Join me with Safecity for a discussion on Safe and Sustainable Cities

For the entire month of April, Safecity is making a case for safety, especially women’s safety in our cities and communities – one of the targets of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As a part of this worldwide effort, we are focusing on Goal 11 – ‘Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.

Safecity (registered under Red Dot Foundation) is a platform, founded in 2012, that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data which maybe anonymous, gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration to identify factors that causes behavior that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.

Come join me with Safecity for a discussion on safe and sustainable cities!

I curate Safecity’s Twitter account this week again for the third time, for an exchange of thoughts, a debate, new perspectives, and most importantly to know more about what it takes to make our cities safer for all. I discuss this with a focus on ‘Omission of women in urban planning’. I’ll also be conducting a Twitter chat concerning safety in India’s 100 smart cities on 8th April 2016 9 PM IST/11:30 PM EST. Save the date!

Twitter chat (1)

I’ve never discussed this on my blog before, therefore a background is called for. Somewhere in August 2014 and also in October 2015 I’ve had a chance to be a , where I was able to engage the audience in different perspectives on how different things connected to women’s safety. There was a theme for every week – ranging from – how involvement of women in the environmental movement will help us find and implement solutions to our environmental crisis, women in STEM, awareness through art, role of government and laws for women’s safety, how the changing environmental conditions affect women in particular, with respect to energy, water and climate change, gender gap and sustainability, the role of media and advertising in women empowerment or the lack of it, role of comedy and feminism in women’s safety, an unbiased look at violence against both men and women, women in waste management and the safety issues related to it, how technology, science and education can help bridge the gender gap and how it is possible, and gender issues in sustainable development and how the world is resolving them. I even conducted a Twitter chat on #SaferCities for female tourists/commuters.

Following are the themes discussed with Safecity’s followers in detail:

Greener world with women

Science & Technology

Art and women

Ideas for womens’ safety (IDEO)

Food for thought

Stories

Government and laws

Gender gap and sustainability

  • Do you know any organizations that provide women what they need to be a part of the process towards sustainable development?
  • One such organization is the UN. One of UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) is #genderequality. What do we need to reach this goal? 1/2
  • Let’s start with these three things: 1. access to education and training 2. information and technologies 3. decision-making. What else? 2/2
  • Let’s discuss how the changing environmental conditions affect women in particular, with respect to energy, water and climate change.
  • Indoor smoke from solid fuel causes chronic diseases and cancer in women. Does LPG Subsidy Surrender Campaign help? Your thoughts. #giveitup
  • Indoor smoke from solid fuels affects women and children to a higher degree than men. Do you know any innovations sprouting out of this need?
  • Women in India spend 150 million work days every year fetching and carrying water via @UN_Water #WaterforWomen
  • Women in Hubli-Dharwad in India have to wait up to 10 days for water via @UN_Water #WaterforWomen @nextdrop has a solution.
  • Why #climatechange is a women’s rights issue? http://bit.ly/1PwL9Yj 1/3
  • Women constitute majority of world’s poor. More dependent for their livelihood on natural resources threatened by #climatechange. 2/3
  • How can women help in climate change mitigation and adaption? Can we use their unique knowledge on local ecosystems? 3/3

Role of media in women empowerment

  • The False Mirror: Representation of Women in Indian Advertising http://bit.ly/1KdEY4b
  • Are Men The Latest Victims Of Media Misrepresentation? http://onforb.es/1hLHPKY
  • Share with us the advertisement that you have seen has been designed to deceive people and how.
  • Pro-women Twitter activism, another media influencing the gender equation http://onforb.es/1PwM4I8 #leanin #changetheratio #girlsrising #womenshould #bringourgirlsback #wearesilent Add some more?
  • Pro-men Twitter activism  #YesAllMen #NotAllMen #stopmensabuse Add some more?
  • Here’s one more: #ILookLikeAnEngineer ‘I Look Like an Engineer’ Campaign Is Hitting the Highway in Silicon Valley http://bit.ly/1MHiSNP
  • Women professionals r under-represented in news or stereotypically portrayed whn they r included. Do u agree? http://bit.ly/1MHg7Mk
  • “In the fight 4 TV Rating Points we r losing out on constructive debates and awareness programmes tht TV can offer.” http://bit.ly/1MHgzu7 ½
  • What kind of constructive debates and awareness programmes do you think the TV can offer? 2/2
  • How do you define feminism? What does it mean to be a feminist? What does this label stand for? How does #TheFWord appear in media
  • The “F” Word: How the Media Frame Feminism  http://bit.ly/1MHh4Eq #TheFWord ⅔
  • #HatchKids Learn About the F-Word from Lady Gaga, Amy Schumer, and President Obama http://bit.ly/1GKcdfm #TheFWord 3/3
  • Recent series of videos – Living in a Man’s World. Putting women in men’s shoes and vice versa. http://bit.ly/1hLJdxm
  • 10 Popular Bollywood Songs That Are Highly Gender-Discriminating http://bit.ly/1RirrOn

