Nikita Pinto III Year B.A. English
In conversation with the office bearers of the Environ Club – President Subhiksha Lakshmi (Zoology), Secretary Tasneem Kathawala (Botany) and Ananya Ramesh (Fine Arts).
They are known to champion the cause of the environment wherever they go, be it at home, in college, or any place that gives them the space to spread awareness. The Environment Club is known on campus for constantly taking up initiatives to not only create an environment-friendly consciousness among students but to also get them involved in various activities that safeguard the environment. As Subhiksha Lakshmi, the President of the club and a third-year Zoology student puts it, “Nature has been catering to our needs. It’s our turn to cater to nature’s needs.”
The club has plenty of activities in their roster for this year, including a Pongal bird count on the Stella campus in January, Naatupura Paadalgal – a collaboration with the Light Music Club, where songs about the environment will be sung, a Late Safari – in collaboration with the Environmentalist Foundation of India, and tree planting sessions, to name a few. The club has also worked with various outside organisations, including the EFI, Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) and Blue Cross. It encourages its members and college students to participate in clean-up drives, pet adoptions, turtle walks, bird-watching and beach and campus clean-ups. The club also works with the Student’s Union in promoting their recent initiative, “Reduce, reuse, recycle and upcycle.”
The most memorable event staged on campus for the team was Tiger Day. “It was our first event this year,” says Subhiksha. “Tiger day was received very well by the students. Even the merchandise was popular among students as many bought Save the Tiger badges. A lot of people gathered to watch the documentary of tigers in the OAT too.”
According to the team, littering is a primary problem found on campus. Secretary Tasneem Kathawala, from Botany, says, “Despite the different dustbins allotted for biodegradable waste and plastic items, people still litter. In fact, the litter is concentrated around the dustbin, instead of inside it.” The club leaders even decided on starting a “litter patrol”, to ensure that the campus grounds would be kept clean and litter-free. “It all comes down to the student. They need to understand that it affects them,” says Subhiksha. The use of plastic is also a recurrent issue faced on college grounds. “The use of plastic cups and spoons, including Styrofoam, affects us. Styrofoam has the tendency to melt when some hot liquid is placed inside it, and consequently, we ingest it. Styrofoam is a form of plastic; it does not degrade but instead, chokes life (of the environment).”
When asked about the biggest threat the environment faces currently, Subhiksha replies without hesitating, “ourselves”, to which the others unanimously agree. She says, “The environment is something ingrained in us, but we exploit it. We must restrict the use of natural resources for future generations.”
Love and concern for the environment unite the three office bearers, as well as all the members of the club. Upon being asked the reason behind them joining the club, all three reiterated their passion for the environment and their activism for the same. Ananya Ramesh, from Fine Arts, says, “I joined because I love animals and I hate seeing the environment dirty.” Tasneem and Subhiksha too share the sentiment, adding, “I joined because I’m passionate about the environment.”
All three office bearers have either volunteered at animal shelters, environment organisations or have taken some initiative to make the world an eco-friendlier place. Subhiksha herself was featured in The Hindu for her niche interest as a butterfly enthusiast. According to her, there are more than 55 species of butterflies on the Stella Maris campus alone. However, over time, there has been a reduction in the number of species due to human settlement and the growing amount of plastic on campus. Yet, the college remains one of the most eco-friendly campuses in the city, with the constant initiatives taken up by the college like the segregation of waste and the plantation of trees.
The club has its own logo of a reindeer’s horns encircling and protecting the earth, accompanied by the slogan “Wilderness redefined.” The slogan and logo, designed by Ananya, symbolise that “all of us are wild creatures but have been domesticated,” explains Tasneem. “We need to be wild again, in the sense that we need to be in tune with nature.” The club, therefore, advocates a return to nature, an attitude of ‘wilderness redefined’ instead of urban, materialistic concerns which can be harmful to the ecosystem. The team strongly believes in respecting and protecting the environment, as Ananya says, “Be sensitive to the environment; it’s our home.”
What sets the club apart from the others, is that, as Tasneem says, “It deals with something that is much needed right now.” She continues, “Climate change comes first in the world. If the planet is healthy, we’re all okay. We need to take small steps and spread awareness.”
The club stands for spreading awareness of the threats that face the ecosystem, while also promoting active participation among members to save and protect the environment. As the description on the college, website says, “Our club is more than litter removal. It is an initiation into a change of lifestyle. Through the club, one can be part of various activities and awareness drives that not only discuss the threats that our planet is currently facing but also find solutions and act on them!”
[Photograph Source: SMC Student’s Union Facebook Page]