Disha Ravi has been a climate change activist for as long as she can remember. She believes in using her influence to fight the good fight — for environmental conservatism, securing indigenous land rights, advocating for women and minorities, speaking out against the displacement of people, water pollution, and for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned. The last one has now become a personal fight for the 22-year-old, who was arrested earlier this year for sedition. She spent 10 days in custody, fighting for her right to conserve the environment until she was finally granted bail.
Now, months later, she is back to climate activism and amplifying the voices that need to be heard. She speaks to Re:Set about her mental health, surviving the pandemic, and how her activism has changed over the past year.
On mental health challenges and coping:
I have severe anxiety and that’s played up this year. More so from being in a pandemic that hurt loved ones and so many others than the actual restrictions around it. I am working on my mental health actively. On days when it gets overwhelming, I like to take some time to myself, I switch off my phone and spend the day reading or spending time with my dog and my mother. I live far away from main Bengaluru and I’ve discovered that I live amidst a lot of birds so I sit outside and watch them chirp and frolic around.
On her activism:
We’ve always done digital campaigns alongside physical ones, so it wasn’t hard to switch to digital campaigns completely. We’ve actually managed to reach more people now than before.
Being an environmental activist has been painful, there are so few wins and so much loss. It’s gut wrenching to see people’s land taken away from them, for rivers to be poisoned, for people to face wrongful incarceration, for so much biodiversity loss and the human cost of that loss.
But we stay resilient, we don’t have another option.
On decompressing and coping with the pandemic:
I greatly enjoy reading. I have an insatiable need to read all that I can so I spend a lot of time reading history, politics and about land rights. I also enjoy sitting outside my house and watching the world go by. My neighbourhood has started a community garden at an empty plot opposite my house and watching them come together to grow vegetables brings me a lot of comfort.
My loved ones have been super supportive. Since we can’t and don’t want to meet each other till the situation is better, we watch movies together online or we spend time co-working together so we don’t feel as lonely working from home. We make each other playlists, send each other food, flowers and books.
Her advice on environmentalism during COVID-19:
I think we need to acknowledge that we are in a pandemic, and it’s OK not to be environmentally friendly. It’s OK to take time for yourself to heal and just exist right now. It’s not an easy time to be alive and it’s OK to not do anything at the moment other than get by and I think we often forget that. People have shown great kindness to each other in the pandemic and I hope we all know that we need to show ourselves the same kindness so I just want people to be kind towards themselves right now.