An Update: Aruba Faruque: Bangladesh’s Climate Advocacy Champion Turns 16
Updated: Feb 23
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 co-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: