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A voice for Nepali youth

Published: September 9, 2011
Section: Opinions


I was born and raised in Nepal. I grew up hearing stories about families being hit by floods and landslides and communities trying hard to adapt to the changing climate. In the recent years, farmers in the Terai, the wetlands, have sensed the difference. They survive two extremely dry months and then, in only three days, see a year’s worth of rain fall. We have now seen the “once-in-a-century” typhoon surge out of the Bay of Bengal twice in 20 years. The warmest years on record have all occurred since 1990. Change is definitely in the air.

But there haven’t been any changes in the system. The environment is not and has never been prioritized in Nepal, even though we are the fourth most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change.

My leaders say that Nepal has other important issues to deal with, other issues that need prioritization. I think they fail to realize that the environment is related to everything in Nepal: our dream of poverty eradication, our food security, our economy, our future, our fundamental right to develop and even our right to live when the effects of climate change result in death.

As an environmental advocate, I have been working to change this. I have been working to create a paradigm shift in Nepal, to empower the young generation of environmental leaders and to spread the wave of climate action. As the communications chief of Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, a national coalition of youth and youth groups fighting climate change, I led various local actions and raised our voice as a Nepali youth delegate to the UNFCCC climate change negotiations at COP15, intersessionals in Bonn, Germany, and then again at COP16.

As I was working in Nepal, many of the others were working just as hard to raise awareness and strengthen the resolve of their political leaders from Delhi to Washington, from Warsaw to Tokyo, from Beijing to Sydney in the climate negotiations. As a bottom liner of the larger International Youth Climate Movement, I worked with other young environmental advocates from all around the world. I have now understood the necessity of international cooperation and concern for the welfare of humanity regardless of national borders.

Our world leaders haven’t. When I attended these UN climate summits, I was exposed to the global climate policies and politics. The progress made is not promising. The first Earth Summit was held in 1992, the year that I was born. I am now 19 years old and the leaders say that they still need more time to negotiate. The time for bold action is long past due and we really need to accelerate our sustainable policies to make up for the decades of squandered and futile actions. As a young Nepali girl, I want to be the microphone through which the voice of all Nepali people blares. I want to lead my country in the process of building a sustainable society. And that is precisely why I traveled halfway around the world to Brandeis.

I wanted to be a part of this vibrant community of learners and change-makers, all of whom are so passionate about leaving a positive impact on their societies and this passion will only grow as we spend the next four years together. Leaving family, friends and the comfort of my home behind was more difficult than I had thought and is more difficult than you think.

How do you leave a place you have called home since your first breath? What do you choose to capture in your mind so it will stay with you, as real as ever, recalled at the slightest blow of the breeze? Which memories to fit in this small mind that dares to dream of bigger things?

I don’t know. I’m still settling in, figuring out which courses to take and which clubs to join. But one thing I know for sure: The memories of Nepal will not burn with me at the pyre. They are too concrete to take a backseat in my mind. They will guide me through my academic journey and remind me of who I am, what I need to do, where I come from and where I will return.