Monday, September 13, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_03: Conquest of Mars?

  Since January 2021, I am writing on Environment and Science in the 'Chatusutra' weekly column of Loksatta, a Marathi language newspaper. This weekly series contains four different themes being written by four different authors in a four-week cycle. My first article was published on the second Wednesday of the year, and thereafter my articles are coming every four weeks. One of the request from the readers has been to provide English translations for those who are not able to read Marathi. Meera Rotti took on the task to do this, and therefore I am launching this monthly mini-series. Every month, I will post the English translation of one article in the same chronological order that the Marathi articles have been published in Loksatta. 

Links to previous post: 

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus? (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_02: Battle of India's Survival (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)


03. Conquest of Mars?

The original Marathi article published on 10 March 2021 can be found HERE.  


World-renowned innovator Elon Musk is dead set on colonizing the Mars in the coming few years. Recent successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on the Mars has led to a steady inflow of images and other information about the surface of our neighbouring planet. This is rapidly fueling the debates around human colonization of Mars. For Musk’s supporters, settling on other planets is the obvious next milestone on the path of technological progress for humans. Before we think about colonizing Mars, lets first understand the foundations of human settlements on the earth.

Current human civilization on the earth is based on the history of about 4.5 billion years. The last ten to twelve thousand years have seen a significant interference by humans in the natural system of the earth. In 2009, a Swedish researcher Johan Rockstrom put forth an important concept. He demonstrated that, to sustain human life on the earth, humans have to stay within the limits of nine natural systems of the earth. This clearly implies that these nine systems, or their alternatives, are also required to be established on the Mars to support life there. Let’s take a look at some of these systems, and the possibility of their existence on this neighbouring planet.

Humans must respect these planetary boundaries in order to sustain themselves on Earth. However at least three of the boundaries have already been crossed. 

The bio-diversity of the earth not only helps us in meeting our basic survival needs, but is also crucial in supporting some of our metabolic activities. For example, our intestines are home to many living micro-organisms. They play a vital role in converting food into nutrients. They are one of the first single-cell organisms that evolved on the earth, whereas we humans are one of latest additions to the living beings of the earth. Can the planet, which could not enable evolution of any form of life, sustain human life without any support from other living beings? In case we succeed in creating an alternative ecosystem, will it be possible for us to maintain its equilibrium?

Another key system that supports our life here on the Earth is the atmosphere of the Earth. For long sustained existence of humans on it, it is important that the three factors remain intact – the delicate equilibrium of mixture of atmospheric gases, layer of ozone in the topmost part of the atmosphere, and quality of air in the lowermost part of it where we reside.

In the past 4.5 billion years, earth’s atmosphere has undergone multiple transformations. The oxygen that was extremely low in the beginning of the evolution of life rose up to 21% thanks to the evolution of photosynthetic bacteria, and also lead to ozone layer formation in the outer layer of the atmosphere. The current state of the atmosphere is conducive for the entire living world on the Earth, and the equilibrium of this living world has been regulating the chemical equilibrium of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, which is just a few hundred parts per million of the atmosphere, maintains an adequate temperature on the earth to support life, and also enables production of food for us through the carbon-cycle. Moisture in the air is important to drive the hydrological cycle that provides us the water. And then there is oxygen gas without which we cannot breathe. Effects of imbalance in the atmosphere are now visible to us, the manifestations of which range from local air-pollution to global warming. If humans are going to be the only living specie in the artificial environment of the Mars, then to maintain its correct chemical balance, tremendous amount of energy will have to be expended.

The ozone layer present in the stratosphere protects us by blocking the harmful ultra-violet radiations of the sun. Mars does not even have any atmosphere, and hence these radiations reach its surface, totally unhindered. There is no atmosphere around Mars because it does not have its own magnetic field. Earth’s magnetic field not only protects its atmosphere from being blown away, but also from the cosmic radiations by deflecting them. Hence, humans on Mars will also have to work towards creating a system to protect themselves from the sun’s UV radiations as well as the cosmic radiations. Needless to say, we need to expend more energy to maintain such a system.

Well, one more aspect is worth mentioning in this context. We have evolved under the atmospheric pressure on the earth. The weight of the atmosphere we literally carry over our shoulders is also a key factor in maintaining our health. The absence of this very weight causes loss of bone density, loss of muscle strength in the astronauts who spend long time in space. Settlers of Mars will have to face this issue as well.

There are two more issues closely related to the water which support human life on the Earth.
Water first appeared on the earth during its nascent stage as a result of asteroids bombarding the Earth. About 70% of earth’s surface is covered by oceans. Even if the biosphere evolved from this very salt water, only fresh water can sustain humans. Most of the fresh water on the Earth is in the frozen form. We can directly use water available only from rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, wells etc. Water in these sources gets replenished through the water cycle. Water does not exist on Mars, so this too needs to be generated through chemical processes expending energy, and will therefore warrant extremely cautious consumption.

Increasing levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in our oceans, and resulting increased acidity is not only disrupting the equilibrium of the marine life, but is also indirectly affecting the earth’s weather cycle. The main cause of this pollution is the excessive use of nitrogenous and phosphorous fertilizers used in our food production. These chemicals enter the waterways and end up in the oceans. We have not yet succeeded in producing enough food for all without polluting the natural systems. Farming on Mars, and consistently produce food there is going to be even more challenging and energy-intensive task.

Natural ecosystems that are free from human interference play a vital role in sustaining our existence. As they shrink up making way for farming, animal-rearing, mining, industries, urbanization etc., we lose on the free-of-cost ecosystem services that we get from the them. For example, if there is a flowing river in the vicinity of a human settlement, domestic sewage water let into it after rudimentary treatment will not cause any harm. In fact, some organic matter from this water provides food for the organisms in it. However, if on one hand the density of population goes on increasing, and on the other hand, construction of dams causes the reduction in the flow of water in rivers, then separate systems need to be set up for processing of waste water. Many of the substances created by us (e.g., plastics) are spreading as waste in the nature. This too has long-term effects on the natural ecosystems, and lead to many challenges. Waste-water processing and recycling of waste materials will also be crucial on Mars, and also prove to be highly energy-intensive.

Mars-dwellers will have the Sun as the only source of energy. Technological development on the Earth was largely fueled by coal and petroleum. Dead biomass got buried under the surface of the land, and transformed into extremely energy-dense mineral fuels. Since Mars has not sustained any form of life, there are no fossil fuels underground on Mars.

In short, origin and survival of human life is dependent on every aspect of this prolific, fertile planet. We still have not completely realized the complex interrelationship between us and the various natural systems on the Earth. If we are not able to control the climate change and degradation of bio-diversity now, sustaining life right here on the Earth will also become an increasingly challenging task. Establishing and sustaining life on a planet devoid of any natural system that supports life; is going to be an even more challenging a task. 

