Sunita Narain is the Director General of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the Editor of Down To Earth magazine. Narain has been with the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, India’s leading environmental NGO, since 1982. The CSE “monitors air pollution levels around India, studies the effects of climate change and even runs training courses that show businesspeople and students how to lead greener lives.”
As an environmentalist and political activist, Narain has been pushing for changes in policies, practices and mindsets both within India and around the globe, and is a major proponent of the Green concept of sustainable development, having studied and analyzed the relationship between environment and development for years.
A pioneer within the movement for sustainability, her 1991 paper, “Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case for Environmental Colonialism,” co-authored with Anil Agarwal, remains today a cornerstone of the movement for global climate-justice. Within the paper Narain and Agarwal pushed back against Western elitist claims that developing nations such as India and China should shoulder all the blame for polluting the earth’s atmosphere and effectively destabilizing the climate, claims she has consistently upheld throughout her career, instead pointing out “the accumulation in the earth’s atmosphere of [carbon dioxide and methane] is mainly the result of the gargantuan consumption of the developed countries, particularly the United States.” In the same vein, as she has opposed this environmental colonialism that blames the world’s poorest for climate problems, she has advocated policies recognizing indigenous communities as stewards of their environmental domains.
Narain has also devoted special attention to the need for water security and has utilized methods of rainwater harvesting to minimize waste, control pollution, and secure sources water. In recognition of her work with rainwater harvesting and its policy influence for establishing community-based water management she received the Stockholm Water Prize in 2005.
As Amitav Ghosh noted in his profile of Narain for Time Magazine’s 2016 list of the 100 most influential people, “hers is a voice that urgently needs to be heard in this era of climate change.”