Magnificent Gen Z

Meet young gen Z who are striving to make a difference in the choices they make related to the environment. We refer to this young generation of innovators and doers as the “Magnificent Gen Z”. We are proud to launch the first of this “Magnificent Gen Z” segment through an interview with a talented young student, Meher Singh.

Meher Singh is a high school student at Bina Nusantara BINUS School Simprug who hails from India. She has just printed a book on climate change titled “The Great Meltdown”.

Not only does the book deal with the serious challenge posed by climate change, but it does so from a uniquely millennial perspective, weaving in facts and figures with quizzes to make the topic more readable and relevant for a young generation of readers. She also chose to print the book on 100% recycled paper made from used beverage cartons in order to ‘walk the talk’.

Why did you write “The Great Meltdown”?
It was mainly to fulfill our school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) assignment, the Personal project, where you can focus on any subject. I’m really passionate about the environment, that’s why I chose this project.

Initially, I planned to do something different; I hadn’t planned to write a book on climate change because I only had less than five months to complete the assignment. But then I decided I should take the risk and write this book, and in the process, I really enjoyed learning more about the topic.

How did your passion for the environment come about?
From around 8 years old I started being environmentally-concerned and would do small steps to save water and not waste electricity. My interest grew more when I watched a documentary called “Before The Floods” in 2017. That’s what made me more curious about climate change.

Why is the issue of climate change important?
In a world where we seek instant gratification I don’t think that the world pays attention to far-off things, but I think climate change is important because you can see the effects of climate change in the world today, you can see how rapidly the climate is changing.

People argue that the climate has been changing for hundreds of years, but the impacts that humans have on the climate is increasing. That’s why it’s important for us to act upon it. Some people say climate change is a hoax, mainly because first, they don’t believe in science, and second, people don’t feel the effects directly.

How should your generation address climate change?
The climate change issue must be addressed because the damage has already been done, and you can’t reverse the damage, you can’t cry over spilled milk. Today’s generation can prevent the damage from increasing further because the future lies in our hands. Take for example, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate change student activist from Sweden who has elevated the issue of climate change on a global scale.

How inspiring is Greta Thunberg’s example?
Greta’s example is pretty amazing. She sat alone in front of the Swedish Parliament for so many days, skipping school, and she did it alone. She’s addressed international forums on climate change, appeared in TED talks as well.

When I first heard about climate change, I thought this was a huge issue, and I view this as my first step towards a bigger platform. I do see myself doing something like Greta, but I don’t know how right now.

Let’s talk about your book, “The Great Meltdown”.
Initially I had a lot of titles in mind. I couldn’t decide so I took a survey among my batch group and they chose “The Great Meltdown”. The title is actually symbolic of glaciers melting and forests burning down.

I feel the youth should address climate change. Now it’s perceived as a boring topic to address, too hard to read. Most books I’ve seen such as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “The Madhouse Effect” are actually very boring, even for me, I lose my concentration after a few pages.

I tried to make this topic into something that even the younger generation would read, and so I converted the book into an easy to read format.

I wrote it in a very short time, in a month, and I had writer’s block multiple times. But after I finished writing the book it felt like a small step towards something greater. My sources of inspiration include documentaries I watched such as ‘Before the Floods’, ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Ocean Acidification’.

What issues are highlighted in the book?
When people talk about climate change, they will say one of the causes is deforestation or fossil fuels, but these are not the biggest causes. Animal agriculture is the biggest cause of climate change, and you will see this multiple times in the book. I mention about eating less beef and dairy products.

Do you believe these issues will lead to behavior change?
For really concerned people, they might change their behaviors. For instance, I changed, I became a vegetarian. But to effect change, you actually need to talk more about the health aspects because most people are not so concerned. Honestly I didn’t go vegetarian for the environment.

Besides animal agriculture, deforestation is a cause, but it actually goes back to animal agriculture. Trees and forests are cut down not only for paper and wood but also because of animal agriculture.

Deforestation and burning fossil fuels are not easy issues to address for teenagers like me. It’s important to spread awareness. Like Greta Thunberg is striving to get politicians to address these issues to do something about climate change. The book is one small but important step in creating awareness among youth.

What have you done to support the launch of “The Great Meltdown”?
After the book’s publication, I participated in an exhibition at school where we had to display our projects. I have received some feedback about the book. My project was given a score of 7-8 out of 8. Not many people made their personal projects environment-related.

What would you like to do beyond writing the book?
More than just this book, I haven’t decided how but I would love to further study about this issue and would like to go into this field. We’ve been given a voice so let’s raise it.

I would be interested in climate change studies and I would also like to spread awareness on veganism. I think that’s one solution not only for climate change but for world hunger. I would be interested in environmental policy because not many people focus on changing policies.

What prompted you to print the book on recycled paper?
If I’m writing a book about climate change, I want to be true to my words, to walk the talk. I wouldn’t be true to myself if I chose normal paper instead of recycled paper. The paper has turned out to be really good, especially the colors. A lot of people were attracted to the book because of the recycled paper.

Most people focus on the direct impacts of recycling, which are many, but the indirect impacts can also be that there is a relation between recycling and climate change. Manufacturing each and every product takes up resources and energy, from processing, distributing to disposal. Recycled products result in less energy, less products to be made, less trash.

What advice would you give to your generation on climate change?
I would like to say that climate change is not a far-off issue, and that we shouldn’t think someone else is going to solve this, it’s up to us to act. But we have to act now, because we don’t have time.

For me the biggest thing is changing my diet and becoming aware of the 3Rs—it’s important to reduce, minimize as much as possible, trying to avoid using plastic.

Going back to Greta, she brought about change by herself. She started this movement alone. Getting the younger generation to bring about change, by encouraging politicians to make a change.

In five years, I see myself doing something in the field of environment—be it as an animal activist, or climate change activist or even a vegan activist. I would like to study to help become an agent of change, to be an environmental activist.