded in a shared vision of widely shared responsibility for the planet Earth and it’s inhabitants. Nektarina does believe that human existence is about being more not having more. The shared values between Nektarina and Earth Charter do focus special attention on the environment.  The vision is inclusive realizing that all global challenges facing the world today are interrelated. Nektarina asserts that the spirit of human solidarity lies in the kinship with all life, mutual understanding and gratitude. Keeping in mind the Earth Charter principles Nektarina believes in the vision of a peaceful and just world celebrating life joyfully.

A Human Rights ‘Meltdown’

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Take Action, Uncategorized, Weekly news

Human rights and climate change are inseparable. There are many studies available now that provide evidence that in an unstable climate, conflict and human rights violation will escalate. In a cooler and wetter world cool heads won’t prevail.

At first I could not decipher the link between human rights and climate change. Though the correlation is evident at times convincing many environmental scientists and researchers that there is a dire need to take action. It is essential that the need for action has to come from all stakeholders.

There are many today who will disagree. When researching through it I came across various studies trying to find a direct and indirect links, finding a connection, giving evidence every now and then to prove their point. It has also become a norm these days that if someone doesn’t have a specialization in a certain field most of the time they are not taken seriously.

Do I need to specialize in environmental sciences to know this simple truth? Can’t I make a choice by being rational and looking at the bigger picture? Because the truth is simple no matter how bitter it is or how much we try to run away from it. We have done enough harm to mother earth. She is dying, calling out for help, loud and clear. And in this situation looking away would just be another selfishness which comes naturally to us as human beings.

Fascinating as it is, in 1994 there was a study done in which it was discovered that two groups of police officers undergoing the exact same simulation training were more likely to draw their weapons if the room was uncomfortably warm. This doesn’t mean that there are cool heads in cooler regions. But sometimes heat fuels aggressive behavior in people. It is just to state the fact that in uncomfortable environmental situations there is a likelihood of a rise in violence. Now there are studies proving it but just to share my regular observation during our extremely hot summers in Pakistan, you get to see fights and people arguing more on the streets.

Drawing a connection doesn’t mean that climate change is solely responsible for human rights violations. Various factors interact with climate to produce chaos. Drought and flooding cripple an economy, especially one that is already weak or that is based on agriculture.

In a research done by University of California, Berkeley and University of Princeton the researchers found that personal violence was far more influenced by a leap in temperature. The researchers in the journal called Science stated that an unstable climate aggravates three types of violence namely personal, political or intergroup leading to institutional breakdown. Analysing 60 studies from a number of disciplines including archaeology, criminology, economics and psychology — the researchers have explored the correlation between weather and violence in various parts of the world from about 10,000 BCE to the present day. Reviewing the studies for a period of 18 months they were confident in drawing their conclusion. The researchers predicted in the study that people may face a threat as precarious as extreme weather and that is each other.

Seeing the current state of world affairs where most of the countries in the East and West are having a political turmoil it does sound accurate. We have been witnessing disparity and human rights violations leading to various social outburst across the globe, be it Egypt, Crimea, Turkey, US, Sudan to name a few. Taking an example of Egypt people came out on the streets demanding for their rights, pressing the governments the need for their well-being. They came out furious as if fed up with the current system. People have been protesting in other places too like Brazil and this phenomenon looks global now not confining to any one particular region or affecting any one particular tribe. The study reports that due to extreme climatic conditions violence in all three categories exacerbates regardless of geography or stability. A connection was seen between atypical climate and incidents including ethnic violence in Asia and Europe, spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; assaults and murders increase in the United States and Tanzania; land invasions in Brazil; use of force in the Netherlands; rise of civil conflicts throughout the tropics; collapsed ancient empires; and in Middle-Ages Europe wars and displacements.

The researchers in their study also stated that they see the same pattern across the world. They stated that it is assumed that our modern society is largely independent of the environment because we are technologically advanced but it is quite the contrary. The climate play a vital role is sustaining peace and well-being across human societies.

In the research Prof Hsiang quoted that environmental conditions do change people’s perception of their own conditions and the use of violence or aggressive behaviour by people to change their situation and accomplish some goal. He also added that this doesn’t mean that climate is the only cause of conflict. There is not a single conflict that can be attributed to some specific climate event.

Well that does make sense being a student of conflict resolution and peacebuilding I also understand that there are various reasons triggering a conflict and have their roots in interpersonal and intergroup relations.  Looking at the dynamics of conflict which is a tricky subject to deal with no sane person can equate violence with climate. The need for this research is to highlight that climate is a critical factor and affect how things escalate even to the point of violence. We need to connect the dots and let our reasoning be based on solid foundations to avoid more damage.