 

Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE : संकट हवामान बदलाचे

आयपीसीसी – इंटरगर्व्हमेंटल पॅनल ऑन क्लायमेट चेंज - यांचा जागतिक वातावरण बदलाबाबतचा सहावा अहवाल प्रसिध्द झाला आहे. आयपीसीसीचे अहवाल जेव्हा जेव्हा प्रसिध्द होतात तेव्हा त्यावेळी वातावरण बदलाच्या विविध पैलूंबाबत आत्तापर्यंतचे संशोधन काय सांगते याचे एक एकत्रित चित्र पुढे येतं. म्हणजे गेल्या आठवड्यात प्रसिध्द झालेला अहवाल वातावरण बदलाबाबत आजची स्थिती आणि भविष्यातली संभाव्य स्थिती याबाबत आज जागतिक पातळीवर काय वैज्ञानिक एकमत आहे ते दाखवतो आहे. आपण हेही लक्षात घ्यायला हवं की हे अहवाल संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघाच्या छत्राखाली प्रसिध्द होतात आणि अहवाल लिहणाऱ्या गटात जगभरातील वैज्ञानिकांबरोबरच जगभरातील देशांचे प्रतिनिधीही सहभागी असतात. त्यामुळे जे मुद्दे काही देशांच्या शासनांना गैरसोयीचे वाटत असतील ते या अहवालात सौम्यपणे मांडले जातात किंवा काही उल्लेख गाळलेही जातात. तेव्हा हे अहवाल एक सौम्य चित्र मांडत असतात, प्रत्यक्षातली स्थिती याहून अधिक आव्हानात्मक असू शकते हे लक्षात घेणे आवश्यक आहे. आत्तापर्यंतच्या पाचही अहवालांच्या बाबतीत अनुभव हाच आहे, की अहवाल प्रसिध्द झाल्यावर बऱ्याच लोकांना तो फार घाबरवून टाकणारा वाटला, त्यावर तशी टीकाही झाली. पण पुढे जाऊन अहवालात वर्तवलेले अंदाज प्रत्यक्षात उतरताना अधिक जलद आणि अधिक तीव्र होऊन आले. आत्ताही हे घडू शकते हे लक्षात ठेऊन या अहवालाकडे पहायला हवे.

या अहवालात तीन महत्त्वाच्या गोष्टी मांडलेल्या आहेत.

एक म्हणजे जागतिक वातावरण बदलाची आजची जी स्थिती आहे ती मानवी कृत्यांमुळेच उद्भवलेली आहे असे हा अहवाल ठामपणे म्हणतो. यापूर्वीच्या अहवालामध्ये याबद्दल दाट शक्यता आहे असे म्हटले गेले होते, पण आता मानवी जगातील घडामोडी आणि वातावरणात उष्णता धरून ठेवणाऱ्या हरितगृह वायूंचे वाढते प्रमाण यांच्यातील संबंध वैज्ञानिक पध्दतीने निर्विवाद सिध्द झालेला आहे. मानवी कृत्यांमुळे काय घडले आहे – तर औद्योगीकरणापूर्वीच्या तुलनेत वातावरणातील हरितगृह वायूंचे प्रमाण जवळजवळ दीडपटीने वाढले आहे आणि त्यामुळे पृथ्वीचे सरासरी तापमानही १ अंश सेल्सिअसपेक्षा जास्त वाढलेले आहे.

अहवालातला दुसरा महत्त्वाचा निष्कर्ष म्हणजे अगदी उद्यापासून जरी आपण हरितगृह वायूंचे उत्सर्जन थांबवले तरी आत्तापर्यंत झालेल्या बदलांमुळे २०५० पर्यंत पृथ्वीचे सरासरी तापमान १.५ अंश सेल्सिअसला पोहचेल असे दिसते. २०१५ साली जगभरातील सर्व देशांनी एकत्र येऊन पॅरीस करार केला. त्यात २१०० सालापर्यंत पृथ्वीचे तापमान २ अंशाच्या खाली आणि शक्यतो १.५ अंशापर्यंत मर्यादित ठेऊ असे अभिवचन सर्व देशांच्या शासनकर्त्यांनी जगाला दिले होते. पण तापमानवाढीचा वेग इतका मंदावणे आता अशक्य नसले तरी प्रचंड आव्हानात्मक होऊन बसले आहे हे यावरून लक्षात येते.

अहवालातला तिसरा निष्कर्ष आपण पुढे काय करायला हवे हे खूप स्पष्टपणे सांगतो. पुढच्या पाच ते सहा वर्षांमध्ये दर वर्षी होणाऱ्या हरितगृह वायूंच्या उत्सर्जनात घट करायलाच हवी. हे नाही केले तर कदाचित पुढच्या दहाबारा वर्षांतच १.५ अंश सेल्सिअसची पातळी ओलांडली जाईल. आता हातात वेळ फार कमी उरलेला आहे त्यामुळे सामोपचाराने सर्वांच्या कलाकलाने अर्थव्यवस्थांमधील बड्या धेंडांना आंजारत गोंजारत छोटे छोटे बदल वगैरे करण्याची वेळ निघून गेली आहे.

औद्योगीकरणापूर्वीच्या पृथ्वीच्या सरासरी तापमानाच्या (निळी रेघ) तुलनेत
तापमानात आजपर्यंत होत गेलेली वाढ (स्रोत - विकीपिडिया) 

१.५ अंश सेल्सिअस हा काय जादूई आकडा आहे, असा काहींना प्रश्न पडू शकतो. पृथ्वीच्या सरासरी तापमानात साधारण १ अंश सेल्सिअसची वाढ झाल्यापासूनच ठिकठिकाणी वातावरण बदलाचे परिणाम प्रकर्षाने जाणवू लागले. दुष्काळ अधिक तीव्र होणे, पावसाचे चक्र बिनसून अगदी कमी कालावधीत अतिवृष्टी किंवा अतिहिमवर्षाव होणे, उन्हाळ्यात उष्णतेच्या तर हिवाळ्यात कडाक्याच्या थंडीच्या लाटा येणे, वणवे लागणे व ते झपाट्याने पसरणे, ध्रुवीय प्रदेशांत बर्फ कमी कमी होणे, हिमनद्या वितळणे, महासागरांची पातळी वाढून किनारपट्ट्यांचे भूस्खलन होणे, चक्रीवादळांची तीव्रता आणि वारंवारता वाढणे, टोळधाडींचे तसेच स्थानिक पातळीवर येणाऱ्या साथीच्या रोगांचे प्रमाण व व्याप्ती वाढणे, अशा अनेक घटना या शतकाच्या सुरुवातीपासून अधिकाधिक होत गेल्या आहेत. अशा प्रत्येक घटनेमुळे जीवितहानी होते तसेच आर्थिक नुकसानही होते. एका विशिष्ट पातळीपर्यंतची नुकसानी व्यक्तिगत रित्या काही लोकांना उध्वस्त करून टाकणारी असली तरी त्यामुळे सर्व मानवी समाज कोलमडून पडणार नाही. पण नुकसानीची ही पातळी ओलांडली गेली, खूप मोठ्या संख्येने लोकांचे व्यक्तिगत मोठे नुकसान झाले, तर मात्र स्थानिक पातळीवरील सामाजिक, आर्थिक, राजकीय, इ. सर्व यंत्रणा पूर्णतः कोलमडून पडतील. १.५ अंश सेल्सिअस इतकी सरासरी तापमानवाढ ही जागतिक दृष्ट्या या पातळीशी जोडलेली आहे. पृथ्वी यापेक्षा जास्त तापली तर जगभर होणारे आघात इतके मोठे असतील की संपूर्ण जगाच्या पातळीवर मानवी समाजव्यवस्थाच कोलमडून पडेल आणि अब्जावधी माणसांचे जीव जातील. काही वैज्ञानिकांच्या मते या घटनांमुळे या शतकातच संपूर्ण मानव प्रजाती विनाशाच्या उंबरठ्यावर येऊन पोहचेल. म्हणून तापमानवाढ या मर्यादेच्या आत रोखणे अत्यावश्यक बनले आहे.

