Photo courtesy Ms. Aruba Faruque’s Facebook Page
Aruba Faruque, dressed above in Bangladesh’s national colors of red and green on her country’s National Independence Day on Friday 16 December 2022, was in Arusha, Tanzania, Africa that day, at the Climate Justice Academy.
By Alfred Robert Hogan
Green TV (US) Correspondent
At just 17 now, Aruba Faruque—who at age 14, became the youngest-ever person to petition the Prime Minister of Bangladesh—is fast emerging as one of the leading young voices on the No. 1 climate crisis, not only in Bangladesh, but in all of Asia.
Indeed, Aruba has devoted much of her entire teenage-hood to the noble cause of climate and environmental justice. In October 2022, she was appointed as the Adolescent Ambassador for Climate and Health at Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. She is also the Deputy National Coordinator of Bangladesh’s largest youth climate movement, YouthNet for Climate Justice. She has often addressed high school students and college students in classrooms and others at conferences about the climate and environmental justice, co-organized and spoken at rallies, and met with and conversed with diplomats, parliamentarians, scientists, and fellow climate activists from multiple other countries.
Image courtesy Ms. Aruba Faruque
Aruba won a prestigious Gold Award in this international contest, with her climate essay.
One of Aruba’s latest academic-and-activism achievements was writing an award-winning climate essay for the famous 2023 Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, which began in 1883 under Britain’s Queen Victoria. In October 2023, Aruba earned rare Gold Award status in the annual international contest, held for young people in nations of the British Commonwealth. The 2023 edition drew a record 34,924 entries. Her essay was titled, “Climate Justice and Adolescent Activism.”
In Aruba’s recent online article in The Climate Tribune’s Youth Issue, she reflected, “I believe that our passion, energy, and determination are some of our greatest assets in this crucial fight against the climate crisis…It is the high time to bridge the generational gap and to recognize that we’re all stakeholders in the planet’s future…The call to action is urgent: it’s time to give children and adolescents, especially girls, seats at every table, from local discussions to global stages. We cannot afford to make decisions about the future without the very generations who will inherit it. It’s not just a matter of token representation; it’s about acknowledging their right to be part of shaping their own destiny. As [UN] COP 28 approaches, it’s crucial that children and adolescent climate activists, especially girls, are recognized as the key stakeholders they are...Therefore, it is essential that the upcoming COP 28 champions inclusion of children and adolescents,” including girls from Bangladesh, both as observers and in government delegations. (Conference Of the Parties 28, is set to run from Thursday 30 November till Tuesday 12 December, in Expo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.)
In August 2023, Aruba reflected online, in part, “As I embark on my 4-year-long journey [so far] as a Climate and Environmental Activist, I feel that it is not merely an ‘extracurricular activity’ or ‘part-time volunteerism." It has undeniably become an enormous part of my identity and a profound life mission. From age 13 to 17, this has been an ageless journey that cannot be defined by any number, but rather by the infinite passion and determination behind it. Climate and environmental activism have shaped my identity, making me a courageous, dedicated, and passionate individual, with an unwavering commitment to justice and equity. Indeed, it has become a lifelong commitment.”
In that Facebook post, in close accord with the young eco activism hero, Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Aruba continued, “Activism has taught me that being the youngest in the room does not diminish my capability or passion. There were times when my capability [was]…doubted because of my age. There were times when my voice was attempted to be silenced due to my age. In the face of the Climate Crisis, as I spend my final year as a child climate and environmental activist, I aspire to create safe spaces for young activists like myself who are working toward the same goal, as well as for those who will follow. I am hopeful that we can finally pass on the well-deserved seats to child activists and amplify their voices, demands, and dreams… Let us remember, our ability to make a difference is always bigger than we might think.”
At the pre-COP 28 South Asian Regional Climate Summit in Dhaka BD, on Sunday 10 September 2023—where she was the youngest panel speaker—on the panel’s topic, “Leveraging the Power in Youth for Achieving Our Common Goals,” she said in part, "Let us build an inclusive, unified dialogue, commitment, and determination to ensure climate and environmental justice for all through effective regional cooperation. Together, we can create a legacy of stewardship, sustainability, a climate-resilient South Asia and a prosperous planet for generations to come. Let us do everything in our power to make this planet livable for me, the children of Bangladesh, the children of South Asia, and for all the generations that will follow. I wholeheartedly trust that, together, we hold the power, and we are destined to succeed."
