Climate Change: On Sustaining Youth-led Movements During a Pandemic

As the world battles the pandemic and find ways to adjust to the new normal, the climate change movement has temporarily taken a backseat.

However, a lot of young activists are contemplating new methods. While some have taken to organising and participating in webinars and other online events to mobilise support, others who don’t have access to internet are planting trees in their localities.

One such changemaker is 20-year-old Manthan Shah, who has been an active part of three international movements, including one led by Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg in Madrid, Spain.

“Over the last 16 months, I have been fortunate to be a part some of the most exciting global movements such as ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ movement by Ashoka in Singapore, ‘Combat against climate change’ by Greta Thunberg, in Madrid, and ‘I Can: Design for Change’ movement by Kiran Bir Sethi, at the Vatican and in Rome,” he says.

As a participant, Manthan says his belief in the power of youth was reaffirmed. He also learnt how a movement is created and sustained over a long a period of time. The ongoing pandemic, he adds, has made it even more pertinent to hold power accountable and to raise our collective voices wherever necessary.

Asias top 3000 philanthropists and Impact in Singapore in June 2019.

“Today, with coronavirus disrupting lives globally, we should not forget the climate change reality. Furthermore, the migrant worker crisis must draw our attention to the harsh inequality and systemic gaps in our country. It is more important than ever before to create sustainable movements and demand change,” he said.

The global movements

As part of Thunberg’s climate change movement, Manthan learnt how age isn’t a barrier to becoming a changemaker.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Thunberg said how the pandemic has shown us how to act on crises with utmost urgency, which wasn’t there a couple of months back, when teenagers and young adults from all across the world were coming out on the streets, demanding quick action against climate change. “It[pandemic] shows that in a crisis, you act, and you act with necessary force,” she said.

December 6, 2020, Madrid, Spain.

Adding to that, Manthan says that Thunberg has a clear mission and consistently works towards it.

Also read: In Photos: Meet Iih, a Young Activist on an Indefinite Hunger Strike in Nepal

The community support and networking, Manthan says, is something which he learnt while working as a fellow with Ashoka, a non-governmental organisation that supports ‘world’s leading social entrepreneurs and changemakers’.

As for the ‘Design for Change’ movement, he says, it taught him about incorporating innovation and “design thinking” in his endeavours. “Essentially, consistency and perseverance plays a key role in creating, expanding and sustaining a movement.”

Individual projects

Before joining the international movements, Manthan had already started two small initiatives at the age of 17.

While one was about connecting aspiring volunteers from across Pune with NGOs with the help of WhatsApp groups, the other one aimed at teaching sports to young kids in rural India and helping them get in touch with sponsors.

The initiatives and the movements that he was part of inspired him to work more towards building a more equitable society at his own level. Two moths ago, Manthan started posting a weekly podcast called @planetimpactpod where he interviews young social entrepreneurs, ‘Forbes 30 under 30’, Ashoka fellows and even Nobel Laureates. The guests, in his podcasts, share insights from their projects.

All the projects that he could be a part of, and those that he initiated himself, Manthan says, taught him that young people can “accomplish absolutely anything”.

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