Young climate activist Dilangez Azizmamadova from Tajikistan, was among 100 Green Ticket winners from across the globe to participate in the United Nations Youth Climate Summit in New York today, 21 September 2019.

For a number of years, Dilangez has been advocating for more attention on the environment, and on the negative effects of climate change. Hoping to eventually change the minds and hearts of people and organisations to better care for nature, she started by influencing the behaviour of her own family. 

Her sustained efforts have recently led to her selection by the United Nations as a young climate champion. She is one of only 100 ‘green ticket’ winners who have been offered the prize of a carbon-neutral flight to New York City to join 500 other young leaders to participate in the UN Youth Climate Summit on 21 September 2019.

The 27-year-old activist has stopped using plastic bottles and bags completely, preferring instead to carry with her at all times a refillable glass bottle for water and a textile bag for groceries. Minimising meat consumption has been a difficult challenge, but she has managed that too. In Germany, where she studies, Dilangez also takes part in climate action advocacy, striving for a more caring attitude toward our planet and all aspects of its nature. 

“My parents say that it makes no sense to have four separate bins at home, as they will then go out and empty them out into the same container anyway; but they do separate the trash at home now - a sign of their support for me,” she says. Dilangez understands her parents’ viewpoint – there is only one mixed trash container near their home in Moscow. Yet, she believes in setting the habit. 

“I’ve seen separate containers in another district of Moscow, but people keep throwing mixed garbage in those anyway as they are used to, so there is no point in having those containers either. Not until people change their behaviour. It’s a road that goes both ways,” she adds, noting that in some parts of the world it is easier to lead an environmentally friendly life than in others, due to a lack of facilities and awareness.  

Dilangez has a cosmopolitan background. Born in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast of Tajikistan, she dreams of returning there one day to visit her grandmother, with whom she shares the character of determination to act for what she believes in. Soon after Dilangez’s birth, the family followed her father, a pilot, first to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and then to Chkalovsk, Tajikistan, before finally settling in Moscow, Russia. 

“My warmest memories come from Chkalovsk – a green town. There weren’t so many tall buildings at the time and there were more trees,” she recalls of the small town in Northern Tajikistan. Trees carry a special importance for Dilangez. She points to photos from the Internet that show the decreasing number of trees in Ferghana, an area that lost more than six hectares of trees between 2001 and 2018, according to the Global Forest Watch.

“I have to confess I wasn’t this devoted to climate action myself until I went to Germany and saw the difference; I realised that we don’t have to be in conflict with nature to live in a civilised society” 

Dilangez moved to Germany for postgraduate studies, enrolling on the East-West European Studies master’s programme at the Regensburg University in Bavaria. 

She believes that being exposed more to information about climate action and climate change, as in Western countries, helps people and communities become more aware and alert about environmental consequences, and more willing to take small steps that can lead to a bigger collective impact. 

“The other day I went to the marketplace to buy just two cucumbers and two tomatoes. They tried to pack the products into two plastic bags, which I refused to take,” she says. 

When her younger sister questions her insistence against the use of plastic,  Dilangez quietly leads her sister to the window and shows how there is always some sort of plastic trash on the streets. “And she listens to me. She hasn’t changed her lifestyle as radically, but she has started listening more,” Dilangez says.