WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2022 – She Talks Nature
Highlighting women’s voices across the world- Discussing the most pressing environmental concerns and the way ahead
June 5, 2022, 5:00 PM IST
The rising global environmental crisis has presented an existential crisis for humankind in the form of increasing natural catastrophes, global temperatures, and drastic weather patterns, calling for a unified approach toward creating a sustainable future for everyone. When it comes to preserving the environment, women’s voices and actions have been constituents of leading conservation projects and efforts in the 21st century, focusing on achieving environmental justice.
Historically, women have played a critical role in managing natural resources on family and community levels and consequently have been most affected by environmental degradation. Especially in developing countries, the local customs and traditions which focus on preserving the climate have been centred around women’s contributions. From the top-level to the grassroots, the 1992 UN Earth Summit, India’s Chipko movement and Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, these events have highlighted the importance of women’s actions in building a sustainable future and preserving the environment.
Women’s contribution to the environment makes the often-hidden links between women and the environment visible, with an explicit focus on the gender-related aspects of land, water and biodiversity conservation and management. It aims to inspire the environmental and sustainable development community to better understand the importance of gender and integrate a gender perspective across all its work and emphasise women as the active agents of conservation and restoration of the environment.
Women serve diverse roles and have been at the forefront of climate equity and justice for centuries. However, they have seldom been acknowledged for their contribution to nature and our daily lives. Women play a key role in providing invaluable contributions to sustaining communities around the world and managing the Earth’s biodiversity and natural resources.
Honouring their contribution to protecting the #onlyoneearth, Bridge Association for Social Initiatives Aiming Change (BASIC) and Shristi, in collaboration with United Religions Initiative (URI) organised an all-women webinar ‘She Talks Nature’ on June 5th 2022 at 5 pm IST.
In line with the 2022 World Environment Day theme, ‘Only One Earth’, ‘She Talks Nature’ aimed to bring together the voices of women from across the world as they discussed the most pressing environmental concerns and the way ahead. The virtual World Environment Day celebration also saw the launch of 3 videos where women from diverse fields across the world shared their key learnings from their environmental work.
Moderated by Geetanjali Atri, Director, Programmes and Outreach, BASIC, the program saw esteemed speakers like Dr Priyanka Kaushal, Associate Professor, Centre for Rural Development and Technology, IIT-Delhi, with Azmaira Alibhai, Faith and Ecosystems Coordinator, UNEP Faith For Earth, Kanchana Weerakoon, President, Eco-Friendly Volunteers, Colombo, Sri Lanka and Acharya Pratishtha Ji, Yoga Guru, Mind Therapist and Author who will share their best practices and motivations to protect the planet. Rev Lauren Van Ham, Climate Action Coordinator for United Religions Initiative also shared her reflections.
The program aimed to highlight the women’s voices in the fight to preserve the planet and spread awareness on environmental justice. The platform also opened the opportunity to understand the most pressing challenges of climate degradation, as we venture further into adopting different practices and methods to counter climate change and its effects on individuals and communities. It allowed deliberations into adequate pathways for implementing various solutions while keeping in mind the factors of social inclusivity within the objectives of environmental justice.
The discussion began with Geetanjali setting the agenda on the floor, introducing our esteemed guests, and asking questions regarding their perspectives on the current crisis. The first panel consisted of Dr Kaushal and Ms Kanchana Weerakoon.
Dr Priyanka Kausal has been associated with Clean Energy Technology, Society and Climate Change interface for the last eighteen years, focusing on carbon neural communities. She highlighted the need to change the perspective of looking at the issue of climate change. Calling for a perspective which positions every individual as a global citizen, Dr Kausal emphasized the interconnectivity that exists between climate change and individuals, an issue which cannot be ignored on an individual basis. Emphasizing her work done on hydrogen fuel to create contemporary alternatives to energy, for Dr Kausal the ultimate path to environmental justice resides within the aspects of self-sustainability and increasing awareness among citizens to realize a change within human behaviour. Integrating science, research and technology which can enable solutions for climate change, her vision toward a collective step is grounded on the need of advancing scientific and social research organizations.
Azmaira Alibhai, having the rich experience of working with UNEPs Faith for Earth Initiative and experience in legal research and programme management, enlightened the event by sharing how she took inspiration from her religious roots, to follow and preach the principles of social and environmental justice, Azmaira enlightened the audience on the necessity of incorporating sustainable principles and social equality to realize the idea of environmental justice. Highlighting the work done by her when it comes to incorporating Faith-based leaders and with UNEP’s institutional working, she has been responsible for the birth of the UN Decade for restoration, a comprehensive international document that aspired to combine faith and the need to preserve the environment. For her, the single most important modus operandi is to make the agenda of climate change value-based and people-centric. In the process of systematic economic and ecological changes, it’s necessary to create fiduciary relationships between people and institutions working toward the environment.
Kanchana Weerakoon, President of Eco-Friendly Volunteers and an environmental conservationist based on Buddhist philosophy, emphasized the realization of preserving climate change by individual actions, citing the example of adopting the practice of zero waste daily. Highlighting the idea of being a conscious consumer, she inspired the audience by explaining the importance of being an eco-friendly individual as a common family person, indicating the steps that can be taken up to inspire other individuals and collectively the whole society. On the idea of environmental justice, individual ego stands as the biggest obstacle, and she called for substituting the idea with being an eco-centric individual as a means to inspire citizens to adopt practices on an individual and ground-level basis and realizing the goal of environmental justice with the realization of being connected to the nature as a whole and not as separate beings.
Acharya Pratistha Ji, an internationally acclaimed Yoga Guru, Culture Expert and former diplomat, reminded the audience of the centrality of yoga and spiritual connection within the environment. For Acharya Pratistha Ji, the single most essential element for environment conservation is realizing and channelizing the positive energy within every individual, for this energy is how humans can recognize their duty and connectivity to basic elements of Mother Nature. She enlightened the gathering by insisting that each individual should follow the virtues of love, care for the environment, a life of equality and a universal message of living with unity. Her message that yoga is more than just a physical exercise as it’s also a way of sustainable living, reminds the audience of that how the impact of one individual’s realization can contribute to preserving the environment.
Nearing the end, Rev. Lauren Van Ham, URI Climate Action Coordinator assisted in binding the diverse thoughts and suggestions during the panel discussion. Rev. Lauren expressed a desire, for a world where humans care for what we love. The notion of environment preservation resonates and expresses how much we love our environment, an action not mechanistic in its making but an emotion-filled with care and affection. She also pointed out that there exists reciprocity, for if we love the Earth, the Earth loves us back indicating a lifestyle where we are conscious of our actions and do no harm towards mother nature. For Rev. Lauren, the need of the hour is adopting an ecocentric approach for we all are connected with the environment and it requires a collective sensibility to preserve the ecosystem. Tanya Sablok, CC Liaison and Communications Officer from URI in North India, concluded the event with a vote of thanks.
Expressing gratitude towards the speakers and audience, the event was a success with people from various walks of life joining from Zoom and Facebook. With the event recording achieving over 5000 views on social media, the event hashtag #shetallksnature was trending on Twitter at number 8 in India! We are grateful to the esteemed speakers and all the women who shared their wisdom via video messages. We would also like to acknowledge the support and hard work of the URI volunteers and the co-organisers (BASIC and Shristi) for this event.
Check out the videos here.
Missed the program? Watch the recording here.