Goddess of Green Chemistry and Climate

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When the vice-chancellor of our university declared that they had come up with their own anthem “Rasayan Devike” (Goddess of Chemistry), I thought he was crazy. Who does that, I said to myself. Until now.

It has been five years since I graduated from this university. Today, I found out that the concept took birth to spread awareness about green chemistry – how old chemistry could help clean up its act with newer greener chemistry.

There’s actually a statue of the goddess near the vice-chancellor’s office. Makes me wonder the length to which the university must have gone to engage people in environmental protection. What were the odds of being ridiculed? 100%? Probably, because I heard no one talk about it the way I’m doing it now. I have a newfound respect for this.

Chances are students barely knew what it was all about. It may have been nothing but a stunt for them. Not to me anymore. History is filled with mythological characters. People have devised ways to celebrate these characters and what they symbolize.

Which takes me to another train of thought. Have you ever heard of the God of Climate? There are many weather gods – wind, thunder, rain, lightning. None for Climate. As NASA defines, “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.”

So, what am I proposing, you ask? I’m proposing a God of Climate, wait, no – a Goddess of Climate (it’s just more fun that way). I don’t know how this is going to help, but hey everything begins with an idea, right?

Which variable world do you live in?

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Money seems to be the only variable in this world. Beautifully summed up by this Dilbert Comic.

Topper: I reject your idea because the costs are high.

Dilbert: In a one-variable world, you would be a genius.

Topper: Thank you.

Dilbert: I meant every word of it.

Have you ever seen a Chartered Accountant offer a return on investment on an environmental project instead of a tax return, audit financial statements instead of sustainability reports, and offer advisory services to clients based on what is good for the people and the planet?

What about environmental and social costs and related variables? These are mostly hidden unless deliberately shown in the form of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or ESG (Environmental Social and Governance) disclosures.

I attended a webinar once where I raised this question – “When do you see CSR getting integrated into financial reporting?” Their answer – “Regional characteristics and resource limitations play into this greatly. As you may be well aware, Integrated Reporting (IR) is heavily deployed in South Africa and in neighboring/partner countries. Similarly, countries where stock exchanges require ESG disclosure, are more likely to produce integrated reports. Here in the U.S., many of our pioneering IR companies came into this space for the need to share resources with the financial/accounting teams when producing reports. Finally, we’re starting to see a great deal of interest for these types of reports blooming in the U.S.”

65% of Canadian institutional participants said that they often or always consider environmental and social issues, and 95% of them often or always consider governance issues for all investments.

In 2013, research by the India Responsible Investment Working Group, encompassing large corporates as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), more than 50% businesses are now prepared to provide ESG information to investors / other stakeholders.

The big players are considering these costs. Is your business following suit?

What will you protect first? Water or forest?

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Do you find yourself in the middle of another chicken and egg story as you read the title of this blog? You should, because it is.

Editor of Sanctuary Asia, Bittu Sahgal, has something interesting to say about the Cauvery river in India. Stay with me, we are on the same story. “Cauvery Cunnundrum: States fight over the water, but cannot find the wisdom to protect the water source… the forests.

So, we should have more national parks, right?

I have another story for you, that of the Van Gujjars, a forest-dwelling nomadic tribe in northern India, who for centuries have migrated into the Himalayas every spring. Now their culture and livelihood is at risk as some of the jungles and meadows they call home have become national parks.

As it goes, solutions are not cut and dried.

This year, Peru established that it would protect one of world’s last great untouched forests. Difference between this and the national parks in northern India is that Peru is working alongside local and international conservation groups and the National Park designation also protects land inhabited by several tribes of indigenous peoples, it doesn’t push them away. Or at least, that’s what the article says.

Technically, you are not in a chicken and egg story anymore. It is not this and that. It is different – each case.

Green sense of humor

Environmental protection is a serious topic, and so are many other issues we face every day. Yet, in all seriousness, humor has a way to get the point across. This blog post introduces people who are spreading the message of environmental protection through their sense of humor. These are environmentalists who are making people laugh with their art and wit.

Vasu Primlani: Indian stand-up comedian and environmentalist.

Rohan Chakraborty: India’s wildlife and environmental cartoonist.

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Dallas Goldtooth: Environmental activist who uses comedy to help stop oil pipelines.

“The angry Indian activist character, I think, is hilarious. I actively choose to go about my organizing in a different manner.” – Dallas Goldtooth.