हा अहवाल सर्वांना पटेल अशा सौम्य भाषेत लिहिला जात असूनही त्यात वातावरण बदलावर नियंत्रण ठेवण्यासाठी झपाट्याने आणि मोठे बदल करण्याची गरज व्यक्त केली गेली आहे हे लक्षात घ्यायला हवे. कोणत्याही राज्यकर्त्यांना अशा बदलांचे वावडे असते पण तरीही अहवालातील ही शब्दरचना मान्य केली गेली आहे. कारण आता खरोखरच पुढची पाच-सहा वर्षेच आपल्या हातात आहेत. म्हणजेच आज जे लोक जगभरातील राजकारणात सक्रीय आहेत त्यांना त्यांच्या कारकिर्दीतच या साऱ्याबाबत निर्णय घ्यायचे आहेत आणि त्या निर्णयांची जबाबदारीही घ्यावी लागणार आहे. त्यामुळे आता मोठे बदल करायची वेळ आलेली असताना हे आम्ही स्वतःहून करत नाही तर आयपीसीसी म्हणते आहे म्हणून करतो आहोत हे म्हणण्याची पळवाट स्वतःसाठी निर्माण करणे त्यांना आवश्यक वाटले असावे. यावरून परिस्थितीची गांभीर्य आपण समजून घ्यायला हवे.

अहवालाच्या सौम्य भाषेमुळे झाकल्या गेलेल्या दोन महत्त्वाच्या गोष्टीही आपण समजून घेणे आवश्यक आहे.

एक म्हणजे अहवालात म्हटलेली मानवी कृत्ये म्हणजे नेमके काय. वातावरण बदलाच्या समस्येचे अपराधी जगभरातील सर्व माणसे नाहीत तर काही मूठभर लोकांचे हे पाप आहे. हरितगृह वायूंचे वाढते उत्सर्जन हे औद्योगीकरण आणि खनिज इंधनांचा वापर यांच्याशी जोडलेले आहे. त्यामुळे गेल्या तीनेकशे वर्षांमध्ये औद्योगीकरणात व खनिज इंधनांच्या निर्मिती व वापरात आघाडीवर असलेल्यांनी ही जागतिक समस्या निर्माण केली आहे. ढोबळ मानाने म्हणायचे तर जगातील विकसित देशांवर याची जबाबदारी जास्त आहे पण व्यापक दृष्टीने पाहिले तर विकसनशील देशांमधीलही औद्योगीकरणाच्या आधाराने सधन आणि सबळ झालेला वर्गही यासाठी जबाबदार आहे. त्यामुळे इतिहास व वर्तमानातल्या काही मानवांच्या कृत्यांचे परिणाम वर्तमान व भविष्यातील सर्व माणसांना भोगायला लागणार आहेत असे म्हणणे जास्त सयुक्तिक ठरेल. त्याचबरोबर वातावरण बदलाच्या परिणामांचा फटका ज्यांचे या समस्येत काहीच योगदान नाही त्यांनाच सर्वात जास्त बसतो आहे हीही वस्तुस्थिती ठळकपणे अधोरेखित करायला हवी. त्यामुळे जागतिक पातळीवरील सर्व सधन व सुखवस्तू समूहांनी आपण निर्माण केलेल्या या संकटाच्या निवारणासाठीही पुढाकार घेणे आवश्यक आहे. दुर्दैवाने गेल्या कित्येक दशकांपासून ही वस्तुस्थिती माहीत असूनही धनदांडग्यांनी सर्वसाधारणतः आपल्या जबाबदारीपासून पळ तरी काढलेला आहे किंवा जबाबदारी मान्य करूनही पुरेशा उपाययोजना करण्याचे टाळलेले आहे. म्हणूनच आजची आणीबाणी निर्माण झाली आहे.

या अहवालातून पुढे येणारी आणखी एक महत्त्वाची बाब म्हणजे तुम्ही आणि मी घरातले जुने दिवे बदलून एलइडी दिवे वापरणे आणि आपल्या दैनंदिन सवयींमध्ये बदल करणे आवश्यक असले तरी आता तेवढे पुरेसे नाही. जागतिक तापमानवाढीचा उधळलेला वारू रोखायचा असेल तर जागतिक पातळीवर अर्थकारण, उद्योगधंद्यांचे स्वरूप, ऊर्जाप्रणाली, मूलभूत संसाधनांचा वापर, इ सर्व यंत्रणांमध्ये आमूलाग्र बदल व्हायला हवेत आणि हे बदल करायला आता फक्त पाच-सहा वर्षेच हातात आहेत. हे बदल करत असताना आधीच संकटांच्या ओझ्याखाली दबलेल्या समाजातील अविकसित घटकांवर आणखी अन्याय होणार नाही याचीही काळजी घ्यावी लागेल. ज्ञानाचे जागतिकीकरण आणि संसाधनांच्या वापराचे स्थानिकीकरण या ढोबळ दिशेने आपण गेलो तर वातावरण बदल आटोक्यात तर ठेवता येईलच पण मानवी समाजात आज निर्माण झालेली पराकोटीची विषमता कमी करण्याच्या दृष्टीनेही वाटचाल करता येईल आणि आता अपरिहार्य असलेल्या तापमानवाढीचे जे काही परिणाम होणार आहेत त्यांची दुर्बल घटकांना लागणारी झळही कमी होईल. जागतिक समाजातील राजकीय व आर्थिक ताकद ज्यांच्या हातात एकवटलेली आहे त्यांना यासाठी आपली मानसिकता व कामाची पध्दत पूर्णतः बदलावी लागेल.

जगभरात या विषयावर उभ्या राहिलेल्या तरूणांच्या चळवळींना आयपीसीसीच्या या अहवालामुळे वैज्ञानिक पाठिंबा मिळालेला आहे. तरूणांनी रस्त्यावर उतरू नये, शाळा-कॉलेजचे शिक्षण घ्यावे इ. उपदेशाचे डोस पाजणाऱ्यांनी हे लक्षात घ्यायला हवे. पुढच्या दहा वर्षांत जर तापमानवाढ धोक्याची पातळी ओलांडणार असेल तर आज शाळा-कॉलेजात जाऊन मिळवलेल्या पुस्तकी ज्ञानाची किंमत कवडीमोल असणार आहे. आज रस्त्यावर उतरून आवश्यक बदलांसाठी झगडणे ही या तरूणांची अस्तित्वाची लढाई आहे. सर्व वयोगटातल्या आणि सर्व जगातल्या सूज्ञ माणसांनी हे आवश्यक बदल घडवून आणण्यासाठी सक्रीय पुढाकार घेतला तर तरूणांना रस्त्यावर यावे लागणार नाही. तेव्हा आपण आपली स्वतःची जीवनशैली तर बदलूयाच पण आपल्या व्यवसायाच्या ठिकाणी तसेच आपल्या स्थानिक प्रशासनांकडे पर्यावरणपूरक बदलांसाठी आग्रह धरूया. एकजुटीने धोरणात्मक बदलांच्या मागण्या सर्व पातळ्यांवर लावून धरूया. व्यापक व दूरगामी धोरणात्मक बदलांसाठी लढणाऱ्या व्यक्ती आणि संस्थांच्या खच्चीकरणाचे प्रयत्न हाणून पाडूया.  


