Star SLF volunteer, Nafeu Aungshu, burst into action during the Festival’s Big Weekend. Check out our latest volunteer in conversation with Nafeu.
Where did you grow up?
I was born on the banks of Bay of Bengal beside Sunderbans, the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world and my birth place is known as Bagerhat. In Bengali, the word ‘Bagerhat’ means ‘land of tigers’ and it is famous as Royal Bengal Tiger’s territory. At the age of 4, I moved to Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh with my parents and my schooling started there. At the age of 22, I moved to Melbourne, known as the most liveable city, for my double masters at Monash University.
What are the projected impacts from climate change on your place of birth?
Perhaps, it is enormously difficult to believe that my birth place Bagerhat will be vanished from the world map within next decade during my lifetime. Due to climate change, the rising sea level threatens the persistence of my birth place and this could inundate 17 per cent of Bangladesh’s land area by 2050, reducing cultivatable land and displacing 35 million people. Within next 10 years, Dhaka will be affected by Climate change and expected to cause significant changes in river salinity. This will lead to shortage of drinking water in the urban areas. Bagerhat is famous as the territory of Royal Bengal Tiger but unfortunately, the remaining tiger habitat in Bangladesh would be declined by 96 per cent due the sea level rise. Experts predicted that, due to climate change, Bagerhat will suffer with temperature rise, tropical cyclones, saline water invasion, land inundation, ocean acidification, invasive species and so on, which eventually may pose threat of extinction to biodiversity of Bagerhat. Currently, 16% of mangrove species which are critically endangered, 10% are near-threatened and more than 40% of the mangrove-endemic vertebrates are now also at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. The river erosion from flooding claims 20,000 acres of land and leaves up to 200,000 people homeless each year. Above all, the main challenge involves increasing rice production without using groundwater unsustainable, especially with an increase in population and sea level rise will pose significant challenges to agricultural productivity in the future.
What level of awareness is there about these impacts in your home town?
Bangladesh is fully aware of the fact that two-thirds of Bangladesh is less than five metres above sea level, making it one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to rising sea levels. Bangladesh has taken wide range of strategic policies. For instances, Bangladesh became the first country in developing nations who made its own climate fund known as Bangladesh Climate Change Trust (BCCT) and every year 7 per cent of the budget is allocated only to climate change. Within 9 years of time, the forest has increased by 10 per cent. Bangladesh is a country of 180 million people whereas, 10 per cent people are using the solar energy in everyday life. Recently, the government has started a new campaign to acknowledge remarkable contribution in environmental issues and reward with the title of ‘Green Man of the year’.
Why did you get involved in volunteering at SLF
Back in Bangladesh, I was a social worker and involved in freelancing photography. Perhaps, in my perception, photography is a way to express my voice. Even in Australia, I am involved in different kinds of social volunteering activities. When I heard about the National Sustainable Living Festival, the first thing that came to my mind was: ‘let my voice be heard’. So, I applied for the photography role and thankfully I was accepted as an SLF event photographer.
How have you found your volunteering experience so far?
In SLF volunteering I had the best job in the event where, I moved around the entire Big Weekend site clicking pictures of the crowd, events, and speakers and so on. It was a great experience to be a part of an event where I felt that I am not alone in the struggle of making this earth a better place. Throughout the volunteering I tried to send one message through my photography: We also belong to this planet and the planet also belongs to us.
What action would you like to see happen for climate and environmental protect?
The best action is to spread the message that we cannot make infinite profit within a finite world. Social activist should educate the consumers and force corporations about the fact: “profit does not make any sense for people if planet does not exist in their business model”.