Penny Walker: Stand-up comedian, facilitator, coach, consultant.

A part of Sustainable Stand Up –  a place where you can learn how to convert your ideas to become human, engaging, and deeply funny.

The Ecospot Grand Prize Winner 2007

Q. Generally speaking, sustainability advocates seem to be a serious crowd. Have you got any jokes or one-liners that can bring some levity to our work? Especially ones related to recycling? – Find out the answer on Ask Umbra.

How do you communicate environmental issues and concerns?

2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals

I studied the 2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals to understand how India, Canada, and the USA are doing. It is safe to assume that this post is going to talk a lot about India because it is a lower middle-income country with a lot of progress to show because from where it is coming from as compared to the other two countries who have already done a lot of progress before. It contains over 180 maps and charts and shows the progress societies are making towards the 17 SDGs. It’s a big report, hence the cherrypicking.

India

  • Home to 260 million people in poverty. No – extreme poverty. Which means all these people do not have the pleasure of basic necessities and facilities.
  • Has the largest number of people practicing open defecation. When I was a kid, I’ve done it too. In fact, hear this. I’ve experienced both open defecation and dirty public toilets. Not during the occasional travels, but for a good 20 years of my life. It was accepted as a way of life. It wasn’t such a bother until I leaped over to the other side of the world that uses good smelling toilets and soft tissue rolls.
  • 100% village electrification achieved – exhilarating to hear about, but it hasn’t reached each and every house.
  • 780 million (59%) people do not have access to clean fuels for cooking. People are now talking about indoor (ambient) air pollution. Although I do enjoy the occasional wood-fired/dung-fired food.
  • Don’t even ask about North India’s air pollution. The area is practically living in soot instead of clean air.
  • Forest cover has been slightly increasing.
  • Low CO2 emissions per capita.
  • More than 9% animal species threatened.

Canada

  • Forest cover looks steady. As if nothing is growing, nothing is dying.

USA

  • Increase in patents being designed to encourage innovation by providing incentives for research and development.
  • Alongside China, it collects the most municipal waste, the majority of which makes its way to landfills.
  • High CO2 emissions per capita.
  • Forest cover has been slightly increasing.
  • 16% animal species threatened.

It is not a competition. This report is calling for harmony. It is an in-depth and compelling report to read. I encourage you to read it and learn even more insights into our world today, such as:

  • 71% of the world gets safely managed drinking water.
  • One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have been growing steadily.
  • Fish stocks are increasingly overfished.
  • Activities on land are causing marine dead zones.
  • Only about 7% of the world’s ocean area is designated as marine protected area, officially reserved for long-term conservation.
  • Oceans are warmer and more acidic because of climate change.
  • Globally, about 14% of the land is protected as national park, wildlife preserve, or a similar designation.
  • China’s forest cover has been growing substantially.
  • Over half of assessed plant species and one-quarter of assessed animal species are threatened.

Gnarliest tree in Canada

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Canada’s gnarliest tree giving a fist bump

After having slept through the wee hours, my friends and I headed to see one of Canada’s most twisted old-growth trees in Canada. A short climb to a breath-taking view started with a drive on bad roads leading towards Avatar Grove trail on Vancouver Island. Dirt cars and dirty cars passed by as we managed to drive through the unmarked and unpaved road. Be careful when you drive up there.

What appeared to be a fist bump, was actually a big knot in the tree. That’s how the tree got its name. Knots, or otherwise known as “burls“, are formed as a reaction to stress. They are kind of like blisters on our skin. In our case, the blisters go away as the skin underneath it heals. Knots on trees, on the other hand, are permanent. Climate change is one of the many stress causing factors. In fact, it can bring down not one tree, not two trees, but an entire forest. Because it strikes where it hurts the most – its immunity.

“Forest die-offs also impose an economic hit on loggers and those who depend on income from hikers, campers and others who use forests for recreation.” – Science Magazine

One would argue – doesn’t stress increase the tree’s immunity? Yes, it does. However, it needs time to build that immunity. What can we do, you say? Burning fossil fuels for fuel, electricity, and heat is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. I asked Enterprise rent-a-car if there was a choice to rent an electric car. There isn’t at the moment, but there is an option to offset the emissions caused by the fossil-fuel powered car that you rent. I didn’t take it because I was afraid my friends wouldn’t agree to pay more. Did I ask? No. I wish I had. You’d face a similar situation when you’d wonder if others would take part in your crusade. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.