Environmental activism is the need of the hour. The issue seems so vast and complex, and citizens don’t know how to address it and what to do to make a difference.
But these five individuals, working in diverse fields, are setting the example for the masses to follow.
They demonstrate that if we focus on just one area that we can improve, it will make a significant difference to the planet’s health.
Meet these five change-makers:
1. Dia Mirza – Even before she became the UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General Advocate for SDGs, actor and producer Dia Mirza was relentlessly speaking up about environmental issues, about the need to eschew single-use plastics and the importance of protecting wildlife habitats and forests. She has been the face of many pivotal environmental campaigns across India to spread the message about sustainable life choices, the importance of clean air, the need to urgently address climate change and so on. Even her home, her life and her recent wedding have exemplified her passion for a zero waste and eco-conscious existence. Be it snow leopards, seasonal fires in forests, spiralling pollution or the need for stakeholders at every level to heal the earth, Dia has used her fame and her platform to mainstream issues that are not addressed with the seriousness they deserve.
2. Pradip Shah – Pradip Shah is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of CRISIL, India’s first and largest credit rating agency but was impelled to do something that would change the bleak narrative around environmental degradation. In 2010, he became the co-founder and director of social organisation Grow-Trees.com and has now worked for over a decade to protect animal habitats, eco-diversity and wildlife. Grow-Trees.com has emerged as a social organisation that inspires personal and corporate participation to increase India’s green cover, expand shrinking habitats and help distressed rural and tribal communities. Under the stewardship of Pradip, Grow-Trees.com has planted millions of trees across India including millions of trees at the Jharkhand-Odisha wildlife corridor for enhancing elephant and tiger habitats. He has also helped Grow-Trees.com to create the concept of ‘Greet with Trees®️’, where one can plant trees to support projects like Trees for Tribals, Trees for Tigers, etc., and store them in their TreeBank®️ and/or dedicate via eTreeCertificates®️ to greet one-to-one, one-to-many or many-to-one.
3. Afroz Shah – Afroz Shah is an environmental activist and a lawyer from Mumbai who won global acclaim when he initiated the world’s biggest beach cleaning project, which has now grown into an inspiring mass movement. In 2016, Afroz was named by the UN as a Champion for Earth for leading the cleanup of Mumbai’s Versova Beach. His solution for a better world is to be a better citizen even if it means manually picking up garbage from Versova beach and teaching sustainable waste disposal to slum dwellers who live along the coastline. It all began one day in 2015 when overwhelmed by the enormity of trash piles on Versova Beach, Afroz along with a neighbour started cleaning the beach. Slowly word spread, people got curious and within weeks, a shift was visible in their attitude. His belief that external change can come only when we change from within has today galvanised thousands, including movie stars and celebrities to join him in his mission to keep Mumbai’s beaches clean. His biggest triumph came when 80 Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings were spotted at Versova beach after decades.
4. Bittu Sahgal – Bittu Sahgal is a pioneering environmental activist, writer and the founder of Sanctuary Nature Foundation, a non-profit conservation organisation that works on environmental policy, advocacy, science, on-ground support and habitat management. He started publishing the pathbreaking Sanctuary Asia magazine, way back in 1981. In the early 70s, he was associated with Project Tiger that was envisioned along with the Wildlife Protection Act in the early seventies by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As a young activist and environmental writer, he also began to see the link between environment conservation and human rights. He believes that the most underserved Indians should be the primary beneficiaries of biodiversity restoration because as a nation we have been destroying ecosystems in the name of progress. To draw the younger generation to conservation, he has also initiated projects such as ‘Kids for Tigers’ and ‘Mud on Boots’. His enduring message through decades of work has been that Nature knows best and if we protect the biosphere and the ecosystems, the earth will look after itself.
5. Zeeshan Khan – Zeeshan is known as the ‘Eco Man of India’ is an environmentalist, co-founder of Relive Eco Foundation and CEO of the multi-venture organization, Beyond Smart Group. He is dedicated to the idea of mainstreaming sustainability as a way of life by creating mass awareness. How does he do it? By recycling more than 300 tons of plastic waste, developing low-cost restrooms, and ideating ‘Pickating’, a combination of picking up waste and skating! Bhopal was the first city where over 20 skaters demonstrated a unique cleaning technique as they whizzed around the streets and picked up trash along the way. His area of focus is smart waste management because according to him, plastic consumption and waste generation are massive problems that if left unaddressed will choke our cities. To change this, he wants to create networks of information and action in urban as well as rural areas. During the pandemic, Zeeshan has also initiated a #DisposeSafely campaign to sensitise people to the importance of safe disposal of masks and gloves, proving that every thought and action that makes a difference, contribute to the big picture.