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The Unsung Heroes of Climate Change

By Ananya Karan

Cleanups are unsung heroes in climate related initiatives and there is a strong case to be made with not just the immediate advantages but as a symbol of something bigger. Something that has the potential and the promise of a better future from an environmental standpoint. 

Cleanups don’t just help restore the beauty of the place(s) in question but also help us unwind in the fast paced and technology driven world where it is easy to be disconnected from nature and live in our little bubbles. It is a great way to bring people together, and connect them to a cause, something bigger than themselves. It familiarizes them with the crises our planet is facing and lets them see from a first person point of view as to the stakeholders, things that are causing it and things getting affected by it. This is an excellent way to spread awareness and build a sense of responsibility towards the society at the very least and the planet at large. More importantly, it makes them a part of the solution and this is where it gets interesting. 

When we include people in taking collective actions and responsibilities, we build a culture of accountability and transparency. We see real change that is triggered by a grassroot (bottom-up) approach to climate initiatives. This inevitably democratizes climate action that has been the prisoner of huge promises with peanuts for results. Not only does it encourage people to take charge (autonomy) but also ensures inclusivity in the decision making process. 

When people are aware and concerned, we have a real chance at building solutions that are innovative and sustainable, that actually fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda 2030 rather than simply talking about it. 

Cleanups are one of the more interesting ways to bring people together and start a discussion but by no means is it enough. I believe that these events can and should be used to spark discussions about the bigger picture while also caring about the issue at hand. Yes, a few cleanups alone won’t solve the bigger climate related issues but they can be a platform for civil discourse. 

They can be a facilitator to spread awareness and build a culture of accountability, transparency and decision making that actually includes the voices of people rather than simply relying on policymakers and trickle down effect. That is not to say that the role of experts is no longer needed but that it is needed more than ever so that we can solidify voices, account the data and build inclusive solutions. 

Thus, on the surface what simply looks like an initiative to clean a beach, highway or a park is much more than what it appears. Cleanups truly carry the promise to a better world, should we use that avenue. That said, we urge you to look through the cleanup events ASCENDtials hosts and be a part of the cause!