Friday, November 26, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_04: On the occasion of Earth Day…

 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. Periodically, 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 posts: 

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus? (

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_02: Battle of India's Survival (

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_03: Conquest of Mars? (

04. On the Occasion of Earth Day...

The original Marathi article published on 07 April 2021 can be found HERE.  

April 22 is celebrated across the world as the Earth Day.  The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the USA. This celebration was inspired by two movements. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book, ‘Silent Spring’ was first published. The book intensely recounted negative impacts of overuse of pesticides on the natural world. It was translated into many languages across the world. This book gave an impetus to debates and scrutiny of increasing interference of humans in the Earth’s environment not only in the USA but also in other industrialized nations, and those aspiring for industrialization.

This movement got further thrust by an astounding photograph. On 24th December 1968, the astronauts aboard the USA’s spacecraft Apollo 8 - Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders - became the first humans to orbit the Moon. It was an important milestone in the mission to the Moon. This spacecraft orbited the Moon ten times. In the fourth round, when they were getting into the illuminated side of the Moon from the darker side, a beautiful site from a window of the spacecraft captured their attention - the view of the rising of the Earth over the lunar horizon. William Anders had the official responsibility of photography on this mission. He quickly grabbed his camera to capture this fascinating view. The camera had a black and white film at that moment. By the time the film was changed to colour film the Earth had disappeared from that window of the spacecraft. But a few seconds on, it was visible again, from another window. Anders was able to successfully capture some colour photographs. The spacecraft returned safely back on the Earth on December 27, and a few days later the photographs were shared across the world.


The last few years of the 1960s were quite turbulent. Reverberations of the cold war between the USA and Soviet Union could be felt all over the world. Both these nuclear sovereign superpowers were locking horns with each other on different fronts pushing the world to the brink of a third world war. Around the same time, use of fossil fuels, and other different types of chemicals were making big inroads in diverse fields. There were no checks on air and water pollution in the developed world. And the ill effects of this on the natural ecosystems and human health had also started to unravel.

Amidst such times, these black and white and colour photographs of ‘Earthrise’ reached millions of people through American media, and later across the world through other media. The Moon’s lifeless gray surface and the distant, enchanting, lonely blue-white Earth against the backdrop of a pitch-black infinite universe - even today ‘Earthrise’ evokes a feeling of divine revelation in the viewers. We can only imagine the state of the mind of those who saw the Earth from the space for the first time.

In one obscure corner of this boundless universe lies our solar system, and within that is our home - the blue Earth. For as far as we can see, with our technological evolution, into the limitless space, this is the only place where life is thriving. Billions of years have taken for this miracle to happen. Our social status, our political notions, our economical dominance counts nothing compared to this. Our transient tussles are endangering the existence of not only our own species but that of this rare entity in the universe - such were the thoughts that began to take roots far and wide in people’s minds due to this photograph. It is no coincidence that movements of world peace as well as environmental protection started to shape up in the 1970s.

22 April 2021 will be celebrated across the world as the 51st Earth Day. The theme for this year is - Restore the Earth. This evokes many questions.

Are we trying to say that, long ago the Earth had the most ideal environment, and we have to go back to that state? Should we go right back to the age of the dinosaurs, or just up to an age of ideal conditions for humans? Of course, it is a no brainer… however, what is exactly the ideal state from human perspective? Since the evolutions of the modern humans, the natural conditions of the Earth have been undergoing varied changes in different places, and in the process of adapting to these changes our biological and social evolution has taken place. The Ice Age was the longest of such periods. It was in this period that the human species wandered out of Africa, and spread across other parts of the Earth. This Ice Age ended just ten-twelve thousand years back. In the resulting conditions, our hunter gatherer ancestors transitioned, and subsequently settled, to agrarian lifestyle. Humans in different regions of the Earth adapted to the local weather, geographical conditions in different ways. It has been not even two hundred years since the advent of fossil fuels, and the subsequent transformation of our lifestyle into an industrialized one. It is now proven that the alterations in climatic conditions of the Earth in the past ten thousand years have more to do with human interference than other natural causes. However, we must not forget that we too have been adapting quite well to most of these changes. Therefore, which exactly of these states should be taken as an ideal for humans? The one right after the Ice Age? If yes, then what is the lifestyle perfectly in tune with it? Today, there is tremendous diversity in the ways humans across the globe live their lives, and also in ways they are connected with other entities in the nature. So, by who all and where all is this so-called ‘restoration’ supposed to take place?

Hunter gatherer humans create the least (though not zero) interference in the natural systems. Their primary needs are exclusively met by the resources easily available in their surroundings. Researchers establish that to support such a nature-based lifestyle, per capita 10 sq. km space should be available. Taking into account the Earth’s total land area, and assuming that entire part of it, even the tip of Mt. Everest, is habitable and rich in resources, the Earth can support a population of only 15 million hunter-gatherers. When our ancestors settled down into the agrarian lifestyle, they increased the productivity of the land in their control by bringing in resources from other places. This enabled a 1 sq. km piece of land to support fifty people instead of just one. However, this was possible due to significant interventions done by us in the natural systems of the Earth. Nevertheless, such a lifestyle, too can support population of maximum 750 million. Today, the world population stands at 7.5 billion, and is likely to stabilize at 10 billion in the coming few years.