प्रियदर्शिनी कर्वे
संचालक
समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक


#BeModernBeResponsibleBeRespectful
    
Samuchit Enviro Tech.     samuchit@samuchit.com     www.samuchit.com 


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_02: Battle of India's Survival

 Since January 2021, I am writing on Environment and Science in the 'Chatusutra' weekly column of Loksatta, a Marathi language newspaper. This weekly series contains four different themes being written by four different authors in a four-week cycle. My first article was published on the second Wednesday of the year, and thereafter my articles are coming every four weeks. One of the request from the readers has been to provide English translations for those who are not able to read Marathi. Meera Rotti took on the task to do this, and therefore I am launching this monthly mini-series. Every month, I will post the English translation of one article in the same chronological order that the Marathi articles have been published in Loksatta. 

Link to previous post: SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus? (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)


02. Battle of India's Survival

The original Marathi article published on 10 Feb 2021 can be found HERE.  


On 20th January, 2021 Joseph Biden took charge as President of the USA, and on his very first day of work he initiated the process of bringing the USA back into Paris Agreement. The treaty adopted by 196 parties in the global conference on climate change that was convened by the UN in Paris in 2015 is known as the “Paris Agreement”. The USA, under the leadership of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, had played an instrumental role in negotiating the terms of this treaty. Obama's successor Donald Trump, whose win in 2016 was quite unexpected, was part of the climate denier community in the USA, and soon withdrew the USA from the pact. The new president Joe Biden has taken a number of strategically important policy decisions for climate change mitigation within first 10 days of assuming the office. This clearly indicates that bringing the USA back into Paris agreement is not just a token move in global politics.

Although the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, it officially comes into force from this year. Participation of the USA in this treaty is crucial for achieving the targets agreed in the pact.

Climate Change Crisis emerged over the course of industrialization driven by fossil fuels. Developed countries that have utilized the fossil fuels without any restraint over the last 150 years, and the countries which mine these fuels bear the maximum responsibility for creation of the global crisis. Though the industrial revolution originated in Europe, the USA accelerated its pace to the peak in the 20th century, and is also amongst the key producers of petroleum and coal. Though today it has been outpaced by China in industrialization, it still remains the second highest contributor to climate change. If the European union along with UK is considered as a single entity, then they are the 3rd and India is the 4th highest contributor to this crisis at present.

If the key problem creators are not involved in the process of resolving a problem, the chances of resolution fade away. This is exactly what happened in the case of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. This Protocol obligated 37 developed countries to reduce their contribution to climate change to safeguard the world from an impending crisis. However, when it came to actual adoption of this protocol the USA revoked their decision of commitment, and subsequently none of the parties delivered on their agreed terms. Failure of this deal necessitated another pact.

The global crisis that seemed as a lurking problem in the late 1990s has now struck us with conspicuous signs. If the annual volume of fossil fuels, which continues its trajectory upwards, does not start to decline over the next 10 years, we will have to face catastrophic climatic changes at the end of this century. This precarious situation compels all the nations - whether among the primary contributors to climate change, or not - to be party to the Paris agreement.

China, EU and India showed a positive attitude towards the Paris Agreement; however, the sudden withdrawal of the USA had left them in the lurch. In that sense, existence of the entire human civilization was at stake in the 2020 presidential elections of the USA. Defeat of Trump has made wise people all over the world heave a sigh of relief.

These events are indeed positive from India’s perspective, and at the same time add to our responsibility. While India is one of the top 5 current contributors to climate change, it also ranks amongst the first 10 countries most vulnerable to the crisis. No other country faces this kind of a conundrum.

As a part of enforcement of the Paris agreement, India has been mainly focused on increasing the share of renewable energy in electricity generation. The efforts are on track towards the set target; however, according to some experts, the target itself is set considerably below the capacity and scope. Expanding the forest cover is also one of the commitments by India under the Paris Agreement. Misleading calculations by including agroforestry and fruit orchards under forest cover are being used to create an impression of the target being reached. However, in reality this is not going to achieve the desired end result as long as encroachment and destruction of natural habitats continues relentlessly leading to shrinkage of the true forest cover.

India has a vast coastal belt which is home to nearly 40% of its population. Sea-level rise induced by global warming is going to affect this population. The northern perennial rivers, which have enabled our food security, originate in the Himalayas. Global warming is causing melting of the glaciers, which are the origin of these rivers. Due to this, by the time the much-touted river-linking project is completed, the rivers in the North India will run dry, rather than having excess water to transfer to the southern drought-prone river basins. Climate change has led to an increase in the intensity as well as frequency of disasters like hurricanes, locust-attacks, forest fires etc. Weather-cycle too has altered. Excessive rainfall events are happening more often, and the dry spell between them is also increasing. Adverse effects of these are seen on agricultural and industrial activities as well as on cities and towns. Intensity of such events is only going to increase in the upcoming years which can severely damage the economic, social and political systems of India.

The wrath of the climate change impacts will have to be faced primarily by farmers, fishermen, tribals, daily wagers as well as the disabled, women, elderly, and children across all sections of the society. The situation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic will be repeated during such circumstances. Those who created the problem - the urban rich (international travelers in the context of COVID, people with fossil energy driven lifestyle in the context of climate change) - will be able to protect themselves from such blows; however, those who had nothing to do with the problem will be the most vulnerable to a series of catastrophic impacts. This will result in a surge of helpless refugees.

What can we do today to avert this destructive future? Urban privileged citizens should introspect about their energy consumption. It is crucial to limit and optimize the use of energy, and also to use renewable energy as much as possible. The same principle applies to use of all resources and services as well. Furthermore, anticipating possible effects on the local ecosystem, and designing and implementing appropriate community-level emergency response systems can prove extremely beneficial. Nevertheless, only individual and community efforts cannot mitigate climate change crisis. These must be actively supplemented by science based and prudent policies.

Unfortunately, government policies are not shaped by recommendations from scientists. They are largely influenced by voters’ aspirations, or extreme pressure from either big business interests or international community. India’s climate action policies are largely shaped by the pressure of international politics. Safeguarding weaker sections of the society from the adverse impacts of climate change has never been high up on the global political agenda, and so is the case with India’s climate agenda. Most of the Indians are not even aware of the intensity and scope of the problems arising from Climate Change coming our way. As a result, they are also not vocal about it.

Shifting away from destructive policies chasing delusional developmental dreams cannot be expected from a political system that is at the mercy of oil, coal, and construction businesses. Public pressure is indeed crucial in bringing about the change. From this perspective, creating awareness among the adult citizens - the voters of today - is extremely necessary. Those who understand the gravity of the problems should persistently follow up with the representatives from local to national government bodies for changes in policy-making. This is the true battle we need to fight for India’s survival.