Comedy, feminism, women’s safety – Tuesday

  • Importance of Stand Up Comedy http://bit.ly/1MHlVFK ½
  • ‘Stand up comedy is 1 of d most powerful tools 2 educate, heal, incite, n make people ponder about ideas n things beyond themselves’ 2/2
  • EIC: Sex Education in India http://bit.ly/1Ke1Lgi
  • What do you think about sex education in India? 2/2
  • Bill Maher vs Feminism http://bit.ly/1MHkEhQ Do you share the same view as Bill Maher?
  • Bill Burr on Feminism & Sexist Irony http://bit.ly/1GK4JZO Do you share the same view as Bill Burr?
  • Richard Dawkins is not a stand up comedian but hear him share a feminist literature. http://bit.ly/1GK6Vk1 What do you think leads to such literature?
  • Dave Chapelle – Men and Women Psychology http://bit.ly/1MHskAL Do you share the same view as Dave Chapelle?
  • Women: Know Your Limits! Harry Enfield – BBC comedy http://bit.ly/1MHvcgU Share your favorite sarcasm piece.
  • Aziz Ansari embraces feminism on the Late Show with David Letterman. http://slate.me/1MHvqEX
  • Vasundhara – Is Shaadi A License To Rape In India?? http://bit.ly/1KdHSWH How can we avoid marital rape?
  • Louis CK ‘There is no greater threat to women than men’ http://bit.ly/1QCmtvG Do you share the same view as Louis?
  • Using a cartoon and humor to fight violence against women http://bit.ly/1QCrGni Share your favorite cartoon that conveys this message.

Violence against men and women

Women in waste management

  • Handling waste poses many health risks. Informal waste pickers are exposed to contaminants and hazardous materials. http://bit.ly/1ReyYO2
  • Gender-sensitive approach, gender equity, empowerment of women are critical in the support of new initiatives. http://bit.ly/1Rez4Ft
  • Both men n women waste workers face disrespect of fellow-citizens, as handling untreated waste is considered demeaning. Let’s change that.
  • Women are widely active in waste picking, micro-enterprise seem to be more often initiated, operated, managed by men http://bit.ly/1Rez4Ft 1/4
  • All-women’s enterprises or cooperatives such as the Stree Mukti Sanghatana are changing this. 2/4
  • Stree Mukti Sanghatana with the help of @bmcmumbai address the problems of waste and of self-employed women involved http://bit.ly/1Rexaoe 3/4
  • #ShaadiCares partners with Stree Mukti Sanghatana to setup a Women’s Rehab Centre (Mumbai). http://bit.ly/1RewL57 4/4
  • SWaCH, Pune is India’s first wholly-owned cooperative of self-employed waste pickers and other urban poor. http://bit.ly/1ReynMs
  • 85-year-old woman inspires neighbours to work on waste management http://bit.ly/1RexLqb Do you have such people around you? Pls share.
  • 14-year-old girls code app that cleans up India’s streets http://on.wsj.com/1RexTpE
  • Women Entrepreneurs Help Pilot India’s First Citywide Recycling Program http://bit.ly/1RexX8S
  • Equal opportunities for women in waste management industry http://bit.ly/1MHfBy8

Twitter chat on #SaferCities for female tourists/commuters

QA: To start the #Tweetchat, what’s ur self defense tool against physical abuse while travelling? chilli powder, nail filers? Has it worked? #SaferCities #VAW #PublicSafety

QB: As opposed to defense, what preventive measures have you taken to keep yourself safe? #SaferCities

QC: Do you use any app to keep yourself safe? Which one is it? #SaferCities

QD: What would be your suggestion to the Indian govt to make the India’s 100 Smart Cities safe? #SaferCities

QE: What are your ‘do’s and don’ts’ for foreign women travelling to India? #SaferCities

QF: If any foreign women tourist is reading us, please tell us why would you hesitate to travel to India. #SaferCities

QG: To wrap up, what’s your one tip/head’s up that you’d give to someone who wants to learn to keep herself safe? #SaferCities

To see the entire Tweet chat click here.