In a sense, humans have gained control over their evolution using their intellect. Our existence makes the change in Earth’s climate inevitable. It is not the first time that a living species is causing permanent changes on the Earth, and also, not all changes are adverse in nature. We have the capability to think and understand whether the changes taking place due to our actions are under our control, and also whether these very changes are jeopardizing the future of our species. Learning from the past mistakes, and avoiding them in the future, ways of creating a better and eco-friendly life for ten billion people, and also how to preserve the cosmic wonder called Earth and the biological wonder called human over the long-term future - if such topics are explored on account of the Earth Day, it would be more appropriate and relevant.

Earthrise photo link


Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Harvesting rainwater for the Dry days!

 Dear All, 

Collage of some of the photos

Being a part of the Climate Reality Project, I happened to connect with Shivam Singh, a young enthusiast working on tree plantation and the founder of a startup ExploreiT, working for youth empowerment and environmental activism. 

Currently he is also assisting Col. Shashikant Dalvi, a retired army officer, working tirelessly for incorporating rainwater harvesting in housing societies of Pune and the founder of Parjanya Rainwater Harvesting Consultancy. He is currently focused on making the rural areas around Pune water resilient, through his association with the Climate Reality Project. One such initiative lead to installation of rainwater harvesting systems in four villages namely Kurvandi, Thugaon, Bavadi, Karegaon on Pune Nashik road. 

I got an opportunity to visit these villages, and was accompanied by Dr Prassana Jogdeo, Co-founder of Lemnion Green Solutions, Radhika Dhingra, Director of  Badlaav Social Reform Foundation. and her colleague Munira. Mr. Anirudh Todkar, CEO, MAPS Industries Pune, a dynamic personality responsible for implementation of the RWH System also accompanied us. 

The first village we visited was Karegaon, where we met the Sarpanch Mrs. Suvarna Gevade. She was very happy to greet us. Radhika spoke to her about Sustainable Menstruation practices and she seemed very approachable. Since a lot of young women in the villages use sanitary napkins. The disposal of used sanitary napkins is creating a menace in cities, in spite of the waste management systems being in place. In villages, this is creating a bigger disaster, with a potential to contaminate water sources. Hence, Radhika briefed the Sarpanch on cloth pads as well as menstrual cup and its usage. 

Potatoes left to dry

Another thing observed was though the villagers have good access to LPG supply, every house had a traditional Chulha working on fuelwood. Here I briefly spoke about Samuchit's smokeless cookstoves. The Sarpanch was quite keen on this. The village women seemed open to change their day to day practices for betterment of their quality of life. 

I was fascinated to know that the villages were self sustaining from livelihood perspective due to the interventions by PepsiCo under the Contract Farming Agreement for growing potatoes. All the villagers were involved in this market driven agricultural practice. Though this looks like a win win situation, growing the same crop every year, in order to cater to the urban luxury market needs (and thereby neglecting local food security) may have several adverse consequences. It may cause soil quality degradation and environmental impacts due to lack of diversification in crops in the long run. Also in the face of climate change, the lack of local food security may increase vulnerability of the communities. As the monsoon pattern is totally being affected by climate change, agriculture across India is greatly affected. This may lead to larger fluctuations in food prices going ahead. Growing sufficient food for own consumption is therefore a better strategy for a farming community. 

Discussion on Sustainable Menstruation
However, the villagers seemed to be very happy for their improved standard of living, and seemed less bothered about the cost of INR 3,000,000/- every month from January to June/July to tanker in water for domestic use. Currently the local government is bearing the cost, but this is an unsustainable practice. Here the setup of Rooftop rainwater harvesting systems installed through the inputs of Col. Dalvi and Mr. Todkar play a crucial role. The rooftop rainwater harvesting systems were set such that they recharged the existing borewells, which would help recharge the aquifer and raise the groundwater level. It is expected that this will at least partially if not fully fulfill the water requirements of the villagers during the next summer season. 

I felt that corporates like PepsiCo come to such villages with attractive proposals without giving any consideration to the prevailing ecological and social conditions in the village. Such villages turn to be neither a village nor a city, but get stuck somewhere in between. 
Traditional fuelwood cookstoves
Col. Dalvi believes that rain water harvesting is just a beginning. We can slowly support these villages into becoming self sustaining, socially, ecologically and economically.  Since the villagers are open to new ideas and are ready to make the shift, I felt its worthwhile to undertake a few sessions on specific topics with the villagers. Another woman Sarpanch Mrs Manisha Totre also met her along with local ASHA workers and members of women's SHGs. They are also keen to host us for a session on Sustainable menstruation and smokeless cooking stoves soon.  

Discussion on smokeless cookstoves
Overall it was great visit, the weather was in our favour - it was pleasant and did not rain. Five of us had interesting discussions on overall environmental issues related to w
aste management and political outlook. 

I am thankful to Shivam for organizing this visit and Col. Dalvi for his enthusiasm in explaining to us the overall system and my fellow colleagues for interesting discussions. 

Pournima Agarkar.

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. Periodically, 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? (

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_02: Battle of India's Survival (

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


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
समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक

Samuchit Enviro Tech. 

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? (

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

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.

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