The researchers found that while climate is not the sole or primary cause of violence, it undeniably intensifies existing social and interpersonal tension in all societies, regardless of wealth or geography. It was found out during the research that the amount of change from the local norm — in heat or rainfall boosts the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict. Things are changing and changing fast. Looking at the climate change models the research proves that by 2050 there will be a change in global climate conditions. The change in global climate conditions will escalate murders, rape, riots etc. Establishing a casual relationship between human conflict and climate through the collection of data the researchers were cautious about drawing a direct link. The individual researches or analysis on the same subject did not garner headlines before, people have been sceptical of an individual study.

But this collective research is opening a new window for discussion and action. It can be seen that the patterns drawn in the research are extremely general and are no exception. It should be considered as a rule of thumb. It will be an awakening call for the policy makers out there to take actions accordingly. Climate change does destabilise social institutions by testing the amount of stress they can endure. The social institutions mostly fail to deliver to the public when it comes to natural catastrophes, all these typhoons, earthquakes and floods are a clear indication of our misdoings. There is a red flag here, pretty much in the face. Instead of acting like onlookers waiting for our turn we need to collectively put an end to this.

In a state of vengeance and unlimited power while having our nuclear tests, where we are busy feeding the guns instead of the people, we forget what harm they will bring to the nations in the coming years. We still face the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after so many years.  What else do we need to know now? The past has been a good indicator of the turmoil which we can end up in but we don’t want to pay heed right now. In the race to have more there will be a time when we will lose ourselves.

The research also pointed out the fact that after disasters populations tend to suffer permanently. They usually don’t end up being stronger rather are more prone to catastrophes in the future. Populations end up struggling more and it also affects the performance of political organizations they tend to do very badly. There can be a rhetoric which most political organizations are capable of, that after disasters they tend to become stronger as a community or economically but there is hardly any evidence that proves it. After a natural disaster it has been seen that those areas become more vulnerable putting lives of millions in danger.

Copyright AlJazeera English   Photo Source: Aljazeera English

The research pressed the fact that human rights are, and will continue to be, interconnected to climate change. These most basic of human rights include the right to have a home, food and water. The research clearly indicates that whether there is a relationship between climate and conflict is not the question anymore. Now the question should be what is causing it. Moving to a second stage where more facts are known. It is important to investigate the cause of this connection. This study establishing a correlation between violence and climate change can also allow policymakers and researchers to examine what causes it and how to intervene and prevent it or at least make an effort to resist it. By figuring out what is causing the correlation between human rights violation and conflict would be a step forward. It will help is designing effective policies or institutions capable to manage and interrupt the connection between climate and conflict. In the face of greater violence, the research continues to examine how certain social and political institutions may help mitigate some of the impacts that lead to more conflict. It is important to find that out so that the future generations can be saved enabling to create a better planet.

The changes might seem to be moderate when it comes to climate but they have a sizable impact on the societies. There are many other researches that came up with global climate models that projected an increase in global temperatures. This is not a conspiracy theory against any government. It is a simple but an inconvenient truth.  This global warming and the rate by which it is increasing according to the researchers warming at a certain level could increase the risk of civil war in many countries by more than 50 percent.

This indication doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Dr. Kumi Naidoo, executive director at Greenpeace International argues the same point. Naidoo recently said that the struggles between catastrophies caused by climate change and human rights struggle should be seen as two sides of the same coin. This statement further augments the need not to see the two things separately.

In an interview, Human Rights Watch senior researcher Richard Pearshouse also stated that many of the most vulnerable in society will be affected by climate change. That vulnerable stratum includes and will affect the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, women and children. That should be enough for human rights organisations. It is clear with what he said that the marginalised will feel the impacts most deeply. He stated that there are many places where the amount of human suffering is caused by environmental degradation. He quoted the example of Hazaribagh, Bangladesh saying that as someone working in the areas of human rights and health, the climate change overlap is very evident. He added that the human suffering due to environmental degradation is very obvious in Bangladesh. It is indeed true that flooding and drought does affect the agricultural economies that are solely dependent on the crop. When looking at the bigger picture we see that we are draining the natural resources that can jeopardize the future of our planet. Hopefully the exhaustion of natural resources will let us stay at the point where we buy water to drink instead of not having water at all.

