Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning climate warrior Sonam Wangchuk calls himself an ‘education activist’. He talks with Jayanta Oinam. Excerpts:
Something to warm up, anything on Ladakh and climate change?
We, in Ladakh, have been nature-friendly for millennia. In the past 30 years, I have been trying to make education more relevant as our old education system valorises production and consumption. We see the effects of that. We try to make children problem-solvers. That gave birth to solar-heated mud buildings, using greenhouses to grow things and ice stupas—artificial baby glaciers.
How much has changed, say in these past three decades?
Ladakh has changed a lot. Flash floods are common, followed by drought. That’s when we thought that we should act global. If mountain people, the first victims of climate change, send an SOS to the world there might be some impact.
And the #livesimply movement started?
Yes. It’s a platform to sensitise the urban youth. #Ilivesimply movement is a fun, crowdfunding campaign. Not money, you pledge to change your behaviour in dollar-equivalent actions—in ‘green dollars’. In less than a month, we got pledges worth over a million dollars.
Tell us something about The Last Game?
Sports stars connect with youth. So, Viacheslav ‘Slava’ Fetisov’s coming to Ladakh was a natural thing. Hopefully, we can do it every year.
You mentioned about making Ladakh a zone of peace...
Ladakh is a hot battlefield. I gave a call for 'peace with nature, peace with neighbours'. Let's make Ladakh a zone of peace. Opening Ladakh for large scale mining and industry as a UT will add to our ecological disaster.