Climate Tracker initiative started in 2009 under the Global Call for Action to bring climate change activism in the spotlight by giving people a larger platform to share their voices. Every year, the initiative enrolls a handful of people to train them to become climate change journalists to make people more aware of environmental issues either be policy, action-based or disasters. As such from Bangladesh, Sohara Mehroze Shachi was selected for the Climate Tracker program and is now the Co-Founder of the South Asian Hub. 4Matters talks with Sohara about environment, her experiences at Climate Tracker and life in general.
1. Tell us something about yourself
I graduated from Yale University and am currently working at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), focusing on climate change and environmental issues. I am the Vice Curator of the Dhaka Hub of Global Shapers Community – a global network of exceptional youth who are committed to bringing positive change. Moreover, I love singing and am a member of Ghaashphoring choir. I am also the co founder of the South Asia Hub of Climate Tracker – the world’s largest network of youth climate activists and journalists.
2.What made you realize that you wanted to do something for the environment?
As a citizen of one of the most climate vulnerable nations of the world – Bangladesh – I grew up with firsthand experience of the impacts of climate change, as evidenced in the form of increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods of people of my country. I believe that as a youth, the way I can contribute most effectively to help the vulnerable people is through powerful storytelling to encourage action. So I write articles on various national and international publications, with the aim of raising awareness on the impacts of climate change, the need for increased finance flows to poorer countries such as mine for adaptation, and to build a momentum for policy change to mitigate carbon emissions significantly. I have also been using the platform of Climate Tracker to motivate youth to take up action to protect the environment.
3. Like the powers of the planeteers from Captain Planet, which power would you choose if you had the option to do so and why?
I would like to have power over all four elements, but if I had to choose one, given the plethora of rivers that crisscross our country, I would choose the power of controlling water.
4. As a Climate Tracker, what sort of responsibilities are you given and is there is any restrictions on what you can do or not?
As this is not a paid job, I do everything on a volunteer basis out of my personal motivation. there are no set responsibilities and we are free to take initiatives on our own that we deem fit for our community. Climate Trackers usually write articles on climate change and environmental issues, and the organization provides them assistance in this regard to build their writing capacity.
5. As you know, many of the cities of Bangladesh have a lot of environmental issues, what do you think that needs to be addressed first?
It’s no surprise that our already congested city is collapsing under the weight of increasing vehicles, which are not only exacerbating traffic jams but also polluting the air to dangerous levels. What we need is not more cars, but better and more reliable public transport, which will reduce emissions, leading to not only cleaner air for us to breath but also contributing less to global warming.
6. What is the common problem among people when it comes to the environment?
There is a culture of apathy, which stems from either lack of knowledge or a pervading sense of hopelessness. People are either not aware of the impacts their actions are having on the environment, or think they don’t have the power to have a significant impact, and hence keep on littering or polluting, thinking it’s the government’s or someone else’s problem to solve.
“I would like to have power over all four elements, but if I had to choose one, given the plethora of rivers that crisscross our country, I would choose the power of controlling water.”
7. How would you define success when it comes to environment activism?
Environmental activism’s success is often defined in terms of being able to bring policy change or making big corporations to cut down their carbon emissions. But I believe that as a result of our activism, even if one person becomes more environmentally conscious and brings a little change in their day-to-day activities to reduce their carbon footprint, that is success.
8. Have you been able to change or influence people to make them realize that climate change is a global threat and that they need to take action?
I have been organizing different events around Dhaka to raise awareness on climatic issues, specially among the youth who will be bearing the brunt of the impacts for the rest of their lives. With that aim, I am conducting workshops in various educational institutions targeting youth of all segments of the socioeconomic strata, ranging from those of elite private institutions to underprivileged madrasa students. I have also conducted radio shows, informing people that climate change affects everyone and so we all need to play our part to face this global threat.
9. What is the most important thing you learned so far from your journey as a Climate Tracker?
As a Climate Tracker, it’s very easy to get frustrated with people’s apathy and ignorance, the slow pace of international negotiations, the power of big polluting corporations and lose hope on saving the planet given the dire straits the world is in. But in these circumstances, the most important thing, as Dory says, is to not give up and “just keep swimming.”
10. How do you balance your responsibilities of a Climate Tracker and work responsibilities?
Time management is often a challenge, balancing the responsibilities of Global Shapers, my choir, UNDP and Climate Tracker, and not to mention trying to have a semblance of social life. But I have always enjoyed doing multiple things as I have varied interests, and I knew what I was signing up for when I got engaged in all these endeavors, and have been making time for everything. It’s amazing how much time is freed up if we cut down on social media use for instance. I am resisting excessive use of facebook, snapchat, instagram, pinterest and twitter, and so far it has been working out!
11. Do you do anything different in your lifestyle to help the environment?
I try to reduce wastage and energy consumption on a daily basis by small things, such as printing on both sides of paper (and often not printing at all) taking the stairs instead of the elevator when possible, and walking instead of using motorized vehicles as much as I can.
12. Do you have anything to say to people?
There are a lot of things I still do or have to do that are not ideal for the environment such as eating meat and taking flights. But it’s important for everyone, specially the cynics, to realize that change takes time, and you don’t have to change your entire lifestyle, or do so right away to make a positive impact on the environment. Any effort, no matter how small, matters.