The Small Warriors

More than a billion children are enrolled in primary or secondary school. However, many fail to complete their education, deterred by poor school quality and persistent challenges caused by deepening poverty, gender inequities, location, emergency and conflict situations, HIV and AIDS, disabilities, chronic environmental degradation and climate related hazards leading them drop their schooling.

A number of statistics indicate the magnitude of the impact of climate change by the next decade; will be approximately 175 million children getting affected. Girls are among the most vulnerable due to existing gender inequalities that, for example, can limit their access to education and nutrition.

Various reports suggests that developing countries which include the Arctic region, Asia (major deltas, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan) and the Pacific, the Caribbean, Central Asia, Gulf of Mexico, Latin America (especially the Andean region and Amazonia), the Middle East and North Africa, the Sahel zone and Southern Africa, are already struggling with social, economic and environmental issues, will suffer most from greater weather extremes and the increasing incidence of droughts and floods. The flash flood of Kedarnath, 2013, is a major example of un-thoughtful constructions in the name of development which was covered globally and which technically distorted the livelihood and day-to-day activity of the natives. One more example of such un-sustainable development is Chennai Flood. Such conditions can impact diminishing water resources, causing increased malnutrition, waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, and vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Floods and rising sea levels can cause drowning, injuries, and severe mental and physical trauma, particularly for communities living in settlements alongside major river deltas and low-lying coastal areas.

There are many existing frameworks that suggest the parameters of environmental education, environmental economics and sustainable development. Education must ensure to equip children with necessary skills to participate freely and potentially in any society, irrespective to their gender, ethics and origin. This will ensure the capacity to cope with climate change in any part of the world. One such framework “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Convention against Discrimination in Education” (1960) acknowledges the crucial role of education in ensuring equality of opportunity for all children.

Another such framework “The Millennium Declaration” (2000) acknowledges the importance of relationship between sustainable development and children. Over last few decades CCEE (Climate Change and Environmental Education) and ESD (Education for sustainable development) have become important tools for protecting the environment and up warding the process of sustainable development.

Unfortunately, there is still a vacant position in our global institution for a strong framework that can address the unique vulnerabilities of children to climate change and other disastrous risk caused due to it. UNICEF also works on scaling up and mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction into the education sector.

Children, apart from being naïve and passive, are proved to be mostly quick learners and contributors to every aspect of climate change, policy-making, mitigation and adaptation. They are the power agent to change and if well educated and empowered, can reduce the vulnerability of themselves and their communities to risk and can contribute to sustainable development as well. According to a research, educating girls and women is one of the best ways of strengthening community adaptation to climate change.

Small steps, big changes

In recent years availability of power in India has both increased and improved but demand has consistently outstripped supply and substantial energy and peak shortages prevailed in 2009-10. A high degree of caution is also needed as emerging economies like India may not at present have financial resources to leapfrog directly to cleaner mechanisms of energy.

In the past, the selection of an energy resource for electricity generation was dominated by finding the least expensive power generating plant. Although such an approach is essential, there is growing concern about other aspects of power generation such as social, environmental and technological benefits and consequences of the energy source selection.

It can be observed that coal has the maximum global warming potential followed by Natural Gas and others. Further, it needs to be re-emphasized that for India, like most developing countries, the cost of producing electricity is of paramount concern while planning for the type of plant to be installed and commissioned and more so with abundant supply of coal.

However, in the long run if we take the effect of the pollutants on human health and environment and cost as well as efforts needed to improve or alter the path of degradation, the initial higher cost of using renewable resources for producing energy may not be too big.

Increasingly around the world community level renewable energy sources are being deployed for multiple benefits for the community as well as the country as a whole. This packet of thought is not only blooming all around but has potential to sustain in longer run.

Energy Scenario for World and India

Countries/Regions Population(Millions) GDP Per Capita(PPP)

2000USD

TPES Per Capita(Kgoe) TPES/GDP(Kgoe-

2000USD)

Elec. Cons/capita (kwh) Kwh/$-2000 PPP
World 6688 9549 1803 0.19 2782 0.29
India 1139.97 3781 540 0.14 566 0.15

(Source: 2010 Key World Energy Statistics: IEA)

 

In recent years availability of power in India has both increased and improved but demand has consistently outstripped supply and substantial energy and peak shortages prevailed in 2009-10. There are also various estimates of 25000 to 35000 MW of power being produced by diesel generation to meet the deficits.

Such community level sources of renewable energy are not just eco- friendly but are comparatively cheaper to build as well as maintain. The maintenance is usually done by the local community members and needs no extra professional inputs. The bigger the project the costlier will be the pre and post construction charges.

Such small projects can sustain the local communities even in most adverse situations, as to say for example a 5KW hydro power project in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh helped sustaining 3 villages when rest of the city was in darkness during chilling winter last year. This was a perfect example of a community, which are self sustained in terms of energy. This was just one example; there are many such examples to see.

In Germany more than 50% of its renewable energy comes from community level based system known as Energy Co-operatives, which was estimated to be about 900 last year.

Such small projects apart from being cheap, needs less land to put up the power plants/solar panels and hence causes less social impact due to displacement.

It allows more and more people to commit towards the environment and be a part of the solution. This helps in low carbon economy and helps them to be in control of their economic and environmental sustainability.