A class XII commerce student of the CBSE-affiliated Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School in Chennai, Shruti Neelakantan has just returned from a 13-day expedition (September 7-20) to the Arctic Circle. Organised by British Council, Canada in collaboration with Cape Farewell, the objective of the London-based trans-national programme is to raise awareness about the global climate change threat.
The daughter of K. Neelakantan, an administrative manager in Sanmarg Group Ltd, and Jaya Neelakantan, a teacher at Hari Shri Vidyalaya in Chennai, Shruti developed an interest in geography and the subject of climate change in particular, after she enrolled in a national essay writing competition on climate change conducted by the British Council, India in February 2008. But although she was short-listed as one among 20 Indian climate champions from 450 participants across the country, she didn’t qualify as an International Climate Champion. Nevertheless, she continued to push hard the message of environment preservation in the face of global warming. Subsequently in June she won another nationwide compe-tition organised by British Council, Canada, which selected students for the Cape Farewell Youth Expedition to the Arctic.
On the strength of a nine-minute video on global warming which students presented at the competition, Neelakantan (and Dhruv Sengar from Lucknow) were selected for the Arctic expedition which included 28 students from around the world, including 16 from Canada. The students were accomp-anied by 18 mentors, scientists, artists, educators and 30 crew. The two Indians departed for Canada on September 1, participated in an orientation programme in Toronto, followed by air transfer to Reykjavik (Iceland) from where they boarded the Akademik Shokalasky on September 7, completing the expedition at Iqaluit (Baffin island) on September 20. “It shocked us to see how greenhouse gas emissions in faraway countries have so dramatically impacted this part of the world,” she says.
Wiser for witnessing the impact of greenhouse gases on the ecology of polar ice caps, Neelakantan is determined to double her efforts to crusade against global warming. “I’ve already made presentations in 16 city schools to create awareness about preserving the environment, and drawn up a 12-month action plan that students can implement. I’m also working with IT Exnora to plant more trees and clean up beaches. I believe that a lot can be achieved if people can be persuaded to make small lifestyle changes such as replacing plastic with cloth bags, turning off lights and computers when not in use, fighting litter. I’m very optimistic that if we unite and act fast, we can combat — perhaps reverse — climate change,” she says.
Wind in your sails!
Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)