These UAE teenagers lead the fight against climate change
Dubai - Teens from various schools in the UAE are running micro campaigns within their schools and communities to positively impact the environment.
While teenagers across the globe are protesting against governments to take more aggressive measures against climate change, youngsters in the UAE are not far behind.
Teens from various schools in the UAE are running micro campaigns within their schools and communities to positively impact the environment. Many of these initiatives have been ongoing for several decades now, according to school officials, environmentalists and students themselves. Several award-winning initiatives run by UAE students have support from prestigious organisations such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Many of these initiatives are largely awareness building activities and kids organise numerous campaigns to reduce plastic consumption. Some youngsters are also launching small-scale awareness initiatives to safeguard at-risk land and aquatic species.
Most recently, on February 3, the Emirates Environment Group (EEG), under the leadership of chairperson Habiba Al Mar'ashi, celebrated the 10th anniversary of seven students joining the group. She said: "These students have demonstrated that the keys to changing the future are in the hands of young people.
"They (students) are capable of developing solutions to environmental challenges, working to combat global warming and promoting sustainability through their efforts and involvement with activities and groups that raise the banner of environmental protection."
Here are some of the most inspiring stories from youngsters in the UAE
1-Home-schooled boy launches initiative to save gazelles frombeing run over
Following the death of a baby gazelle at Dubai's Falcon City, Miqael Ibrahim and his brothers Qhalif and Yusuf installed hand-made signages in their locality requesting motorists to slow down. The signs were installed in December last year. "There is a large herd of gazelles and a few foxes in the area," said Miqael.
Following the success of the sign boards, Miqael began approaching his neighbours, taking surveys on the visibility and impact of the sign boards. "Many residents were not aware that there were gazelles and foxes in the area," he said.
"Many have responded positively to the sign boards. They said it is a need in the neighbourhood and now I am keen on making new signs for the location." He is also urging residents who are having picnics in the desert to clean up after them because the animals end up eating the plastic waste that is left behind.
2-Climate change impact on the underprivileged
Saimanish Prabhakar, a 17-year-old independent filmmaker and student of GEMS Metropole School, has won several awards for his shortfilms, including at the Los Angeles International Film Festival and the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival.
His most recent film Metanoia follows the journey of a young boy on a beach in Chennai, India. The story narrates the impact of our actions on the environment.
Prabhakar said: "Metanoia is a film about an underprivileged young boy and his journey, and the change in his way of life to make a difference towards the battle in saving the environment.
"The movie shows a celebrity who donates a large cheque towards a turtle conservancy. She is antagonised by the fact that her own daily practices towards the environment around her does not correlate to the intended positive message that she is trying to spread. The cheque that she donated was a publicity stunt."
He added: "We then focus on the young boy who commits a mistake and regrets his actions. He decides to change his ways and understand what actions he can make a positive difference to the environment. That journey is called Metanoia."
3-Young eco-warrior fights for the planet
Sagarika Sriram is a 12-year-old eco-warrior who is working to give a "green place to everybody in Dubai, then the continent and then the whole world".
Raised with an awareness of the environment from her early years, Sagarika has adopted a zero-waste policy and implements it with compost pits, by growing vegetables and recycling water wherever possible.
When she was 10, she made some documentaries and videos about humans' harmful impact on the environment and took it upon her shoulders to raise awareness about such issues.
"Raising consciousness about the importance of protecting our environment is a vital part of my message," said Sagarika, who took these issues after hearing about oil spills, carcasses of whales being washed up on shores, turtles with plastic and rubbish inside them.
Seeing her passion, her parents got her to register her with the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), giving her the opportunity to mingle with like-minded individuals and also volunteer her time to a cause close to her heart. "In my project, I collected household paper waste and that opened my eyes about how I could raise awareness and support recycling. Going door-to-door and educating the community people on the importance of saving trees and the harmful impact of landfills, I collected over 1,040kg of waste paper in just four weeks," Sagarika said.
4-Plastics kill the ocean
Take 12-year-old Sainath Manikandan, a student of GEMS United Indian School in Abu Dhabi.
The Grade 7 student calls himself an environmentalist and is an active member of the EEG. He is part of several climate change awareness groups. He said: "My main aim is to raise awareness about single-use plastics pollution."
He launched an initiative called Paper, Electronic Waste, Plastic and Cans (PEPC) wherein Sainath collects all kind of waste from his classrooms and the community around him and gives it to the EEG for recycling. He explained: "I started this campaign when I was in Grade 4. I also collect waste from restaurants, shopping malls and other localities."
He started the campaign alone but now, a lot of his friends joined him in collecting trash every Saturday. In the past three years, Sainath has collected 8,000kg of plastic and 3,000kg of paper.
Sainath decided to become an environment champion after he was moved by the plight of ocean animals who die from plastic and micro-plastic pollution. "I saw a movie called Plastic Ocean and that changed my life." The 12-year-old has also created a marine robot cleaner that can remove all kinds of plastic wastes from the ocean, including micro plastics. He said: "Greta Thunberg is my hero."