 

Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Internship Encounters - Carbon Neutral Freshers' Party

 Dear All, 

Last time I shared an incident from one of our interns during her internship survey. You can check out the blog here. The same intern Tejaswini Datar writes again to talk about one of her interesting encounters like having a Carbon Neutral Freshers' Party. 

Check it out, how aiming at Carbon Neutral helps a long way in making conscious decisions in everything that we do in a way to make the world a better place to live.   



Freshers' Party Decoration

Our class once had a lecture by Dr. Priyadarshani Karve ma'am. The lecture was so inspiring that at the end of it our perspective changed drastically. We casually started throwing words like primary, secondary, tertiary scopes of carbon footprint. We started carpooling more. Hangout places were changed. Everyone double checked the light, fan switches leaving any room. We started consuming less electricity, started thinking about how to reduce the waste we generate. The whole class decided to start being more careful about our next steps to reduce carbon footprint. (get it?!) That change was subconscious. I remember buying something and contemplating my options over material, origin of the product, manufacturing, lifespan and decomposition period. It was just a T-shirt! 


Amidst of all this, someone suggested we throw our freshers a party, a zero-carbon party! We considered everything. Including invitations, preparation, decoration, catering, transport, entertainment, party favours, wrapping paper, bags, energy consumption, utilization of resources, end result, decomposition, wastage etc. What could be considered? What comes under which scope? We wanted to ensure zero carbon emission. It was an ambitious plan which didn’t work out exactly, but we figured if not a zero carbon party, we would settle for a carbon neutral party. 

(Need help to simplify definitions)
Zero carbon means that no carbon emissions are being produced from a product or service. This may be ensured by using totally renewable resources and energy through the lifecycle of the product or the service.
Carbon neutral means that while some emissions are being generated by a building or a process, these emissions are balanced by being offset somewhere else, making the net emissions zero.
Carbon offsetting is basically a process where organisations and individuals ‘balance’ out their carbon footprints by financing emission reductions elsewhere, which can ‘offset’ their own activities and emissions.  

After A LOT of planning and organizing our game plan was ready. We wanted an environment friendly party but not a shoddy, tawdry affair. Because, izzat ka sawal tha! We opted for locally sourced goods, local caterer (walking distance), reusable, washable utensils. People were instructed not to waste food. It was subtly monitored. Leftover food was carefully collected and donated to needy people. No wastage there! Waste paper was reused for planning, invitations, coupons, gift wrapping, decoration, etc. Every paper used in the party was reused. Reminders were sent digitally. Electricity consumption was minutely observed. Carpooling with nearby colleagues reduced the number of cars thus reducing GHG emission. A happy accident happened as a result because people mingled with new people and not just their usual group. Entertainment, games were either propless or organised with reused materials. Gift favours were a small tulsi plant. 

We had a blast! It was a great party! When we started out, we aimed for zero carbon, settled for carbon neutral, and ended up with a low carbon party. We had a great time, but our attempt was not totally successful. We genuinely worked so hard and at the end, we were faced with harsh reality. This was the result after a lot of planning and hard work. We realised that doing all these couldn’t achieve zero carbon, what would have happened if we hadn't even taken these measures?! What happens when we don’t apply some thought in our everyday chores? The realization was horrifying. We are failing by not taking preventive measures. We are already late to the party, soon, it would be too late to do anything about it. So, come on, let’s do this together. Let’s make our world better! Offer our future generation to inherit a better environment to survive, to grow and to party!!

                                                                                                                   Author: Tejaswini Datar

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Internship Encounters - Memories from Before Covid Times!



Internship work is fun... most of the time!

 Dear All, 

Sharing an incident by Architect Tejaswini Datar while she was interning with us. She along with other fellow interns conducted a socio economic survey for our Sustainably Smart Pune project. She narrates one of her experiences during the survey. 

Here it goes...

This is the story of a day of my internship I would never forget.

I was doing an internship under the guidance of Dr. Priyadarshini Karve ma'am as a part of my post-graduation in environmental architecture. We learned so much from Dr. Karve ma'am for which we are forever grateful. Our mentor taught us not just about the carbon auditing, self-sustaining lifestyle and practical application of such environmental concepts, but also how to see the big picture. We were part of a study that sought to define Sustainably smart city. To make such a proposal, we needed to understand 'people'. We were tasked to conduct surveys to understand the choices people make based on their perception, necessities, priorities, convenience and routine. For example: Someone driving a petrol fuelled four-wheeler for an hour and half to drive their young kid to primary school, taking a big detour on the way to their office, seems very bad at the outset. But their choice may be based on - 1. Desirable schools are just that far away. 2. Travelling by bus in rush hour is tedious. 3. Not comfortable about safety and hygiene a school bus offers. 4. Convenience of leaving at your own time. 5. Four-wheeler is just more comfortable for driving that far. 6. Comforts of air conditioned, non-polluted air. 7. Extra time with family. 8. We don't want to get tired before even reaching our destination. 9. We do a lot of other stuff to protect the environment, so let this one vice slide.... These are some of the reasons which are absolutely valid or at least understandable. Many of the choices we make have a negative impact on the environment. We exist, we consume, we hurt mother nature. We have to take steps to reduce that impact and make more positive outcomes. To study and understand such issues, to figure out what civic systems will encourage more eco-friendly behaviour, we conducted a survey of around 500 families, from different parts of Pune.

So, there we were, out in the world, to make some sense of the current situation. We were prepared. We went through our questionnaire, made it easier, simpler, to the point of better understanding. We interviewed each other to understand how people will react, what would be their questions? We practiced explaining why certain questions were asked. We were ready. We went in a group (safety first), always at the door, never went in, always after morning rush or after the 1 O'clock nap time (we were in Pune, we knew better than to disturb them between 1-4 PM). Our smile and patience would put the stewardess to shame. But nothing would have prepared me for what came next.

Nearing the end of our assignment, I was allocated an affluent area, which consists mainly of Army families. Army families are by default more concerned about their responsibility towards society in general. I hit a JACKPOT! Most of the families welcomed us with open arms, asked if we would like some water, where are we from, what is the project about, what more they can do to help, what they can do on their level, etc.

One person I interviewed was a little tricky. We met at her doorstep. I introduced myself and explained the purpose of our survey. Showed my ID card, verification contact numbers, etc. She was busy and asked us to leave the form and to come the next day to collect it. So far, many people entertained us, some agreed to take a survey, some rudely declined, some declined politely, some offered water and listened to us, some were even more welcoming but that's not always the case. So, when she said she was busy but would like to take the survey, even offered to write down the details herself, I was ecstatic.

The next day was a different story. The next day, I went to her place to collect the form. She opened the door and grabbed me inside. I was there with my two friends and was the only one pulled inside, and the door was closed leaving my two friends dumbfounded. I politely asked to let me out or at least keep the door open. She was having none of it and started interrogating me. I consider myself to be brave when needed and I have no shame admitting that at that point I was on the verge of panic. I tried calmly to ask her what the issue was. She was apparently suspicious about our motives.

