Updated: Feb 23
By Alfred Robert Hogan
Teenaged Bangladeshi climate activist Aruba Faruque became the youngest-ever person to petition the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, gathering signatures for her climate action petition from March 2021 till September 2021, both online and in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic.[i] Former schoolteacher Anthony “Tony” Gleeson of Australia, the host of THE SUSTAINABLE HOUR weekly radio and podcast series, in May 2021 dubbed Ms. Faruque--who was then just 14 years old--“the Greta Thunberg of Bangladesh,” referencing the well-known Swedish teen climate champion and Fridays For Future co-founder.[ii]
Image courtesy THE SUSTAINABLE HOUR
Aruba Faruque in Bangladesh being interviewed via video link by host Tony Gleeson in Australia.
Among the 2000 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 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.)[iii] Others who signed the petition included:
ActionAid Bangladesh official [Ms.] Farah Kabir, whose nonprofit focuses on climate justice, women’s rights, worker’s rights, and human rights issues. She has served as its Country Director since June 2007.
The pioneering expert in water resource management and climate change in Bangladesh, Prof. Ainun Nishat, a civil engineer and professor emeritus at Bangladesh’s BRAC University, where he had served as vice chancellor. He represented Bangladesh at the December 2009 UN COP in Copenhagen, Denmark, among other international climate meetings he attended.[iv]
Back on Wednesday 13 November 2019, as Ms. Faruque closely followed the news, the Bangladesh Parliament (Jatiya Sangsad) in Dhaka had unanimously voted to declare a "planetary emergency." But little or no action had followed in the ensuing 18 months. So, Ms. Faruque began her petition on the day of the Fridays For Future “No More Empty Promises” themed Global Climate Strike of Friday 19 March 2021. As she explained in a June 2021 newspaper interview: "I knew we had to let the political leaders realize we urgently need serious action now and I realized that our schools must do a far better job in educating young people, at all grade levels, about the extent of dangers posed by the climate crisis and the 6th mass extinction of species. The idea of a petition then just naturally came to me.”[v]
As Ms. Faruque wrote, in a Dhaka newspaper op-ed essay in September 2021, “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 …signatories to the force of democracy to have their demands be heard by the authority hence, our policymakers realize what we, the citizens want. Indeed, science and democracy are interlinked, as Greta Thunberg wisely said. 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.’”[vi] Ms. Faruque concluded her petitioning on the FFF Global Climate Strike on Friday 24 September 2021, whose theme was “Uproot the System." She then submitted the petition and signatures to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the woman who has led Bangladesh since January 2009—often via imposing authoritarian measures.
In a September 2021 online interview, Ms. Faruque explained that her climate consciousness arose from living in a mostly low-lying country (and a deeply impoverished one) subject to increasing sea level rises and severe flooding, in by some accounts the world’s 7th most climate-vulnerable nation. And yet the equivalent of billions of US dollars of investment from Japan now is going toward more new coal-fired power plants, not low-polluting renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind) in Bangladesh, which will only exacerbate the dire situation. She noted the overall negative effects of the Global North on the "Most Affected Peoples and Areas," concentrated in the Global South, in places like her homeland. “The people who live in Bangladesh are gravely endangered by the climate crisis,” she said. “Living in the reality of this crisis, you feel very pressured by this crisis to do something. I can’t wait for someone else to do it…It feels like a responsibility.”
Her petition asked for the key points highlighted on this poster, which she designed:
This petition-summarizing poster was created by Aruba Faruque (in glasses and red dress, inside circle, above right), with a montage of photos of young people signing her petition.
Ms. Faruque, who was born on Saturday 22 July 2006 (at 381.81 PPM of CO2) in Bangladesh’s chief seaport and its second-largest city, Chittagong, endured serious bullying during school, yet maintained top-tier grades. She has become fluent in five languages—English, Dutch, Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu—and also knows some French and German. (Her father’s work as a judge took the family to The Netherlands for one year.) Ms. Faruque began her climate activism at age 13.[vii] Like her inspiration Ms. Thunberg, Ms. Faruque is, in addition to being an ardent environmentalist, also an ethical vegan, a feminist, and a human rights advocate. She has applied her flair for art to making climate crisis posters.
Image courtesy Aruba Faruque family
ConscienceLAND Ambassador Aruba Faruque gives
the three-fingered salute (peace plus one), signifying
Society, Environment, and Economy, all in balance.
In November 2020, Ms. Faruque was named the youngest ambassador in ConscienceLAND, a project organized by maverick Canadian activist Philip “SustainaClaus” McMaster, who has attended all UN COP climate meetings held since the pivotal one in Paris in December 2015. Other highlights of Ms. Faruque’s activism include meetings with ambassadors from European nations to Bangladesh and with Prof. Huq, and her presentation to the Asia Solidarity Lab three-day online environmental conference in late August 2021.[viii] And she was interviewed in-depth online by 350 Bangladesh on Thursday 16 September 2021, and she moderated an “Intergenerational Dialogue on Implementing the Planetary Emergency Declaration” held online on Friday 24 September 2021.[ix] Among the followers on Ms. Faruque’s Twitter account (https://twitter.com/ArubaFaruque): Greta Thunberg herself, and other top-tier young climate activists, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda and Alexandria Villasenor of NYC USA.
Ms. Faruque lives in Noakhali BD with her parents, younger brother, and baby sister, attending 10th grade at an all-girls high school when the pandemic allows. 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. She is considering pursuing being either a journalist or an environmentalist—or perhaps even both.
Aruba Faruque In Brief:
Saturday 22 July 2006
Education So Far
Noakhali Govt. Girls High School, Noakhali BD
Rangamati Govt. Girl’s High School, Rangamati BD
Climate activism and youngest-ever person (and first younger than 18 years old) to petition the Bangladesh Prime Minister
References [i] 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