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Ridhima Pandey: Interview with 13-Year-Old Climate Activist

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Our planet needs help! The earth’s temperature is rising. The whole world is now witnessing climate change because of greenhouse gas emissions. 13-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Uttarakhand, India, has proved us that no one is too young to make an impact on the environment

Ridhima Pandey, like any Indian teenager, is trying to adjust to the ‘new normal’ of the global pandemic- staying home and maintaining social distance. In the lockdown, she had been taking online classes and spending time with her furry friends. She says, “I usually play with my cat and some of the street dogs that I have.” Other times, it’s movie time with her brother.
But do you know that she was the only young climate activist from India who joined Greta Thunberg in a global climate strike against the government towards climate change at the UN Climate Action  Summit? She has recently been listed under BBC Top 100 Women 2020, who are steering change and creating a difference.
During these turbulent times, young climate activists are staging campaigns and protests to bring in important changes and solve the crisis of climate change faced by the entire world today.

Ridhima Pandey’s Life Changing Moment: The Flood of Uttarakhand

A devastating flash flood in 2013 at Uttarakhand completely changed Ridhima Pandey’s life. “It made me very sad & scared about facing flash floods in my life, that was the time when I learned about climate change & global warming.”
It was a life-changing event for her as she witnessed the loss of lives and properties in the flood scene.
Seeing children lost their parents disheartened her. It created a sense of fear, making her doubt what the future holds for humanity as global climate changes take place. It was during this moment, the issue of climate change and global warming grab her attention.
She wanted to learn more and contribute anything to save the planet from climate change. Ever since the flood, she had developed a fear of floods and wanted to do something to stop them from happening in the future.

Ridhima Pandey: Her Inspiration

Ridhima’s attachment towards nature was evident since her childhood days. One of the reasons behind this was that both her parents were already working in environmental protection for years. Her father, Dinesh Pandey, has been working in wildlife conservation for almost 20 years, and her mother was working with the forest department for 10 years.
Growing up, watching her parents working actively and diligently towards protecting nature and wildlife made her aware of the environmental crisis.
Ridhima’s parents instilled in her the value of protecting the environment and enlightening society on living sustainably with different species. Also, she had spent most of her time in various wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centers.
Ridhima Pandey’s main inspiration behind following this path were her parents. Her parents’ achievements truly motivated her, who followed the right direction towards conserving the environment.

Gauri Devi and the Chipko Movement

The story of Gaura Devi inspired Ridhima significantly. “Seeing her do so much for her community, even though they were not the most privileged one, but still trying their best.”
She was an Indian Chipko activist in the Himalayas and is also from the state of Uttarakhand.
Gaura Devi was appointed to govern the Mahila Mangal Dal in the path of the Chipko movement. The group fought for the preservation of community forests. Ridhima has always looked up to her as being one of the strongest women who, managed to put in every possible effort to work towards her community and the protection of forests.
She challenged the men to attack her rather than chopping down the trees, and she portrayed the forest as her mother’s house. Ridhima believes that it was one of the most significant movements in history towards environmental protection. Therefore, it becomes one of her biggest inspirations.

Ridhima Pandey on Climate Crisis: “Change Your Lifestyle and Mindset”

We have seen a substantial economic downturn because of COVID-19. The lockdown, which has been imposed, has drastically reduced greenhouse gas emissions. To stop climate change, the main aim was to plant green plants that reduce emissions and, at the same time, creating cleaner and fresh air.

On being asked about long-term solutions to handle the climate crisis and bring about a change, Ridhima Pandey believes that the most important thing is to change our lifestyle and mindset. “Unless or until we don’t change our mindset, we will not be able to bring a change or change ourselves.”

She says that it’s time to come out of our comfort zones to save the planet and fight to protect it.

Ridhima strongly implies that the drive for change lies within us, and we must understand the importance and value of mother nature. In this way, we can all contribute towards protecting our environment: cutting emissions and making our society a better place to breathe in.
We need to plan out and take small yet vital steps to reduce emissions while creating clean and fresh air in the long-term.
She strongly believes in switching to a sustainable lifestyle. By following these substantial steps in our lives, it will help bring necessary changes, and at the same time, prevent further damage to the environment.
She recommends buying sustainable clothes, groceries, limiting plastic use- buying minimally packaged goods, carrying your sack when you shop, not wasting water, saving electricity at home, purchasing local products, etc.
However, Ridhima knows that every individual can’t be an activist and fight for significant changes. Therefore, it’s integral to think and put in steps that render a positive difference for every individual to prevent future generations from becoming victims of climate change’s health hazards.

Ridhima Pandey: An Inspiration for Many

In the beginning, her perspective was narrow. She wanted to protect the environment only to secure her life and her future. But, soon, that changed. Her goal had taken up a global turn.
As a child, Ridhima never thought she would become a climate activist and share her views on big platforms like the Indian Institute of Technology and TEDx, and travel to countries.
Ridhima Pandey filed a petition in the year 2017 against India’s Government at National Green Tribunal. They had not taken up crucial actions against climate change, which they had accepted in the Paris Agreement. The government was doing more work on paper than on the ground.
The petition, however, got dismissed. This incident much discouraged the young girl, and she decided to move her petition to the supreme court.
When people started getting inspired by noticing what Ridhima was doing, it served as her motivation to continue promoting the issue of climate change. “Seeing people getting inspired from me somewhere inspires me to do more.”
She never wanted people to assume that things are not happening properly.
As an activist, they aren’t doing what they can, so she always tries to put in the best of all her capabilities for being vocal about climate crises but also on human rights, social issues, wildlife preservation, etc.

Ridhima Pandey on Challenges She had Faced

Ridhima Pandey took part in various protests against projects like Jolly Grant Airport Dehradun, Kerala Anti Petroleum Project, Harki Pauri, etc., trying to harm the environment.
She experienced barriers where people were hesitant to join the protests because of not having enough media coverage. And then, the police authorities getting in her way.
Ridhima Pandeys says that “Organizing a strike is more tough”. She faced problems in gathering a considerable amount of people to engage with her goal. Few people turned up to support her.
She was also discouraged by the fact that the government failed to react positively to the protests and the efforts she had put in to fight climate change.
She has also faced criticisms from people who think that she should be focusing on her studies rather than involving herself in such protests. “People don’t recognize what you are doing; rather, they recognize that you are just a girl, just a kid.”
Yet, she had learned to deal with such negativity and instead, work harder to pursue her goal.
Still then, other child activists like Greta Thunberg motivate her to understand that it’s just the beginning of the road to chase her dream.  She continues to pursue her goal with more determination to protect the environment.
Ridhima has believed that as children of this age, it’s never been our duty to fight for our rights and protest against the government for not performing their duties and functions. Its their duty to preserve and protect the environment for future generations of the climate risks.
We don’t have the power to enforce laws or make the government fulfill our wishes at an instant. However, being responsible citizens, we must change our lifestyle to suit all the ongoing climate issues.”
She says that our education system lacks the information that is needed to provide awareness of the climate crisis.
Ridhima Pandey has indeed proved to us that no person is too young to make an impact. She gives us a message that awareness is crucial in enable worlds to realize and deal with the effects of climate change and in enabling the evolutions in beliefs and behavior required to help them handle the reasons for climate change and embrace more sustainable lifestyles.

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