But perhaps Aruba’s single most outstanding climate brainstorm so far has been her climate petition. Back on Wednesday 13 November 2019, as she closely followed the news from home, the Bangladesh Parliament (Jatiya Sangsad) in Dhaka had unanimously passed a bill announcing a "planetary emergency” in the country. Yet, month after month went by, then more than one year, with little or no follow-up. As she later wrote, “It was indeed a major initiative worthy of being applauded, but alone, the declaration is not enough to face the catastrophe that has risen. I felt we could do a better job in implementing this declaration. We should rapidly execute a real, target-oriented, and sustainable roadmap to transform this declaration into action. It seemed essential to me for implementation.” So, Aruba began her petition on the day of the Fridays for Future (FFF) “No More Empty Promises”-themed Global Climate Strike, on Friday 19 March 2021.
As Aruba wrote, in a Dhaka Tribune newspaper op-ed essay, in September 2021, answering the question of why someone so young would take such a bold step, “The idea of a petition embodies the democratic concept of carrying, conveying, and centering the voices of citizens to the authority in written form. Ideally, it converts the signatories to the force of democracy to have their demands be heard by the authority hence, our policymakers realize what we, the citizens want…… I knew that some might call me too young to initiate this, as I am the youngest person yet to launch something like this in Bangladesh. But I strongly believe, as Greta Thunberg says, ‘we are never too small to make a difference.’”
Aruba concluded six months of online and in person petitioning, accomplished during the COVID 19 pandemic-era, on the day of the FFF Global Climate Strike of Friday 24 September 2021. That strike’s theme was “Uproot the System." She then sent the petition, with its more than 2000 signatures, to Prime Minister Ms. Sheikh Hasini Wazed in Dhaka. That month, she was interviewed by the environmental nonprofit 350.org Bangladesh. Referencing the Global South, including places like her homeland, she noted, “The people who live in Bangladesh are gravely endangered by the climate crisis…Living in the reality of this crisis, you feel very pressured by this crisis to do something. I cannot wait for someone else to do it…It feels like a responsibility.”
Aruba was born on Saturday 22 July 2006 (at 381.81 PPM of CO2), in Bangladesh’s chief seaport and its second-largest city, then known as Chittagong. As a studious young child, she took an unusual interest in books, which soon made her aware of climate change and how it affects our only known living planet. Aruba was just a 13-year-old schoolgirl when she started her climate activism in mid-2019. To attend Holy Cross College in Dhaka, she now lives in that Muslim-majority metropolis, along with her Mother, her now junior-high-school-aged younger brother, and her now three-year-old little sister. (Her Father, a Bangladesh senior judge stationed elsewhere for now, visits when he can.) The densely populated Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, the world’s 9th largest city, with 10.2 million people, is a “megacity” situated along the banks of four major rivers, amid the vast Ganges River Delta. For many months in 2022, Aruba also dealt with a serious and debilitating case of Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome, also known as Long COVID, which for some months greatly limited her activism. And for years, she endured severe bullying. But she remains determined and undaunted.
In a September 2021 online interview, Aruba explained that her passion to become a climate activist arose from living in a mostly low-lying country (and a deeply impoverished one), subject to sea level rises, severe flooding, and super-cyclones, in the world’s 7th most climate-vulnerable nation. As she wrote in her article in The Climate Tribune, “It seemed more complicated to me to accept the reality of this crisis as a ‘fate’ than to do something with a view to make the crucial changes happen. I felt that some pressure just came on me.”
Photo courtesy Ms. Aruba Faruque
In Dhaka on Friday 23 September 2022, teen climate activist Aruba (with microphone) protests and speaks to fellow activists at a Fridays For Future Global Climate Strike Day event.
In December 2022, in yet another recent highlight, Aruba represented Bangladesh—the 8th most populated country in the world—at the five-day-long Climate Justice Academy, held in Arusha, Tanzania, Africa. There, she led the 1-1/2-hour-long discussion on Bangladesh, held on Friday 9 December 2022, joined the hour-long panel on the Global South’s climate perspective on Wednesday 14 December 2022, and met with and learned from young climate activists from 16 other countries, including making a key contact with a young Danish activist girl with especially colorful hair.
