By Aashika Ravi
Yesterday was World Environment Day, and we picked up The Climate Solution: India’s Climate Change Crisis and What We Can Do About It, by Mridula Ramesh, who is the founder of the Sundaram Climate Institute, which focuses on waste and water solutions, and education. What better day to try and understand what we can do towards helping solve the environmental crisis in the country? True to the title, here are five truths the book forced us to confront.
1. No More Neta Blame Games
It’s all too easy to blame our netas and corrupt leaders for not taking climate change seriously, but are we taking it any more seriously than they are? Ramesh’s insights into combatting climate change tell us, in no uncertain terms, that we are equally responsible, and capable even, of doing our bit. No messiah or Al Gore is coming to save us now, folks. Ramesh even has a checklist at the ready for people who are new to the concept of sustainable living and a minimalist lifestyle, so we have no real excuse at this point. Some of these are things we should already have been doing, like using the good ol’ bucket bath and segregating our waste but other more thought-provoking ones include regulating your air conditioner temperatures and eating fewer animal products.
2. Class doesn’t exempt you either
Ramesh voices an uncomfortable truth – that climate change is an elite topic, but the lower classes are the ones that suffer the most. ‘Impact’ here is an intersection of risk, vulnerability and adaptation, which is why it’s so easy for us to ignore. We’re fretting about the rising temperatures in our air-conditioned offices (not us, we like to live au natural) but the real losers are labourers, people in the agricultural sector and anyone with increased exposure to the elements. And if you’re one of those ‘I’m going to hell anyway types’, on a global scale, India is just a speck, a small player in the world’s ecological suicide. We will be the first victims claimed by Doomsday™, while the big players like US and China sit in their air-conditioned offices, pitying us. Sucks, huh?
3. Women and Children First
75 percent of working Indian women work in the agriculture sector! And needless to say, they are the most vulnerable when it comes to climate change. The odds are already stacked against them, and I for one don’t need being a silent witness to their suffering on my conscience. Rural women walk many miles for water, and spend an increased amount of time exposed to the elements. With climate change looming ominously over the horizon, their jobs get 1000x tougher. Heat waves and heat-related diseases claim women as their main victims due to increased exposure. It’s not just women, either. Children are equally, if not more, vulnerable to tropical diseases and infection. Their sources of nutrition are also affected with increased incidence of drought.
4. Zeroing in on what really matters
Ramesh takes our attention away from the oft talked about but ineffective approach to refashioning ourselves into being more environment friendly- whether it’s monitoring emissions and carbon footprints or reducing plastic use. These are integral to climate control, sure, but we need a combination of approaches to make this work. What really matters is not your jholas and jute kurtas, but efficient water and waste disposal. Increased generation of waste and not enough space to dispose of it is a leading cause for health concerns. A lot of this is 10th grade science that we’ve probably already forgotten. Toxic liquids from landfills pollute ground water, and create an excellent environment for pesky macchars. Ramesh also suggests a more plant-based diet, and less carnivorous indulgences. We probably lost half of you at that, but livestock are responsible for over 10 percent of India’s greenhouse gas emissions! Admittedly, soy milk doesn’t taste great but at least it doesn’t fart us away into oblivion.
5. Turning Grey Matter into Green Matter
Ramesh’s solutions involve creating markets and improving our local innovation systems as well as leveraging our startup ecosystem to better manage our resources. She cites the example of Ergos, a company that provides microwarehousing to farmers. They have been supremely successful in reducing wastage and helping farmers get the best prices for their crops. She urges entrepreneurs to invest in innovative and sustainable solutions to combat climate change, because they have the resources to do so, and can profit from ventures like these.