From the right to life to health, housing and education, climate change has a massive impact on a vast range of civil and political rights. When it comes to suffering on the ground it is the marginalised who are affected the most. There appears a discrimination which the international organizations and government bodies should keep in mind. The mitigations measures should incorporate the impact of climate change on the most marginalised. There are polar extremes everywhere in the world and the gap between haves and have not’s is ever increasing. Drawing a balance between climate change and the group of people affected most by it is crucial to the study.

Pearshouse said there are many example across the globe where clear links are found between the unofficial exercise of government power and environmental harm around the world whether it’s a government unwilling to enforce basic health and environmental safeguards in Bangladesh or state-sponsored repression of environmental defenders in Russia. This reinforces that climate injustice is not limited to one particular region. Even the most stable of the economies can’t get away with the natural disasters putting millions at risk.

The science can be a building block as it is. It’s time for us to start acting and that is the area where we are struggling to convince people of how real this all stated above is. Let’s challenge the old school always suggesting that the issues of climate justice are baseless. We have a very strong base here if we open our eyes and try to notice it. The message is loud and clear and we have seven billion people to whom we need to convey this message.

Sustainable Development: A Global Youth Perspective

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Green Economy, News, News & Updates

Sustainable development means different things to different people, but the most commonly quoted definition undoubtedly is ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (World Commission on Environment and Development).

Being part of few conferences on this issue and meeting people involved in the movement instead of having clarity of thought I was perplexed to how this broader definition can be translated into the local context among local communities. Obviously there is no one, clear cut solution to the challenges faced by the world today.

“More is always better” is an outdated orthodox rule of thumb. The scandalous and unfair distribution of this planet’s wealth, over exploitation of environment and depletion of natural resources should be brought to an end. This narrow economic rationality dominant in capitalism/post capitalism should be replaced with reason, an understanding that advocates greater common good. Just to have a better understanding on how this concept works in local contexts I got to speak with some active, young members of the globe taking part in the movement. My reason for getting to know how sustainable development is understood by various societies is based on an incident where once when we were discussing climate justice with local audience in Pakistan I got a backlash from the community saying that this is not our problem , we are deprived of our daily bread, that is our problem. Even today what they said echoes in my mind, isn’t everything interconnected? Economic, environment, education, don’t they all fit into one big puzzle to solve the mystery behind sustainable development, adopting an integrated version. To find answers I approached my interviewees belonging to various regions with three questions. What does sustainable development mean to you? What is the general perception of sustainability in the regions where you are coming from? What do you think should be the global link for sustainable development at large? Here is what they had to say.

“For me it means taking good care of the environment and of others around you. What I find very important is respect and responsibility. We need to respect nature (and people!) and we have a certain responsibility to take good care of the earth and manage resources in a sustainable way. Also, it means not screwing things up for future generations and leaving a world behind without environmental destruction, disasters due to climate change, and poverty. We have a lot to do to achieve true sustainability and sustainable development, but there is no other way than to develop in a sustainable way in the years to come, as it’s the only way to deal with resource scarcity, climate risks, and so on. Sustainable development means that we need to improve our current economic system (which for example makes it cheaper to pollute than to produce environmental-friendly, which is crazy), especially make the transition from linear to circular economy.

There is no true sustainability without the global part. We deal with trans-boundary problems so in the end no country can do it alone. I praise all local initiatives where real progress and power lies – however, we do need global cooperation on these issues. Which makes it difficult too, because opinions (and unfortunately, mostly interests) from governments around the world differ and that’s why countries – in my opinion – have not succeeded yet in making strong international agreements on sustainable development. The current process of defining a set of sustainable development goals (as successor of the MDGs) is hopeful, but governments unfortunately find it very difficult to be truly trans formative; which is really needed. That’s where I see the power of other actors, sustainable business leaders for example, but especially young people – taking the lead in their communities, working together with other young people from other countries, with a shared goal: achieving sustainability as soon as possible. More and more people are becoming aware and many (young) people are doing something about it, taking action themselves. That’s where the real hope and change lies. And it’s something we can see happening all around the world – which is amazing.”