Among Aruba’s myriad litany of other accomplishments, in just the past 15 months:
· Remotely addressing an outdoors climate action rally in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, on Friday 3 March 2023, thanks in part to her new Danish contact. On that occasion, Aruba said in part: “We have to continue fighting together…For us in Bangladesh or in the Global South and Most Affected Areas. The crisis is a present-day reality…every single day…World leaders must there are things beyond money, profit, and greed…We will not stop till we are done! Climate Justice, right here, right now!”
· Participating in a peaceful protest held in Dhaka, including as a speaker, on the Fridays For Future Global Climate Strike Day, Friday 23 September 2022 (the theme was “People Not Profit”).
· Partaking on her school’s discussion panel held in delayed commemoration of World Environment Day 2022, at Rangamati Government Girl’s High School, on Thursday 30 June 2022. Addressing her schoolmates, Aruba told them, “Climate activism is not wasting time, but it is utilizing the rest of the time left to us on the road to save ourselves from this Planetary Crisis.”
· Being the special guest speaker in Chattogram BD (long known till April 2018 as Chittagong), on International Women’s Day, Wednesday 8 March 2023, delivering the keynote address at the Association of University Women and Chittagong Center for Climate Change’s conference there on “Climate Justice, Gender Justice, and Youth Activism.” She opined, in part, “Empowering women and girls in becoming leaders for climate action means empowering Mother Earth and Nature.”
· Doing a remote video interview with the French Development Agency (in French, Agence Française de Développement, or AFD) in France on Tuesday 14 February 2023.
· Joining with other climate leaders at the Bangladesh National Parliament in Dhaka, on Tuesday 30 May 2023, in formally presenting the report, “Dialogue on Risk-Informed Development and Climate Justice.”
· Attending the reception by French Ambassador to Bangladesh, Marie Masdupuy, discussing climate issues, on Thursday 19 January 2023.
· Meeting at the Swedish Embassy to Bangladesh with Swedish Riksdag MP Emma Noren of the Riksdag’s committee on environment and agriculture for climate crisis discussions on Sunday 5 November 2023, in Dhaka.
Aruba was also the youngest panel speaker in Dhaka at the South Asia Regional Climate Summit, whose theme was, “Towards Climate Resilience: Leveraging the Power in Youth for Achieving Our Common Goals,” on Sunday 10 September 2023. Aruba said, in part, “Let us build an inclusive, unified dialogue, commitment, and determination to ensure climate and environmental justice for all, through effective regional cooperation. Together, we can create a legacy of stewardship, sustainability, a climate-resilient South Asia, and a prosperous planet for generations to come. Let us do everything in our power to make this planet livable for me, the children of Bangladesh, the children of South Asia, and for all the generations that will follow. I wholeheartedly trust that, together, we hold the power, and we are destined to succeed."
It’s easy to see why former schoolteacher Anthony Gleeson of Australia, the host of THE SUSTAINABLE HOUR, a well-known environmental weekly radio and podcast series, in May 2021 dubbed Aruba Faruque—then just 14 years old—“the Greta Thunberg of Bangladesh,” referencing the well-known Swedish young climate champion, ethical vegan, and Fridays For Future co-founder.
The multi-lingual activist Aruba’s academic accomplishments continue to be also outstanding, as she scored 5.0 on her comprehensive exams in spring 2023, and earned admission in September 2023 to Bangladesh’s prestigious Holy Cross College, where only some of the top-tier—1,300 or so—Bangladeshi girls receive their 11th and 12th grade educations, in the Tejgam area of Dhaka, taught there by nuns of the Catholic Sisters of Holy Cross. (HCC was established 1950, in what till 1971 was East Pakistan.) Later in her life, Aruba said, she avidly hopes to attend undergraduate university—possibly in Bangladesh, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, or the USA—and to eventually pursue her master’s and doctoral degrees as well. She is considering pursuing being either a journalist or an environmentalist—maybe even both.
