Four IVLP participants from Odisha explore U.S. efforts to mitigate climate change.
The IVLP participants learned about U.S. efforts to protect species and habitat diversity at the University of Georgia’s Marine Education Center and Aquarium. (Photograph courtesy Sasmita Mohapatra)
Four environmentalists from Odisha have returned from the United States, inspired by a three-week exchange program. Sasmita Mohapatra, Bhabani Sankar Tripathy, Archana Soreng and Sagar Kumar Patro were selected to participate in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Climate Change and Biodiversity Conservation in the United States” in March 2023. The IVLP is the State Department’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, participants gain firsthand experience and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.
Mohapatra, Tripathy, Soreng and Patro toured Oregon, Washington, D.C., Georgia and Massachusetts to explore U.S. government programs and non-government strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support human and natural populations at risk due to weather disruptions. They also examined U.S. efforts to protect species and habitat diversity through environmental laws, protection policies, scientific research and environmental education. Meet the IVLP participants, and learn more about their inspirations and takeaways.
I am: A zonal facilitator at Tata Community Initiative Trust, an eco-entrepreneur and co-founder of Climate Warrior Rourkela.
I got interested in climate issues when: In childhood. I later formed Climate Warrior Rourkela to tackle local environmental issues.
Impact of my work that I am most proud of: Our cleaning drives, awareness programs and social media posts to keep rivers plastic-free pushed local government bodies to enforce regulations. Many shopkeepers switched to ecofriendly alternatives, students and individuals in our network reduced plastic consumption.
My latest climate project is: A campaign called “1000 vs 1000: Replace, Reuse, Revive.” It starts with a drive to turn donated clothes into reusable bags with a message. We will also give vegetable sellers campaign cards with a message for their customers. Finally, we will share a video of the campaign on social media to raise awareness and encourage participation.
The IVLP program taught me: Collaboration is key to addressing climate change. Initiatives like Mama & Hapa’s zero-waste shop, and 350 Eugene’s grassroots work demonstrate the power of local movements. Creating inclusive spaces in initiatives, involving youngsters and educating communities are crucial to foster environmental stewardship.
One thing that surprised me during the IVLP: The remarkable level of dedication and participation from all age groups.
One can be a climate warrior by: Discovering your purpose and making a positive impact with activism, lifestyle changes, creative expression or utilizing skills.
My future projects are: A collaboration with local tender coconut sellers to promote sustainable straws. Plans to rejig and expand Gift Crop, our ecofriendly product business. Engagement with government bodies and Rourkela Steel Plant to address river pollution.
Sasmita Mohapatra (left) presents a gift from Odisha during the IVLP tour. (Photograph courtesy Sasmita Mohapatra)
I am: A journalist and bureau head of Sambad, an Odia daily newspaper.
I got interested in climate issues when: I was writing about the river Mahanadi while reporting on a movement for a separate state in western Odisha. I found that the river was dying, affected by climate change, and impacting biodiversity and livelihoods.
One impact of my work that I am most proud of: The Archaeological Survey of India has started the restoration of Konark temple. I have written about the threat to the temple—the statues and stone carvings on the walls have been damaged by climate change.
My latest climate project is: Sensitizing the public and policymakers on climate change and its effects on the common man. I am formulating ways to bring grassroots issues to the state government’s attention.
My takeaways from the IVLP visit: I can write on more climate-related topics like environmental politics, eco-economics, environment and social issues, environmental justice and advocacy. I have formed an organization to spread awareness about climate issues and their consequences. I have also started writing two books—one on my IVLP experience and memorable moments in America, and another on critical aspects of climate change regarding biodiversity.
One thing that surprised me during the IVLP: The contributions of some nonprofit organizations toward climate and environmental issues—from policy formulation to project implementation—in the United States.
One can be a climate warrior by: Creating awareness on climate change and its impact, talking about sustainable development, choosing green modes of transport and locally-made products, composting and planting trees.
Future projects: A new website and a YouTube channel to create awareness on climate change and environmental justice.
Bhabani Tripathy at Mama & Hapa’s zero waste shop in Oregon during his IVLP tour. (Photograph courtesy Bhabani Tripathy)
I am: A climate change activist and researcher from Sundergarh in Odisha.
I got interested in climate issues when: After grade 10, when my parents told me that if I really wanted to contribute to society, I need to enter policy-making. My grandfather was the pioneer of community-led forest protection in our village.
One impact of my work that I am most proud of: I have been advocating for leadership and participation of indigenous people in climate policies. It has helped reclaim spaces for indigenous people, amplify their perspectives and offer them recognition.
The IVLP program taught me: The diverse impact of climate change, policy-making and implementation in the United States, and the contribution of indigenous people in the United States toward climate action and biodiversity conservation. I also learned about the importance of research and documentation and how critical they are at the global level.
One thing that surprised me during the IVLP: The realization of how all actions start with reflection and intent to contribute to the process and address the issue. It affirmed my belief that we all can make a difference in our own way.
One can be a climate warrior by: First acknowledging that we are in a climate crisis and need to take action, and by speaking up and advocating for climate action.
My future projects: I am working with a youth group as part of the indigenous caucus for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to amplify the perspectives of young people from indigenous communities in international spaces.
Archana Soreng (right) talks about her journey and work with the Odia community during an interaction in Boston. (Photograph courtesy Sasmita Mohapatra)
Sagar Kumar Patro
I am: President of Anchalika Vikash Parishad, a voluntary organization based in Gunthabandha, Odisha.
I got interested in climate issues when: I realized one morning, as a child, that I was missing the sound of house sparrows. I researched the bird and started working on house sparrow protection and breeding programs.
One impact of my work that I am most proud of: My organization’s efforts to plant trees on hills, roadsides, pond banks and schools, which helped restore the habitat for animals and birds. We were losing local wildlife due to the felling of trees.
My latest climate project is: The house sparrow protection and breeding program in 30 villages across Odisha.
My takeaways from the IVLP journey: The opportunity to exchange ideas, and gain knowledge on nature conservation, social responsibility, education, health, culture and consensus.
One thing that surprised me during the IVLP: The direct role of public and private institutions in forest, zoo protection and social responsibility management.
One can be a climate warrior by: Protecting nature and the biodiversity around us.
My future projects are: Environment and bird conservation in wetlands near Tampara lake, conservation of Egyptian vultures in Ganjam, public awareness on safety of olive ridley sea turtles, protection of wetlands and crocodiles of Ghodahada Dam, protection of the grazing land of black bucks.
Sagar Kumar Patro (right) works on protection and breeding of house sparrows. (Photograph courtesy Sagar Kumar Patro)
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