Ralien Bekkers

Ralien Bekkers, Netherlands

Dutch Representative, Sustainable Development to UN

“Socio economics is regional,national and global. There are so many differences between places in terms of economics, society and their perception of what is right for themselves – sustainability varies with that psyche.  It varies with the history, culture and the situation the people are currently in. A group or a tribe with a long history of conservation will put environment before development. A more globalized group that thinks resources equal capital will put environment  behind development. A global perspective is difficult.It can only be realized when everybody realizes how the most vulnerable is suffering. It will only be realized when the economically higher set which is usually cushioned from disasters is made to reseal what people working in sensitive areas like farming are going through. Before we head towards a global, i feel there needs to be a lot of  traction between societies in a nation. “

Priti Rajagopalan

Priti Rajagopalan

Winner, Commonwealth Youth Award

“I define SD as development for all, the inclusive development with a collective consciousness. In Mexico there are two different approaches to SD and two key actors. At global, the government is the key player and it seeks for climate change commitments. The government strategy has been built mainly in the efficiency of the use of energy and the use and sanitation of water. Some examples of this were the inputs of the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinoza in the High Level Panel report in which her work was fundamental to include energy in the Agenda Post 2015. At local, the CSOs are the key players. And the commitments are more local as well. We are working to include non formal education on SD in elementary schools, green jobs and local law that defend the protected natural areas, the rivers and the indigenous territories. I think the link is to translate the international/global commitments of our government to local projects. We already work in this, for example the food security we translate it into organic harvesting systems in schools or the water efficiency we translate it into harvesting water systems in schools and community centers. That´s how I think it should be SD at large, translate it to all and for all.”

Mariana Gonzalez

Mariana Gonzalez, Mexico

Project Coordinator, Global Youth Action Network

“Sustainable development to me incorporates energy,water, environment, economy, health , food, adaptation,climate, biodiversity,technology, change, to mention but a few.To expand a little bit  further on some key areas for example climate, we all now know it’s not something we have to be told, the climate has changed and this is really having a negative effect on food or crop yields hence the need for adaptation.Water in the rivers is drying up and we need to start thinking  of how do we get energy? This all falls under renewable energy, the environmental landscape is changing day by day how we do adapt?

Being in Africa and representing the African region , I see how sustainability is slowly coming into play. Take for example Solar energy. Our beautiful African sun shines for most days in a year and how we utilize that? It’s through the introduction of more solar use for generating the much needed power unlike relying on the usual hydro power that is proving to be a challenge with climate change. It also reduces even on pollution and replaces non renewable energy to a more eco-friendly energy.

The other aspect especially on adaptation  is on crop rotation. As you maybe aware that for example here in the Southern part of Africa maize is a major crop but due to climate change crop yields have really gone down and farmers  are being encouraged to plant other crops that are less water demanding and that improve soil fertility. This helps in many ways to mitigate  from poor to food shortages.

With all this said, I would say that as a region that is feeling the effects of climate change or global warming, we as a region are doing okay because we are most affected , I know the other regions have the more advanced technology. Still a lot needs to be done.Slowly but surely we can get there, and we just need more joint forces, more government commitments to make it a meaningful development.”

Chola Simzwana

Chola Simzwana, Zambia

Commonwealth Youth Climate Network

“Allowing the next generation to enjoy the current resources we are blessed with. It’s all about inter-generational justice and fairness. For example in some places climate justice is the main area of interest whereas in other regions education and economics are paid more attention though it is interlinked.

For the PACIFIC it is entirely about survival. Our islands are sinking and we contributed the least to this global issue. If our geographical homes are disappearing; this also threatens our histories, cultures, languages & identity. The world is turning a blind-eye to this because we are considered small & insignificant for prompt global action. Enough of the bullying! I plea anyone to please help us protect all we have.

Climate Change is the threatening our very own existence. The whole world is experiencing unorthodox, unprecedented weather episodes. The evidence is clear that we need action now!”

Simon Matafai

Simon Matafai, Samoa and NewZealand

Represented Commonwealth of Nations at Various UN Summits

Indeed a  central feature of sustainable development is adopting an integrated vision. Rather than just a concept it can also be seen as a political or normative act.

The power of the concept lies in the fact that it brings the differences and contradictions in current behavior to the surface creating a table for dialogue and discussion where varied world views are given heed and importance.  Keeping in mind the socio-political context of various regions and discussing the political priorities for sustainable development might be challenging but the need of our time. It’s better to think in that direction before it gets too late. After all sustainable development is about the quality of life we desire now and in future. An element of equity is important when we are talking about sustainable development as people spread across the globe have the right to quality of life. Making choices and policies visible within the context of our desired future is the essence of sustainable development. The numerous views on a desired future leads to various interpretations of sustainable development as a concept. But it can be seen through the views expressed that there is one thing which we all agree with, which we all share and that is a desire for change, a desire to make this world better.