Technology, science and education

  • India could add 60% to 2025 GDP by bridging gender gap at work: McKinsey http://bit.ly/1KdYIoz
  • India has the highest difference between women and men on the average minutes spent per day on unpaid work—a difference of 300 minutes. Why? http://bit.ly/1KdZ0M2
  • India has one of the lowest percentages of firms with female participation in ownership. Why? http://bit.ly/1KdZ0M2
  • What can India do about this? Is teaching girls to code enough? http://bit.ly/1KdUYDr #stemwomen
  • What do you think are the reasons behind the gender gap in tech, engineering, and math? http://read.bi/1KdZHVB
  • What advice would you give your younger self? #DearMe http://bit.ly/1KdVlOg #womenintech
  • Hear from women and girls about how their passion for science and technology first developed and those who were overlooked. http://bit.ly/1KdWpSa #BeTheSpark ½
  • Tell us what got you into science and technology and how has it helped you live a better life #BeTheSpark 2/3
  • Meet cybersecurity expert Keren Elazari. http://bit.ly/1KdWN38 1/2
  • I never knew there’s something like that that I could do. What is it that you wished you knew about careers in science and tech? 2/2
  • Drugs and pollution can be biased to gender. Check out the tweets that follow to find out how. 1/3
  • Alyson McGregor: Why medicine often has dangerous side effects for women ⅔ http://bit.ly/1KdX6ei
  • The Disappearing Male is about the toxic threat to the male reproductive system. 3/3 http://bit.ly/1KdXx8v

Interview with Leda Marritz, Creative Director at DeepRoot, on Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Solutions

DSC_9234.jpgToday’s blog post is an interview with Leda Marritz, Creative Director at DeepRoot, on how their urban tree infrastructure solutions are helping cities be healthier and happier, what is it about planting trees that we miss and what we should be doing instead. Leda joined in 2006 and is responsible for all of DeepRoot’s online and print materials, advertising, writing, design, events, and other creative projects. Some of Leda’s major initiatives have included significant updates to DeepRoot’s online presence, including website enhancements and a strong social media presence. In 2009 she started a company blog called “Green Infrastructure for Your Community,” where she posts three times a week on topics related to trees, soil, stormwater, and company news. In 2011 she became a certified arborist and, in addition to the writing she does for DeepRoot, contributes articles for Next City and Earth In Transition. Leda holds a B.A. from Brown University in Comparative Literature.

1 . Leda, how did you get involved with DeepRoot?

Answer: I started my career in publishing (I studied comparative literature in college), which was a lot of fun but ultimately not for me. I wanted to try something new. When I moved to San Francisco in 2006, I had to decide what that was! I started by searching my alumni network for anyone in the Bay Area doing work I was interested in, which led me to Graham Ray, the CEO of DeepRoot. The timing was really fortuitous, because my background was in marketing and the company had a need for someone to tackle that. I started a week or two later and have been here ever since.

2. How can one become a certified arborist like you?

Answer: You have to pass an exam administered by the International Society of Arboriculture and then maintain the accreditation by getting 10 continuing education units every year. While my day job doesn’t get me out in the field among trees much, I really enjoyed studying for the accreditation and recommend it.

3. How do you define sustainability?

Answer: I’d define sustainability, and sustainable thinking, as being driven by a vision for how something will function, look, and feel 20, 50, 100 years from today.

4. What are the many environmental and social benefits of urban landscaping? What are some of the most overlooked benefits?

Answer: There are so many benefits to urban trees! They help reduce urban heat-island effect and crime rates, and help slow, cool, and clean the rain that falls on paving and then runs into our sewer system. Trees reduce vacancy rates and air pollution, creating a cleaner and more pleasant environment. They’re calming and psychologically restorative; people instinctively want to be where trees are.

Having so many benefits can, in certain ways, be a liability. In a recent interview with Russell Horsey (Development Director of Institute of Chartered Foresters in England) that we published on the DeepRoot blog, he said “If you imagined us as a business trying to market “trees,” we have a product that in some ways does too many good things! As a sector we try to explain all of the things that trees do rather than honing our message and keeping our messages simple. We still use too much technical wording which does not work with the public, politicians and some higher managers, who may manage more than just trees and may not have an arboricultural background.” I tend to agree.

5. What problems is DeepRoot trying to solve through its solutions? What are the major drivers?

Answer:  The U.S. is losing millions of urban canopy cover every year. We’re trying to help stem that loss while also incorporating the incredible ability of trees and soil to clean and absorb water and return it to the atmosphere. In cities, so much rainfall hits the ground and rushes right into the sewer rather than being used to irrigate plants or being saved for other uses. And so many trees are planted in tiny areas, with little or no thought given to what it needs to survive and mature. Green infrastructure (trees, soil, and water) is the backbone of a city’s ecological health.

6. What do you mean when you say ‘Rethink trees’?

Answer: When we say “rethink trees,” we’re trying to draw attention to trees as underutilized, and undervalued, elements of our urban fabric. Most people don’t think about trees much at all – and if they do, they tend to think of them as ornamental. We don’t think trees are ornamental at all – we think they’re fundamental to health and resilient urban design. We want to prompt people to think about trees as essential to smart, economically viable, and successful development. That’s what we mean.