Back in October 2020, Aruba joined ConscienceLAND, a global project organized by Canadian activist Philip “SustainaClaus” McMaster, who has attended all United Nations Conference Of Parties (COP) climate meetings held since the pivotal COP 21 in Paris in December 2015, which produced the Paris Climate Accord. ConscienceLAND uses the symbol of raised three fingers, which mean “Society, Environment, and Economy, in Balance.” Just within a month, because of her skillful leadership and enthusiastic mindset, she was made the youngest-yet ConscienceLAND Ambassador. In the year-ending newsletter published by ConscienceLAND, Ambassador Aruba was highlighted as the best ambassador of the month. The piece stated, “Young Ambassador Aruba has been connecting globally on behalf of ConscienceLAND throughout the fall and winter of 2020, deserving recognition for her commitment, collaboration and networking skills.” She then served as the editor-in-chief for the January 2021 ConscienceLAND online newsletter, titled “Wake Up to Reality.”
In addition, on her lengthening resume of other activism activities, Aruba was among 500 delegates who attended the Global Youth Climate Summit organized by the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Centre, held on Thursday-Friday 11-12 March 2021. Consistently, she has again and again noted the overall and overwhelmingly negative effects the Global North has had on the Most Affected Peoples and Areas (MAPA), predominantly in the Global South. She also has advocated for the human rights, including for the minority Rohingya people, who were severely persecuted and forced to flee their Burma homeland for substandard refugee camps in Bangladesh.
But perhaps Aruba’s single most outstanding climate brainstorm so far has been her climate petition. Back on Wednesday 13 November 2019, as she closely followed the news from home, the Bangladesh Parliament (Jatiya Sangsad) in Dhaka had unanimously passed a bill announcing a "planetary emergency” in the country. Yet, month after month went by, then more than one year, with little or no follow-up. As she later wrote, “It was indeed a major initiative worthy of being applauded for, but alone the declaration is not enough to face the catastrophe that has risen. I felt we could do a better job in implementing this declaration. We should rapidly execute a real, target-oriented, and sustainable roadmap to transform this declaration into action. It seemed essential to me for implementation.” So, Aruba began her petition on the day of the Fridays for Future (FFF) “No More Empty Promises” themed Global Climate Strike, held worldwide on Friday 19 March 2021.
Photo courtesy Ms. Aruba Faruque
Aruba stands beside her climate activism mentor, the late eminent climate scientist Dr. Saleemul Huq, in Dhaka, in September 2022.
Among the 2,116 signatures Aruba painstakingly gathered was that of the late Prof. Saleemul Huq, the world-renowned top climate scientist of Bangladesh, who had attended all 25 UN COP climate meetings to that point, from Berlin, Germany, in March-April 1995 to Madrid, Spain, in November 2019. A lead author on the UN IPCC’s third, fourth, and fifth climate crisis reports, he also later attended the UN COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021, and UN COP 27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022. He also served as director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development and as professor at the Independent University Bangladesh. He stated, “I am truly impressed by the exemplary dedication of Ms. Aruba Faruque toward her country, and it has been a pleasure to support the petition for implementing the planetary emergency declared by the Bangladesh Parliament and also the recommendation to include climate change in the school curriculum in Bangladesh." (Most sadly, Dr. Huq, who had become an encouraging mentor for Aruba, died suddenly on Saturday 28 October 2023, in Dhaka, of a massive heart attack.)
Other notable signers of the 2021 petition included:
· Ms. Farah Kabir, ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director.
· Prof. Ainun Nishat, The pioneering expert in water resource management and climate change in Bangladesh and professor emeritus at Bangladesh’s BRAC University.
· Sohanur Rahman, Coordinator of YouthNet for Climate Justice,
· Prof. Anu Muhammad, Central Member of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports,
· Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Association,
· Orla Murphy, Country Director of Plan International Bangladesh
· Onno van Manen, Country Director of Save the Children in Bangladesh,
· Prof. Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, Chairperson of IUCN Bangladesh national committee
· Sultana Kamal, President of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA)
· Dr. Atiq Rahman, Executive Director of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS)
· Mr. Sadat Rahman, Winner of International Children’s Peace Prize 2020, and Founder of Cyber Teens.
Image designed by and courtesy of Ms. Aruba Faruque
The demands of the famous climate petition initiated by Aruba.