I assured her that none of the information would be disclosed. “If you are still not comfortable, ask us why such and such question. If you don't feel comfortable don't give specifics, like name and address and income, just don't mention it on the form. We would like to understand how much income plays a part in your choices. We will just mention Mr. ABC, living at XYZ chooses this..... - (Not based on income, little/more influenced by income). Usually we fill out the forms, if you would like to see what we have noted down, we are happy to oblige. If you would like to verify our details, here are numbers of our teacher, college office and internship office. If you are still not convinced about our intentions, we would answer any other query you have. If you still don't believe us, well then, that’s still okay, we will move on, you have yourself a good day!” Nope! Nothing worked!

At that point I was in flight or fight mode. I left the form and our internship details in her hand (we were meant to provide those if asked), said my thanks and dashed towards the door. I made it to the door before she could catch up. Found my friends, on their phone, ready to call for help. Fortunately, we all left unscathed.

Party after the work was done!

Despite this traumatic event, I was not about to lose hope. We had our target, omitting that area wouldn't have given us an accurate conclusion. There was no way around it. So, we pulled ourselves and went ahead. Unfortunately, the lady had called ahead and warned a few of her neighbours to not entertain us. Our request was shot down multiple times. Doors were shut even seeing us approaching. We were discouraged but our spirits were lifted by a very kind, old home owner. 

He understood my position, offered me some water and advice. He said that army families are known for their service to the community but also for their vigilance. She may be right at her place to question my intentions. I totally agreed with him. Although I would have much appreciated if the conversation happened in front of my team and out in the open. I would have been more relaxed about her intentions too and would have tried to explain even longer. We both laughed and moved on.

Turns out this interviewee was a proud ex-army grandfather, whose two sons, a daughter and a daughter in law were in the army. He eagerly showed us all the systems he installed to make his home more sustainable. His family was aiming to become a self-sustainable and carbon neutral family. He was researching solar electricity generators. The problem was the required space as it was already crowded with a solar water heater system in his new home, constructed with sustainable materials and methods. He was also looking for a natural air purification method to go with his viticulture garden. His motivation behind all this is just so he could contribute more to his country. He was asking what more he could do to help (!!!). He insisted on keeping a few forms with him, so he could help spread the word. He put a good word about me to some of his neighbours. His enthusiasm was endearing and energizing. We all could learn from him.

It is not enough to say that we do some of the eco-friendly things. It is high time we do ALL the things and then some more.

Author: Tejaswini Datar

Monday, June 14, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus?

Since January 2021, I am writing on Environment and Science in the 'Chatusutra' weekly column of Loksatta, a Marathi language newspaper. This weekly series contains four different themes being written by four different authors in a four-week cycle. My first article was published on the second Wednesday of the year, and thereafter my articles are coming every four weeks. One of the request from the readers has been to provide English translations for those who are not able to read Marathi. Meera Rotti took on the task to do this, and therefore I am launching this monthly mini-series. Every month, I will post the English translation of one article in the same chronological order that the Marathi articles have been published in Loksatta. 


01. Is Human A Virus?

The original Marathi article published on 13 Jan 2021 can be found HERE.  


The year 2020 compelled the urban upper middleclass Indians take cognizance of two invisible forces driving their lives. One is the urban labour force. Most of the urban Indians realized during the lockdown that this is the key driver of their daily lives in and out of their homes. One visible outcome of this realization can be seen in advertisements. Scenes of masters behaving courteously with their servants, who in turn are ecstatic with gratitude are being depicted in advertisements of a lot of products. Of course, the target audience of such advertisements is certainly not the labour class but their masters who have not lost their wealth even during this economic slowdown. In reality the interrelation between people from across the socio-economic strata is much more complex than this current oversimplified depiction. Social scientists can certainly evaluate this phenomenon better than me; however, what I contemplate long and hard about is the realization of the second force by the urban upper middle class.

A few weeks into the lockdown, and people suddenly started noticing different birds, animals, insects etc., in their vicinity. They sensed a drop in air pollution levels, and also observed water in rivers and lakes to be cleaner. In that initial period, practically the entire world was under lockdown. Reports of noticeable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as claimed by many scientists, were rife in media. Such news reports too have influenced the mindset of the Indian upper middle class. Along with the awakening of our sense of social interconnectedness, sensitivity to our relationship with the natural surroundings has also heightened as a result of all of this. Environment, climate change etc., are more mainstream topics now, and more people are now voluntarily asking what they can and should do to conserve the environment. Though this is indeed a welcome change, there is nothing substantial to be found if you scratch the surface.

It has taken nearly 4.5 billion years for the Earth to attain its current geographical and atmospheric state. The most extraordinary event in our solar system has been the emergence and evolution of life and in turn the emergence and evolution of humans on the Earth. Even the living world in its current form is a result of 4.5 billion years of complex interconnected processes. Based on available evidence, our species, homo sapiens, has existed for two hundred thousand years. We are a part of what we call as environment, and at the same time we are quite separate from it. The relationship between our species and the earth is a very old and complex phenomenon. However, just as the advertisers have oversimplified the newly awakened social sensitivity of the urban rich, the new-found interest in environment of this same class, which also happens to be financially as well as politically powerful, is also being oversimplified.  

Half knowledge is worse than ignorance. This newly awakened community is seeking to become a quick savior of the world without diving deep into understanding the interrelationships. As a result, tokenism is flourishing faster now. Those who benefit from rampant degradation of environment may well flaunt decorative pieces made from recycled plastic in their homes, but this does not contribute to the conservation of the environment. However, what is even more worrisome is that this new-found bond with nature is not only superficial but also insensitive.

‘Human’ is a virus infecting the earth, Covid-19 pandemic is a lesson nature has taught to the savage ‘humans’, these and many such statements have been made by many in the past year. Some of those who expressed themselves in this fashion have a good name in the field of environmental conservation. I have only one question for all of them - What exactly do you understand by ‘Human’? Is human a homogeneous species?

Between a tribal woman living in a shanty in the poorest country running her home using resources available within her walking distance and a business tycoon living in a grand villa in one of the wealthiest cities of the world spreads the nearly 8 billion human population of the earth. This is just the socio-economic diversity. Apart from this, there is also a socio-cultural diversity among human beings.

The spread of the virus was significantly higher among the people in low-income settlements of our cities. The extreme measure of imposing a harsh lockdown to curb the spread of the virus dealt a blow to the livelihoods of millions of migrant workers. On the contrary, secured income sources never dried up for those who could work from home. They even got plenty of time to shower virtual hearts, kisses and thumbs-ups on phony social media messages dripping with love for the environment. There were many who could have been knocked over by the pandemic but managed to survive by leveraging their own courage, ingenuity coupled with some luck. We saw many of those who could have stayed secure inside their houses, getting down to ground zero to help the distressed. But these were exceptions rather than the norm. Then who is this virus in human form and who is being punished? Cannot we see how ironical as well as insensitive it is that those secured inside their cocoons built by consuming more than their fair share of natural resources are scorning the hardships of the destitute as a fitting punishment?

On this background, an event that took place in the world of science in 2020 deserves a mention.

