An Update: Aruba Faruque: Bangladesh’s Climate Advocacy Champion Turns 16

Updated: Jul 22



Photo courtesy Aruba Faruque Twitter account

Aruba Faruque stands in a public garden on her Anniversary of Birth 14.


By Alfred Robert Hogan


Teenaged Bangladeshi climate activist Aruba Faruque, who became the youngest-ever person to petition the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, turns 16 years old as of Friday 22 July 2022.


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 Ms. Faruque—then just 14 years old—“the Greta Thunberg of Bangladesh,” referencing the well-known Swedish teen climate champion and Fridays For Future founder.


Among others impressed from afar by Ms. Faruque is Green TV (US) co-founder Betsy Rosenberg, a longtime environmental journalist and former CBS Radio News anchor in New York City. As she 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.”


Ms. Faruque was born on Saturday 22 July 2006 (at 381.81 PPM of CO2) in Bangladesh’s chief seaport and its second-largest city, Chittagong. As a studious young child, she took an unusual interest in books, which made her aware of climate change and how it affects our only known living planet. Aruba was just a 13-year-old schoolchild when she started her climate activism in mid-2019. In a September 2021 online interview, Ms. Faruque 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 essay 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 Aruba Faruque Family

ConscienceLAND Ambassador Aruba Faruque in Bangladesh gives the three-fingered salute (peace plus one), signifying Society, Environment, and Economy, all in balance.


The followers on Ms. Faruque’s Twitter account (https://twitter.com/ArubaFaruque) include Greta Thunberg herself, and other top-tier young climate activists, such as Vanessa Nakate of Uganda and Alexandria Villasenor of the USA.


In October 2020, Ms. Faruque 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 one in Paris in December 2015. 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.” As part of ConscienceLAND, she co-hosted the 1st ConscienceLAND SustainaFEST (Sustainability Festival) on Wednesday 3 March 2022. In addition, Ms. Faruque 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 the Most Affected Peoples and Areas (MAPA), predominantly in the Global South.


Back on Wednesday 13 November 2019, as Ms. Faruque 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. But, 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, Ms. Faruque began her petition on the day of the Fridays for Future “No More Empty Promises” themed Global Climate Strike, on Friday 19 March 2021.


As Ms. Faruque 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.’”


Ms. Faruque concluded her six months of petitioning on the day of the FFF Global Climate Strike of Friday 24 September 2021, whose theme was “Uproot the System." She then sent the petition with its more than 2000 signatures to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed in Dhaka.


That month, she was interviewed by 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.”


Among the 2,116 signatures Ms. Faruque painstakingly gathered was that of Prof. Saleemul Huq, the top climate scientist of Bangladesh, who had attended all 25 UN COP climate meetings 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. He also serves 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."


Others who signed the 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.

Ms. Faruque’s petition asked for true implementation of the Bangladesh Planetary Emergency Declaration, through a real, target-oriented, and sustainable roadmap to transform it into action, including via detailed, quality climate education in the school curriculum. And on Monday 30 May 2022, several Bangladeshi newspapers reported that, Bangladesh’s restructured education curriculum will feature 10 learning fields—and “Climate and Environment” will be one of them. Ms. Faruque’s petition was instrumental in helping make that happen.


Photo by Alfred Robert Hogan

Ms. Faruque addresses the Asian Youth Mitigation Forum, on the very day her climate petition brought some much-awaited results.


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 of 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 at the UN COP 27 meeting this November [2022 in Egypt].


And on Thursday 30 June 2022, Ms. Faruque was part of her school’s discussion panel held in connection with World Environment Day 2022, at Rangamati Government Girl’s High School. Addressing her schoolmates, she said, “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.”

Ms. Faruque lives in Rangamati Hill District of Bangladesh with her parents, younger brother, and baby sister, attending 10th grade at Rangamati Government Girls’ High School. She also advocates for the minority Rohingya people, who were severely persecuted and forced to flee their Burma homeland for substandard refugee camps in Bangladesh. For many months, she also had to deal with a serious and debilitating case of Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome, also known as Long COVID, which for a while greatly limited her activism. But she remains determined and undaunted. Ms. Faruque is considering pursuing being either a journalist or an environmentalist—maybe even both.


As Jeana diNatale, the Green TV (US) team’s technology guru, who is pursuing environmental studies in college in New England, reflected, “With the growing need for climate education and action, Aruba Faruque’s work is inspiring, and she is among those that are making an impact. I would look forward to someday collaborating with Aruba in raising environmental awareness and working towards a healthier future for our planet. We need her brave voice to be heard and heeded widely, in Bangladesh and beyond."

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Aruba Faruque In Brief:

Born

Chittagong, Bangladesh

Saturday 22 July 2006

Education So Far

Rangamati Government Girl’s High School, Rangamati, Bangladesh

Noakhali Government Girls High School, Noakhali, Bangladesh

Known For

Climate activism and youngest-ever person (and first younger than 18 years old) to petition the Bangladesh Prime Minister.

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References

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] “Hope Comes From Real Actions,” 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] Asia Solidarity Lab video recording, August 2021 https://asiasolidaritylab.org [ix] Aruba Faruque Q &A, 350 Bangladesh via Facebook, Thursday 16 September 2021 https://www.facebook.com/350Bangladesh/videos/160364879582424



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