The government must push for regulation that is sustainable development focused and the incentives to go sustainable need to be provided and communicated widely
Bhumi Pednekar is an actor with a cause. She has acted in films focusing on sanitation, reproductive health and body image. She is also United Nations Development Programme’s first National Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She is using social media to raise awareness on climate change, sustainability, climate justice, SDGs and plastic pollution. In an interview with Naina Gautam, Bhumi Pednekar talks about her new role means for her and her plans to further the cause of sustainable development. Edited excerpts.
What does it mean to be UNDP SDG advocate? What do SDGs personally mean to you?
I am part of a select group of individuals who have to raise awareness and highlight the need for accelerating action on sustainable development. I communicate these goals through my social media platforms and my media interactions regularly. When I get to participate in awareness building events and initiatives directly, I find that very satisfying.
What prompted you to start the climate warrior series on Instagram?
Being a climate warrior came naturally to me. Growing up, I have always been conscious of the need to protect the environment. I gravitate naturally towards nature spots and find spending time amidst natural beauty very inspiring. When I developed a solid following on social media, I decided to give my personal focus and commitment to leading an environment-friendly lifestyle a wider role. I converted my personal passion to direct conversations and awareness building with emphasis on immediate action. I have been a climate warrior dedicated to bringing attention to how each one of us can help save the planet ever since and will continue to keep doing this.
You have been saying that not enough climate communication is being done. Please elaborate.
Not just communication, I would expand the argument to include climate related action and climate friendly initiatives. Not nearly enough is being done to inform people and awaken them to the absolute immediate dangers of this planet. Some of us speak about this and the UN, along with state and central governments, also highlight the impact of climate change on livelihoods. But we haven’t heard or seen enough of it at the mass and popular levels. We need the media to report regularly, we need forests to be preserved and ongoing greening efforts to be lauded and praised. We need daily awareness building and practices like nurturing a plant at the school levels. We have to mobilise women in rural India to highlight what happens to their livelihoods, their farms and their lands if global temperatures rise. I could speak a lot more about this but we could definitely begin at these levels.
Can you please tell me about your latest women specific campaign?
We are working on reaching those women who run small businesses or work in small entrepreneurial ventures and offer them support in terms of funding, communication and knowledge exchange. Over the years we have found that raising the quality of life of women goes a very long way in elevating the quality of life of a family. When they are empowered, then positive and sustained changes come about in the economy, the household and environment friendly practices of a family unit. We are also working towards providing more support for green initiatives or businesses. I talk about these efforts and highlight them across multimedia platforms to amplify the message.
What kind of sustainable lifestyle choices you have made in life? You travel a lot. How difficult it is to sustain such a lifestyle?
My entire household has been trained to re-cycle, re-use and repair before throwing out both edible and non-edible items. I have made it a point to switch off lights and air conditioners when not in use; and use less power consuming electronic devices. We use hydroponics and we do composting. In terms of personal choices, I use dry cleaners minimally. When I travel it is often hard to strike a balance, but I try my best. I don’t use single use plastic and I look to recycle trash at all possible places. And I talk a lot to anyone who will listen to influence them to adopt a climate friendly lifestyle.
It is been said that not enough is being done to achieve the SDGs and we are already mid-way to the deadline. What can we do accelerate progress to achieve the SDGs?
This is a complex question with a multi-layered answer. But to begin, the government must push for regulation that is sustainable development focused. The incentives to go sustainable need to be provided and communicated widely. It is also the responsibility of citizens and companies to choose sustainable ways of living and doing business where ever possible. I think it will help to educate citizens groups, school kids and college students about the SDGs and their aims so that direct action comes about. When we engage with communities at a grassroot level, taking India closer to the SDGs will happen.
What are your plans going forward?
I will continue to focus on SDGs. I will keep highlighting the small but important changes all of us can make to our ways of life. I will continue to build awareness consistently.