‘Individual’ is not ‘Youth’ – Green Empowerment through Collective Youth Club Activities in Bangladesh – by Rukhser Ahmed Bhabna

By 26. October 2017 No Comments

Almost all the unsolved problems till now have been relied upon on youth power for solution. Many researches, seminars and conferences identify problems and motivate the young generation to do something good in the field to bring change. Out of hundreds, a small group of enthusiasts always rises up for a change and speaks about the success of those events. However, if parents hold the hands of a baby to teach him to walk, but then leave him after a few steps and never pull him up, there is no point of the initial effort. This is the problem faced by the young generation at present. We are being motivated in every possible way; we are shown all the ways and prospects to work more. However, at a certain point, all we end up doing is, sigh and leave a conference room with a food token. All the motivations dissolve in the soft drinks it seems. I observed this gap, because I myself am a part of that youth, and often feel helpless while striving to achieve my goals.

No matter how effective the ways may be, it is very difficult for a single young student to organize events or projects or influence environmental awareness among this huge population. In a country like Bangladesh where environmental concerns are very recent among common people, groups of youth are continuously working to enhance the awareness and bring change via waste management activities, tree plantation programs, environmental olympiads, seminars, publishing intellectual articles, laboratory researches, community surveys and many more. These actually work in many cases and thus, the environmental field is getting enriched in many ways. Many reputed educational institutions of the country like Dhaka University, North South University, BRAC University, Adamjee Cantonment Public School and College, Notredame College have youth clubs based on environmental issues. Students voluntarily join the clubs to organize events and take part in tackling the deterioration of Nature. However, these events are not like international treaties, their impact is rather limited.. These are just the seeds that they sow; so that the seeds turn into a tree of hope in the future: a tree of hope that removes, at least, some of the careless minds from the society, just like a tree removes emissions. We cannot ignore citing some of these precious initiatives of Bangladeshi environmental youth clubs:

University of Dhaka: The Environment Club organizes Environmental Olympiad every year on World Environment Day with grand exposure since 1972. The Olympiad covers major issues of environment through Art Competitions for students of class 1-8, Olympiad for students of class 9-12 and poster presentations for university students. They aim to involve several generations in the environmental movement via art and knowledge.

North South University: Earth Club organizes ‘Encounters’ where environmental problems are shown through exhibition of handmade works of students. A person goes through a tunnel and experiences the environmental issues practically. Other main events include Champions of the Earth (where students all over the country give presentations and win funds to implement their ideas), A Tree for Free (where 1000 plants are distributed for free) and Environmental School Campaign (which creates awareness among children by involving them in fun activities).

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET): The young engineers care about the environment through their Environment Watch club and hold a Clean Campus Campaign that involves activities to keep the surroundings clean.

Adamjee Cantonment Public College: Students organize diverse events like ‘Project Display,’ ‘Eco-friendly Business Idea,’ and ’Nature-based Photography’ to involve both parents and youngsters in the environmental movement.

Unfortunately, the main drawback faced by youth at present is a safe and bigger platform to work on. Ensuring this can bloom an era of environmentalists who’ll influence whole generations to come. Such an overwhelmingly successful initiative is the Model United Nations (MUN) Conferences held throughout this country: young students voluntarily pay to take part in negotiations regarding international problems by representing UN member states as delegates. They practice diplomacy and also learn how United Nation conferences function. This doesn’t make them a real delegates of countries, but they feel honored to be able to discover their potential in such a platform by enjoying themselves and in the long run this training helps them in their real-life negotiations. Therefore, it seems that it is the lack of a collaborative environmental platform that is keeping all the environmental activities throughout the country from gaining momentum and seeing great success.

Another obstacle is the lack of funds. Since the events cover smaller range of publicity or include smaller population (mostly within the campus), there is a lack of big sponsors investing in the events. Thus, these events end up being ‘just events of the club schedule’, losing the greater interest of contributing to the environment. Combining clubs and collaborations (like MUN) will automatically make the event size bigger, attracting bigger sponsors; bigger audiences and in turn they’ll become bigger initiatives. The combined initiatives shall reflect the perspective of the present young generation as a whole and not only a part of it. Eventually, a network and team of young environmentalists will be formed who can and will cause bigger change.

Generally, by ‘environmentalists’ we also mean writers who reflect the environmental concerns through their strength of words, painters who hold the whole green on tip of the brushes, photographers capturing the beauty as well as the dark sides of disasters, negotiators who fight for the vulnerable states to climate change against the polluters, designers who contribute to change the attitude of people towards nature through the virtual world and many more we could ever think of. After all, there is no end to these ideas. Groups within these clubs can be selected for a specific purpose like publication team, photographer’s team, writer’s team, negotiator’s team, etc. All these teams can work together for the biggest environmental events in Bangladesh. While one college or university can distribute 1000 plants for free, one hundred colleges and universities may distribute a hundred thousand plants! Their ideas will not be limited in their own campuses; the exposure and effects will be multiplied and, multidimensional.

Environmental enthusiasts contribute to the ‘Conference of Youth’ today and may perform climate negotiations in international treaties, in the future. By working in different, small and big events throughout the country and interacting with nature as well as people, their lens will look forward to bringing healthy solutions to Nature that for example prevents bringing in a coal-fired power plant to be constructed only 14 kilometers away from a world heritage site.

Youth power can never be gained neither be utilized by a single person.. Environment being an equal service to every being deserves to be saved and cared about by each and every one of us. Groups of youth which work in a fragmented way may keep some parts of our mother Earth healthy. For the whole world to be healthy, for a wholesome positive change, young minds need to work together on common grounds; with common aims.

The authors:

Rukhser Ahmed Bhabna is a current student of North South University (NSU), studying to achieve a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and Management. Being a member of NSU’s Earth Club, she took active part in initiatives taken for environment beyond the academics. She’s motivated to contribute more for the environment, before she claims herself an environmentalist. She truly believes that keeping windows shut cannot let light enter the room, no matter how sunny the day is.

About the Supervisor

Raisa Bashar is a Lecturer at the Department of Environmental Science and Management (ESM) of North South University (NSU). She has a Masters degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics from UK’s Durham University. Her research interests include Environmental Economics and Valuation, Organic Food Market and Climate Finance. She aspires to be a pioneer in Environmental Valuation research and policy in her country.