Lavanya Prakash, 20, is a passionate environmental advocate. Her advocacy journey began through her nature photography blog, “MyNatureExperiences”, where she shares the importance of biodiversity conservation and connecting with nature daily through her photography.

She is also the Team Lead of “Speak for Climate”, a ground-up initiative to promote broader public participation in current environmental affairs and co-creation of environmental policies. Today she answers some questions for us about what she does.

Tell us more about what you do.

I run a blog called “MyNatureExperiences”, where I share my photographs of biodiversity in Singapore and places I travel to. I use my photographs to showcase the beauty of flora and fauna – from otters frolicking in Gardens by the Bay to magnificent blue whales in Sri Lanka’s oceans. I’ve shared photographs and written about nearly all the main parks and nature reserves in Singapore.

My blog has been viewed in more than 163 countries and gained over 170,000 views. I am also a public speaker, and have spoken on TEDx platforms, in schools, and other events to share through my photographs the message of connecting with nature regularly. I also share how nature improves our mental health and can foster care for the other amazing species and ecosystems we share this world with.

I have also been involved in many youth environmental groups. I am the Team Lead of “Speak for Climate”, a group aiming to make public consultations about environmental policies run by government agencies more accessible through digestible and disability-inclusive resources.

Recently, we encouraged the public to write to HDB about the importance of preserving Dover Forest, one of Singapore’s few remaining natural forests, to combat climate change and biodiversity loss.

What inspired or motivated you to do this?

I was inspired to advocate for biodiversity after noticing how many people lack awareness about the rich flora and fauna in Singapore, and its importance. When talking to my peers, I realised that many did not know that Singapore is one of the most biodiversity-rich cities, with more than 23,000 terrestrial organisms – from birds, butterflies, insects, and mammals.

Many were also unaware or did not care that we are facing the sixth mass extinction, with species on Earth going extinct at accelerated levels due to human activity. How can we care for or want to protect what we don’t know and love?

With my photographs and speeches, I hope for more people (especially youth) to become curious to learn about nature, spend more time in our green spaces and eventually, inspire them to become environmental stewards.

Spending a lot of time on social media has implications on anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. On the other hand, nature is scientifically proven to induce relaxing brain activity and “happy hormones” like serotonin in our body. Thus, I share that regular visits to green spaces can promote better mental and physical health.

“Speak for Climate” began due to the lack of diverse participation in consultations for environmental policies and master plans in Singapore. Environmental information can sometimes be technical and hard to access, and people may not have the time/ability to share their perspectives on environmental issues. Therefore, we aim to produce resources that are digestible to members of the public, such as providing pre-filled templates for people to use to give feedback to relevant government agencies.

We are also motivated to broaden the conversation around environmental issues to link them to issues of social justice and inequality. For example, migrant workers who work long hours outdoors in Singapore might be disproportionately affected by rising temperatures due to climate change.

Have you faced any challenges so far, and how did you overcome them?

As I’m an Environmental science undergraduate and environmental advocate, learning about worsening environmental problems, reading news of climate disasters and the lack of ambitious action to tackle climate change can be demotivating. It often makes me feel like I am powerless as these issues are global, complex, and multifaceted.

I find that talking about solutions to like-minded youth and brainstorming ways to push for changes by those in power and in our communities, however small they may be, keeps me motivated and inspired to continue advocating.

If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?

Please join the environmental movement! If you can, lend your talents and time in enacting solutions to environmental challenges. There are many environmental groups in Singapore (check out LepakinSG’s list) – from those that advocate for climate change and conduct beach cleanups to nature-guiding groups. I think nature is our best teacher – so do visit Singapore’s many green spaces to take a breather from technology to connect and learn about the flora and fauna in our midst.

What are your hopes or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?

My hope is that many more people will start to deeply care about environmental issues and advocate for a more sustainable and inclusive society for humans and nature’s wellbeing. Through my advocacy efforts, I also hope to inspire the public and marginalised communities to have their voices heard with regards to how environmental and climate policies by government and businesses are made, as these decisions ultimately decide our collective future.

I believe that if more of us from different perspectives and backgrounds are engaged environmental stewards, transformative change can happen – because nobody will be left behind in our path towards a more liveable planet.

This article was published on Dec 3, 2021

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