Bijal Vachharajani writes and edits books for children and is a climate change warrior. She has a wonderful new book out, called ‘A Cloud called Bhura’. This story is set in a city where a brown cloud suddenly appears, and it follows four friends as they try to figure out what’s happening to the environment, what can be done about the brown menace, and how to deal with the consequences of peoples’ actions. It is a wonderfully written page turner with lots of interesting tid-bits and facts about climate change and human activity.
We asked Bijal a few questions about her book, and here’s what she said:
- Climate change is a very pressing issue facing the world at large today. What was the inspiration for this book? Why did you feel it is important to have a children’s fiction book on the subject?
In 2012, I studied climate change as part of my Masters programme in Costa Rica. Before that, I was working part time with 350.org on their 10/10/10 campaign and writing about environment and children’s books as a journalist. It was kind of amazing that I found publishers who were interested in combining my two areas of interest – environment and kid-lit. My first book was a non-fiction one, So You Want to Know About the Environment, and it covered climate change, food, waste, water, wildlife.
But as part of my Masters, I learned about the brown cloud phenomenon (https://www.britannica.com/science/atmospheric-brown-cloud) and as I studied more, I realised that a lot of our understanding of climate is not based on science, but on the chatter that happens around us. Which is why I decided to write a book where you view the climate crisis through the people.
Writing climate fiction (cli-fi) was actually very liberating, because while it’s based on science, a lot of it is about imagination. And I have been taking A Cloud Called Bhura to schools through lit fests, and find that children react very positively to the subject. They laugh, they question, and they introspect, while reading.
2. Global movements like Fridays for Future are gaining a lot of steam and bringing awareness to this issue – do you find that there is as much awareness amongst Indian children and parents?
I have been getting emails and messages from concerned parents and children about climate change and how can they be part of the movement. And it’s wonderful that so many of them are part of Fridays for Future. I meet a lot of children as part of my work, and I must say that I find that the awareness is quite skewed. I have done sessions where children are like the Hermione Granger of climate change, but also spoken to classrooms where not a single child had heard of climate change or even global warming. We’ve a long way to go when it comes to climate awareness, especially for adults.
3. While researching this book, did you come across some interesting new innovations that could work to help us reduce our carbon footprints?
I came across a lot of wonderful people and innovations, while researching my first book and my next book for Duckbill, who are doing some amazing work. There’s the Fair Trade Alliance Kerala and Sangita Sharma’s Annadana, both are doing amazing work with farmer collectives and seed banks. Then there are young people coming up with solutions on reducing plastic in the ocean, like Boyan Slat and filing PILs to demand a cleaner future. And of course, individuals like the writer Maya Kilpadi who look at actively reducing their carbon footprints and spreading awareness.
4. Are there any random, interesting facts that you came across while researching this book? Kids love weird facts!
“Atmospheric pollution, and ‘brown clouds’ in particular, are major contributors to climate change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region and beyond.” ICIMOD
When Scottish engineer James Blyth built the first wind turbine in 1887, the locals said it was the work of the devil. Guardian
Via Twitter @RobGMacfarlane: Word(s) of the day: “roaming radius” – the maximum distance from home within which children are permitted to play or explore unsupervised.
And most importantly, our rights! Here’s an example (more in the book):
Stockholm declaration, 1972
Man (and woman and child and other genders) has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he (she!) bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.
The natural resources of the earth, including the air, water, land, flora and fauna and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management, as appropriate.
Here’s where you can get your own copy of Bhura:
Written by: Sunaina Murthy, in conversation with Bijal Vachharajani, Author, A Cloud Called Bhura and So You Want to Know About the Environment, and Senior Editor, Pratham Books