Young people all around the world are working to build a regenerative future. At 17, Nikhita Kalluri is one of those people. She wants to create an affordable handheld device capable of producing 100% clean energy.
Regenerative Futures: How are you feeling right now?
Nikhita Kalluri: Great!
RF: What’s a secret your search history can tell us about you?
NK: A secret my search history can tell you is that I am obsessed with baby animals.
RF: What are you reading/learning about at the moment?
NK: I’m currently reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, so I’m learning about his journey during apartheid and the way the lives of people at that time worked.
RF: Who is your favorite human and why?
NK: Someone I really look up to is Wangari Maathai because she wasn’t afraid to speak up about environmental problems. She also took serious action by starting the Green Belt Movement, an Indigenous-led movement to protect the environment and address women’s rights. She was the first woman to receive a PhD in Kenya.
She is very inspiring because not many people have the courage to do what she did, and she was a compassionate person who fought for equality in so many different ways. I believe that we need more people like her.
RF: Which key moment inspired you to start your project?
NK: When I first started educating myself on the effects of fossil fuels on the atmosphere, planet, people, and animals, I realized that we have to drastically change our fueling systems—and if other people wouldn’t take action, then I had to in the small ways I could. I was also reading about how difficult the lives of people in developing nations were without access to electricity, so I thought this project could address both issues.
RF: In two years’ time, what would your project’s success look like?
NK: Success in two years would mean creating a working prototype and an aesthetic design, figuring out how to produce the device on a larger scale, and starting the distribution of it to people who need it the most.
RF: If you could focus a large percentage of government funding on one industry or project for the next five to ten years, which would you choose and why?
NK: I would focus it on renewable energy or green jobs because currently, one of the most important existential threats we are facing is climate change and we have less than ten years to take dramatic action before it becomes irreversible. Almost one-fourth of climate emissions come from electricity usage, so this would be a huge change.
RF: What are the best and the worst things about the education system in your country?
NK: The best thing about our education system is that everyone has equal access to public education and it’s free until college. The teachers are well-qualified and we can learn about new subjects through various electives. The worst thing is that going to a prestigious college requires you to pay a lot of money, so someone who works very hard can’t get the same educational opportunities as someone who has a lot of money or legacy.
RF: Do you have a message for anyone your age living in the year 2060?
NK: I would say that the reason 2020 why is such a hard year in terms of COVID-19 cases and the effects of climate change (such as the wildfires in California) is the lack of compassion. We need to to take only what we absolutely need and nothing more than that. We need to learn to respect other animals’ intelligence and lives. But most of all, we need to learn to live compassionately and make ethical and sustainable choices.
RF: What inspires or frightens you most about the future?
NK: I’m inspired by the amount of youth taking the current crises seriously and I believe that if adults listen to us, we can make serious positive change. I’m only scared that we won’t take the current issues as the existential threats they are, which would doom future generations.
RF: Regeneration is…
NK: The restoration or renewal of anything ranging from the natural environment, to people’s livelihoods.
Nikhita Kalluri is a Regenerative List Finalist.