Geologists use a system of dating that describes the geologic history of the Earth. This system labels every transition period of the earth with a specific name. Since the last Ice Age ended about eleven and a half thousand years ago, the climate of the earth has mostly remained stable. This epoch is known as Holocene. Due to favourable and stable climate many human groups transitioned from hunter gatherer lifestyle to agrarian lifestyle, which in turn gave rise to various human civilizations. Interactions of these civilizations over hundreds of years has led to today’s multi-faceted and yet homogeneous global social-economic-political system.

However, in the last few decades, Earth’s atmosphere, that has so far been in an equilibrium favourable for us, is rapidly changing. This has led to a rise in the global mean temperature, and has in turn disrupted the weather cycle. Key reason for such a disruption is the frenetic pace of industrialization under a global economy driven by fossil fuels. Along with climate change, our agricultural, construction and mining activities are also altering the geological systems above and below the surface of the land. Consequently, natural balance in the living world is also getting disturbed leading to extinction of many species. Even our own species faces the same threat.

Towards end of the 20th century, it was proposed that Holocene epoch had ended and a time in which humans are directly impacting the environment - called Anthropocene - has started. To decide whether to accept this proposition or not, a committee of geologists was formed which has arrived at a conclusion which is likely to be announced in 2021.

This is not just a scientific curiosity. This thought has echoes in various other fields. While formally accepting the nomenclature for the present times as Anthropocene, it must not be forgotten that the diverse human groups on the earth do not have the same ecological impacts. Studies conducted from various perspectives have shown that the actions of past and present rich and upper middleclass people are more responsible for the blows delivered to the balance of nature. To maintain the environment in a condition to support human life, we now need a total reconstruction of all our economic, social and political paradigms. Will the environmental consciousness awakened among the urban upper middle class of India during the Covid-19 pandemic break free from tokenism and pursue this path?


Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti


Monday, May 10, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Earth Week Summit 2021

Dear All,

Collage of screenshots taken during the webinar


Happy to update you all, in case if you missed our week long Earth Summit on keeping the Earth day momentum going. We at Samuchit Enviro Tech, Laya Resource Centre and the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) , undertook this week long initiative to elaborate on creating environmental consciousness and action as we believe every day is Earth day.  

Some organizations who have been working closely with us, partnered with us for this week long summit. Our partners and collaborators were Climate Collective Pune(CCP), OrjaBox, VaayuMitra, Rupa Rahul Bajaj Centre for Environment and Arts (RRBCEA), Zillionth Bistro and Black Gold.  

The week long summit started on the 19th April and went on till 24th of April, 2021. Each day we organized some activity on specific topics to promote thinking consciously about sustainable options as a solution to the current environmental crises. We all are well aware of the dreadful impacts happening on Earth due to our actions, we know the problem and the causes. Its time we start taking the right actions for the right cause and make our planet sustainably habitable for all.   

I introduced all, with a warm welcome (as the temperatures are rising :P) and a video showing what all progress humans have made in the last 50 years, since the first Earth day (22nd April, 1970).  Dr Priyadarshini Karve, opened the summit week with her crisp and clear presentation on Earth Friendly Economy. The current economic model is driven by the pursuit of exploitative growth with the least consideration for the people and the planet. Hence there is a need to shift to a model of growth that is sustainable for all. Aditi Kale from CCP moderated the question-answer component and concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here.

The second day was focused on Renewable Energy (RE) and its applications within the home. A young entrepreneur from CCP Siddarth Bhagwat opened the session with a video showing off his new e-bike the Ather 450x. You can watch the video here. Siddarth then introduced the speakers:Vishakha Chandhere from OrjaBox, who showcased how solar cookers can be effectively used for cooking and how all of us can contribute to using clean cooking options, Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe from VaayuMitra, who spoke about his model on using kitchen waste for generating biogas, another clean cooking fuel alternative, and Isha Vyawahare from Black gold who presented the making of Biochar (new black gold) from dried leaves (biomass) using Samuchit's Trashflasher kiln. We had some interesting questions and answers post presentations! It looked like a lot of people would like to adopt these practices in their day to day life in order to lead a sustainable lifestyle. Kedar Champhekar from RRBCEA concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here.

The third day of the summit was focused on Sustainable Water management. Saili Jahagirdar Mirikar  of Zillionth Bistro (the cafe with an upcylced decor) welcomed the crowd and spoke about her café where you can see upcycling in practice. Here's the link to check out her café! She introduced Col. Shashikant Dalvi, an ex-armyman who set up rainwater harvesting system in his society and made the society water tanker free. He shared his experience and also explained how tapping rainwater is the need of the day. Then Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe of VaayuMitra spoke about managing household sewage water through the biogas technology. Both these ways of managing water are climate friendly as well. Isha Vyawahare of Black Gold concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here. 

Before the start of the Earth Week Summit, we had requested people to send us 1 min action videos showcasing sustainable practices in their daily lives. We received overwhelming response from the kids of Bal Bharti School, Dwarka, Delhi and a few citizens. A few of the good quality videos with a clear messaging were compiled together in a single video. We acknowledge everyone's effort in contributing towards the Earth Week Summit Action video activity.  On the fourth day of the summit, which also happened to be the Earth Day itself, we premiered the video compilation. To watch the movie. Click here. 

On the fifth day, we participated in the final webinar in a series of three webinars on Climate Resilient Architecture organized in association with Dr Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture (BNCA). This consisted of a panel discussion on building sustainable cities. You can watch the live streaming on INECC's Facebook page Click here.

The sixth and the last day of the Summit was all about basking in nature's glory through literary reads. Date with Nature is a part of our monthly activities. This time's theme was focused on the Desert ecosystem and this included short stories, articles and poems on how this ecosystem reflects resilience and unique beauty that can kindle love in spite of its harsh and empty appearance. This online meeting is not recorded, due to copyright issues. However if you are keen on participating in this monthly event, please contact us at pournima@samuchit.com

Every month we conduct 3 to 4 activities that are focused on creating awareness among the general public about science based and thought provoking information related to sustainability. We do keep posting educational information as daily posts as well. You can connect with us on our FB, Twitter and Instagram handles as Citizens of Sustainable City for more information on our activities.

Pournima Agarkar.

www.samuchit.com

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Additional links: 

Samuchit Trasflasher Kiln

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Practicing Sustainable living in Bangaluru!

 Life came another full circle this year, albeit a little earlier – On Holi Pournima instead of Akshay Tritiya.

I was finally able to put my long-cherished desire of celebrating Holi Pournima in a science-based manner into reality. Samuchit Enviro Tech sent me their yet another compact tool called Sampada Gasifier Stove which turns dry garden/agri/horticulture waste into the Black Gold – the Biochar. As the shackles of micro containment zone were being tightened on our complex, I quickly barged into a dear south Indian friend’s house where I knew I would always find a bagful of coconut shells as fuel for the stove. And it worked, a smokeless fire – Holi/Holika burnt in Sampada, right in my balcony. In less than an hour’s time, I had the chunks of Black Gold in my possession. 

PC: Meera Rotti and Samuchit Sampada Gasifier Stove

Back in 2002, when Dr. Priyadarshini Karve was teaching Physics in engineering undergrad class, I was fortunate to be in the class she had organized post college hours to demonstrate the use of Biochar fired Sarai cooker, an invention that had won an international award that was popularly known as the 'Green Oscar'. I vividly remember the moment of fascination; however, little did I know that it would take me 13 long years to become a regular and content user of that.