Aruba’s petition specifically asked for true, meaningful implementation of the 2019 Bangladesh Planetary Emergency Declaration, through a real, target-oriented, and sustainable roadmap to transform it timely into action, including via detailed, quality climate education in the school curriculum. And on Monday 30 May 2022, as several Bangladeshi newspapers reported, Bangladesh’s restructured education curriculum would soon feature 10 learning fields—and “Climate and Environment” would be one of them. Aruba’s petition was instrumental in helping make that happen.
That same day, she addressed the online Asian Youth Adaptation Forum, organized by Global Center in Adaptation. Through her 4-minute speech, the youngest speaker at the forum won over her viewers. She said, “Children need much more deep knowledge and skills to lead the adaptation process sustainably and smoothly. We need more capacity-building and skill-building education... My appeals today are, increasing opportunities for youths and children to build their capacity and skills to make youth-led adaption more sustainable, and including more of the vulnerable and marginalized youths in the decision-making process, steps of ensuring climate justice via Loss and Damage,” invoking the concept long championed by the late Dr. Huq.
Green TV (US) co-founder Betsy Rosenberg, the former CBS Radio News anchor in New York City and a veteran environmental journalist for more than 25 years, based in San Francisco, has also extolled the teen climate activist. As Ms. Rosenberg observed, “Aruba Faruque really shines as a standout teen exemplar of the kind of peaceful eco warriors we now so desperately need—both in the roles of journalists and of activists. She has plenty of smarts, gumption, resolve, and chutzpah.”
And as Aruba herself observes, “As climate activists, we must be ready and able to both run short sprints and to endure long marathons. Our planet, our people, our climate, our environment, and other beings are all counting on us to prevail, and to do so just as soon as we possibly can.”
Aruba Faruque In Brief:
Saturday 22 July 2006
Education So Far
Holy Cross College, Dhaka, Bangladesh (in progress, 11th and 12th grades, accepted in September 2023)
Rangamati Government Girls High School, Rangamati, Bangladesh
Noakhali Government Girls High School, Noakhali, Bangladesh
Climate activism and youngest-ever person (and first younger than 18 years old) to petition the Bangladesh Prime Minister.
· Alfred Robert Hogan/Green TV (US), “Aruba Faruque: Bangladeshi Teen Champions Cleaner, Kinder Planet,” Sunday 20 February 2022, www.greentv.com/post/profile-of-aruba-faruque-teen-climate-activist-in-bangladesh (first profile by Green TV of Aruba Faruque)
· Alfred Robert Hogan/Green TV (US), “An Update: Aruba Faruque: Bangladesh’s Climate Champion Turns16,”, Sunday 21 July 2022 www.greentv.com/post/an-update-aruba-faruque-bangladesh-s-climate-advocacy-champion-turns-16 (second profile by Green TV of Aruba Faruque)
· Aruba Faruque, op-ed in Dhaka Tribune, Friday 27 September 2021 https://archive.dhakatribune.com/tribune-supplements/tribune-climate/2021/09/27/why-i-petitioned-the-government-to-implement-the-bangladesh-planetary-emergency-declaration [ii]
· Aruba Faruque, “Hope Comes From Real Actions,” guest on THE SUSTAINABLE HOUR, Wednesday 12 May 2021 https://climatesafety.info/tag/the-sustainable-hour/page/4/ and www.climatesafety.info/thesustainablehour362/ [iii]www.icccad.net/our-team/saleemul-huq/ [iv] https://www.bracu.ac.bd/about/people/ainun-nishat-phd [v]
· “Prof. Ainun Nishat joins Bangladeshi teenager’s climate campaign,” Dhaka [BD] Daily Sun, Tuesday 29 June 2021www.daily-sun.com/post/561646/Prof.-Ainun-Nishat-joins-Bangladeshi-teenager’s-climate-campaign [vi]
· Aruba Faruque, op-ed in Dhaka Tribune, Monday 27 September 2021 https://archive.dhakatribune.com/tribune-supplements/tribune-climate/2021/09/27/why-i-petitioned-the-government-to-implement-the-bangladesh-planetary-emergency-declaration [vii] Ibid. [viii]
· Aruba Faruque Q &A, 350 Bangladesh via Facebook, Thursday 16 September 2021 https://www.facebook.com/350Bangladesh/videos/160364879582424