Prof Veena Sahajwalla
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In January this year, the ‘Guardian’ profiled Professor Veena Sahajwalla as “the woman who loves garbage.” Ever since her growing up days in Mumbai, Veena was fascinated by waste because she saw it as a hidden resource waiting to be tapped into. Today, her pioneering work completely transformed the way the properties of carbon-bearing materials are understood, including discarded graphites, plastics and rubber tyres. She has received international acclaim for inventing “green steel”.
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On one of my recent visits in India, I was desperate to eat "phuchka". While my father shook his head in dismay at the prospect of contracting digestive disorders, my mother laughed and encouraged me to seek out my friends for the adventure. Every phone call ended in disappointment. No one wanted phuchka or egg rolls or momos; instead, they came up with the best pizza and burger places in town.
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What is essentially a paradigm--sustainability-- has been commoditized. It has been turned into a product or service that we need to buy or need more of! This is patently false. I also sense that it has resulted in a lot of confusion and disenfranchisement regarding making everyday choices that are sustainable.
I know you can order clothes, try them on and return them if you don't fancy them. But just imagine the courier boy hanging around the door when you're trying out stuff. I don't even take the husband for shopping because I don't want to be hurried through this meditative process. Moreover, what a wasteful exercise! I know of people who have tried and returned stuff that made its way into their doorstep from across the seas. I'm someone who counts my carbon footprint...
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Achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement will require a major shift away from the fossil fuel-based economies of today to a more sustainable and green economy. Such a transition, needless to say, will be enormously expensive. The main source of financing will be public funds, essentially raised through taxation by the government. It is here that an ongoing reform effort at the United Nations must be brought into the picture -- the campaign for an intergovernmental tax committee.
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Somewhere along the way vikas (development) became a one-dimensional concept for many, focused primarily on individual or organisational progress (profit) and the inherent interconnectedness of all things, of life, was forgotten. We are meant to be living in the age of sustainability, and in this regard, India is certainly in its infancy. In conversations I have had with business leaders in the private sector, it appears that the word sustainability is not fully understood, has lost its meaning. To many, it has come to mean being less bad.
An absence of a sense of ownership or understanding of these goals by individuals and institutions may become an impediment in the journey towards achieving them. So the question I found myself asking (as I'm sure many individuals and institutions have asked) is what do these SDGs (which are essentially vision statements) mean to me? What can I do? How does it align with me or my organisation's vision or commitment to sustainable development? Or, alternatively, how do I align myself or my organisation with these goals?
Mahatma Gandhi not only gave India its freedom but also gave the world and us a new perspective on nonviolence and sustainable living. His teachings and experiments are more valid today than ever before, especially when we are trying to find solutions to worldwide greed, corruption, violence and a consumerist lifestyle that is putting a very heavy burden on the world's resources.
A sustainable society stands on four pillars -- people, planet, prosperity and peace. Education is the seal that binds these pillars individually and jointly. Sadly, today less than 4% of global aid goes for education. We need US$22 billion to send every child to school. This equals 4.5 days of annual military expenditure. Do we need soldiers more than teachers, armies more than educated citizens?
Formed in 1988 to reform the educational system of Ladakh, SECMOL today creates opportunities for rural Ladakhi youth, and promotes sustainable living. Their aim is to help present and future generations of Ladakhis benefit from education and adopt a symbiotic relationship with their environment, stalling the impact of global warming and pollution on Ladakh's sensitively balanced ecosystem.
Sustainability has transformed into a platform for communicating the corporate brand. Activist investors do ask for the social return on investment on their impact bonds but these do-gooders are a trickle in the avalanche of asset classes that global capital changes hands in everyday.
NEW YORK: Researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist, from IBM have used discarded laptop batteries to create an emergency lighting system called UrJar for street vendors and houses located in...