By 2013, the winds of sustainable living had started blowing in Metropolis of Bengaluru and I was finding it difficult to not sail in that direction despite knowing that my boat is indeed small. The only person I had known to be working in the field of sustainability – rather sustainability in as simple as your own house – was Dr Priyadarshini Karve. I started reading each and every piece of writing featuring on Samuchit Enviro Tech’s webpage. 11 years after its first demo, Sarai Cooker touched my heart deeper and I was longing to own it. The opportunity came in 2015 when Sarai was on exhibit as a part of a seminar by Dr. Priyadarshini Karve in Bengaluru. I bought it right there, carried it home on my scooter with great excitement. Next day, I looked up on India Mart for suppliers of coconut shell charcoal to fire the cooker. I chose the nearest one – 150 km away, and got my 40kg bag of renewable charcoal within a week’s time. And in a week’s time, on the Akshay Tritiya of 2015, I cooked a humble meal of dal, rice and snake gourd subji in the Sarai Cooker. The taste and texture of dal and rice experienced on that day has kept me in love with this cooker till the date.

Sarai Cooker (Samuchit Steam Cooker)

Post the entry of Sarai Cooker in my life in 2015, my outlook for dry garden waste changed completely. Also, I had started feeling the need to source the fuel with shorter carbon miles. It wasn’t a surprise that Samuchit’s Charring Kiln caught my fancy now. 2016 Spring-summer was unusually hot and dry and fueling my desire to possess the Kiln. I simply ordered it and it arrived a day before Akshay tritiya of 2016. And the next day, needless to say, I created the Black Gold by easily assembling the kiln with help from my supportive husband and my 3 year old daughter. Management Committee members of our complex graced the occasion by their presence and by providing the dry twigs for the demo. It was indeed exciting to sail with these winds. That Summer and the next two, gardeners of our complex and I were able to turn quite a lot of twigs, coconut shells and coconut and areca branches into biochar and put into our garden soil.

Samuchit Trashflasher Kiln

A week before 2018’s Akshay Tritiya, I had the privilege of hosting Dr Priyadarshini Karve at my place and serve her the great Dal-rice-cooked-in-Sarai. It would have been the perfect occasion had I been able to make the biochar briquettes myself using the kiln. Well, that remains a dream till today, for lack of my concerted efforts.

Untimely heavy rains of Spring-Summer of 2019 and 2020 robbed us the opportunity of using the kiln to full potential. Our gardeners and I are still learning to use the kiln for best results from varied items of garden waste like coconut branches, leaves of varying thickness etc. Dr Priyadarshini Karve always provides the quick troubleshooting tips.

This year’s advancement was with the portable version of the charring Kiln – Sampada Gasifier stove. I wanted to have it so that I could organize its demonstration within my circle without having to spend on transporting the heavy Kiln. Bengaluru’s mid-summer showers are round the corner limiting my engagement with the kiln. However, the mini-kiln, the Sampada and the ubiquitous coconut shells should keep me sailing despite the rains which are much needed now.

The simplicity of design of these three, and the purpose they serve in the humongous picture of Climate Change continues to fascinate me. I hope witnessing a demonstration of these technologies in your vicinity would turn you into yet another ardent user sooner or later.

By Meera Rotti, Bangaluru

www. samuchit.com

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PS: Samuchit has discontinued Sarai Cooker and is now offering Samuchit Steam Cooker, that works on the same principle but is more efficient with better fire containment. 


Links to Videos of the devices mentioned: 




Friday, March 12, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Revenge of the Bisons!!!

Dear All, 

Poster of the event


At the Bistro

On 6th of March, after almost a year we could undertake our #ChallengingThanos monthly activity where we relax in a Cafe or a restaurant and share knowledge over a trending issue in the city. The whole idea is to engage more and more people and connect them to the existential crisis of our times - Climate Change - over a cup of coffee. 

This time we tried a new approach, our innovator Dr Priyadarshini Karve came up with this idea. We thought of having the event in a blended format, where we are online as well as available in a face-to-face (offline) mode in a cafe. Our neighborhood place Zillionth Bistro (ZB), which is committed to sustainability,  happens to be the right venue for such kind of  events. We thought of taking up a topic that has hit everyone in the city and is afresh in the minds of the people, Saili Jahagirdar owner of ZB suggested to talk with Nikhil Dandekar a city based wildlife expert. This was prompted by how we recently witnessed the dreadful death of an Indian Gaur on the streets of Kothrud. We thought as responsible citizens we should know how to react to such situations where we face a wild animal right in the city and Nikhil Dandekar was keen to throw some light over this situation.

Online meet over Google Meet


Our event went quite well, there were some technical glitches, but we will fix those before the next event. Overall it was a great show both online as well as offline. Here are some of the key take away's that Nikhil shared with us. Do follow these guidelines in case you encounter any wild animal on our streets.

  • Try and stay indoors or remain calm wherever you are.  
  • Avoid sharing information or any kind of forward on social media that will create unnecessary excitement or scare among the masses. 
  • Need not pass on any expert comments over how the rescuers are handling the situation or how people should act or react. 
  • Avoid clicking selfies or getting overwhelmed by seeing the animal, we need to understand that the animal is already stressed since its in an unfamiliar territory. 
  • Need to show some empathy so that the animal can easily pass the area to a another safer zone. Not interfering helps much more than any kind interference in such cases.  
  • Inform the concerned authorities/local NGOs or officials if you are aware or else remain calm. 
  • In Pune, reach out to RESQ Trust - For injured or trapped animal Rescues (pets, snakes, birds or any other animal) contact number: 098909 99111 OR 
  • Vanabhavan Office of Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Pune contact number: +91 20 2566 0370.  In case you want to inform Gaur or leopard type emergency in the city. 
Face-to-face session

Further discussions revealed that there is NO platform or website which consists of case studies or information about such city based human wildlife encounters. There's a need to map areas that are likely to have wild animals like leopards or snakes etc. in and around the city. So that such areas can be avoided by general public or can have sign boards that will make people aware about the steps that need to be taken while passing through such areas. However its also in a way risky to have information on wildlife in open domain because that will expose this information to poachers and wildlife traders. So need to be cautious while putting up this information. 
The least we can do is to have a basic awareness or trainings on such wildlife encounters. There is a lot of scope for wildlife enthusiasts/experts to work in urban areas for creating such awareness among general public with more and more wildlife coming in the cities now. There are a lot of linkages between biodiversity (wildlife) and climate change, however we couldn't really talk about these due to lack of time but yes the changing climate is in a way threatening the wildlife around us and we need to take a stance for them.  

In my opinion, this is the NEW norm in the city where seeing wildlife will be common. Let's understand that they are NOT coming for us or want to HARM us but, these encounters should remind us that we have been encroaching their lands for long now!!! And therefore we must adjust and learn to live with them side by side, giving them space and respect that they deserve!  


Pournima Agarkar.



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Additional links:

Check out the video of upcycling focused cafe Zillionth Bistro owned by Saili Jahagirdar. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA9QtnY6Jxw&t=16s