7. The planting of the one millionth tree of the MillionTreesNYC initiative was celebrated. Speaking of quantity over quality, how would you describe the quality of this process? Were they planted the right way? Does simply planting trees, any kind, help? Is there a right or a wrong way?

Answer: I have no firsthand knowledge of how the MillionTreesNYC planting program was run; I’m quite sure they have great folks working for them who truly believe in the cause. And a million trees is a very, very large number! We congratulate them on their efforts and we’re so glad there are people who care so much about trees.

Having said that, it’s true that we can’t just plant our way into a bigger urban tree canopy. To really move the needle on the health of the urban forest, we also need to address how trees are planted. A tree’s size and health are in direct proportion to the amount of soil it has access to. Until we start considering the needs of the tree roots in our development planning – and incorporating room for soil underneath sidewalks, parking lots, plazas, etc. – the trees in those areas will struggle to thrive and survive.

8. How does pollution affect soil health? We’ve heard of phytoremediation. Can it be achieved in urban areas? Have you tried it?

Answer: Pollution can accumulate in soil to levels that are unsafe for humans; I’m not aware of any direct impact to the health of the soil itself. I’ve not heard of any phytoremediation projects being done in urban areas, but there are some great people studying stuff like this – it’s possible I’m just not aware of the work being done in this area.

9. How do you weigh preventive measures against adaptive measures such as seed banks and their gene study?

Answer: First I should say that I’m not an expert in either of these issues, but based on what I’ve seen from my time in the industry, both are important. To protect the future of our communities, we absolutely need to employ preventive measures. But there’s room for all kinds of creative solutions and ideas, and things like seed banks may be one of those.

10. Is mulching the panacea for urban soil health? If not, what is?

Answer: Mulching does a lot of wonderful things for soil health and function; we’re big fans. But it’s not a panacea – nothing is. Instead, we need to take more care of trees and soils at every stage of the planning and planting process. Soil that is healthy should be reused, and soil that is marginal should be salvaged wherever possible. And, above all, we need to give trees enough of it.

11. What do you think Matthew McConaughey meant when he said ‘”It’s not about huggin’ trees…,” he argues. “It’s not about being wasteful, either…,” in an ad for the Lincoln MKZ hybrid sedan? What’s the philosophy here? What’s Deep Root’s philosophy?

Answer: I would never purport to speak for Matthew McConaughey (you’re aware of his naked conga-drum playing episode, right?) on Lincoln Motors! DeepRoot’s philosophy is that trees and soils are elemental to truly sustainable design. We think that trees are essential for the physical, mental, and emotional health of humans (and other living things) and that they should be considered as important as other traditional forms of infrastructure. We’re excited to be a part of making cities more livable.

12. What question do people fail to ask and what would that be?

Answer: People fail to ask, or consider, what they want the site they’re working on to look like in 20, 40, 80 years. Do you envision a beautiful mature tree canopy? If so, you have to play the long game and plan for that tree today.

13. What’s your favorite tree pun? Mine is this – ‘Tree puns are getting old.. We should branch out! *leaves*’

Answer: I don’t know any tree puns, but here’s a non-tree joke: What did the zero say to the eight? “Nice belt.”

I thank Leda for her time and insights. Loved her candidness! I’ve been a fan of DeepRoot since I stumbled upon it on the internet. DeepRoot Green Infrastructure develops solutions to enhance urban forests and surrounding watersheds in city streets, parking lots, campuses, and other heavily-paved areas. I subscribed to its blogs and it started growing on me. And if you’ve read my blog posts in the past, you’d know how I love gardening. Every time I talked about DeepRoot, my colleagues would think I’m selling their products to them. Well, how awesome it is to finally have an interview with them! I’m having a superb weekend! You can read more about DeepRoot on their website, and get in touch with them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Following are some of my takeaways from the interview.

  • Sustainability when defined with numbers excludes vagueness. It made an impact on my mind, made me think. Tweet: Sustainability when defined with numbers excludes vagueness. It made an impact on my mind, made me think.
  • Everything works in unison, the trees, soil, water and air, to make this planet livable. Urban infrastructure should be based on this. Tweet: Everything works in unison, the trees, soil, water and air, to make this planet livable. Urban infrastructure should be based on this.
  • It’s not just about planting trees, it is about what you plant and how you plant it. Tweet: It's not just about planting trees, it is about what you plant and how you plant it.

My question to you all is, what has made you ‘Rethink Trees’? Please comment below.

Extent and limitations of a business going green

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Green economy is the economy that takes into measure the environmental consequences current technologies have created. The three pillars of sustainability as they are called are: economy, society and environment. While companies do embrace this, they fail to make their mark. So, how does a green business, that believes in sustainable development, limits its growth and how can it overcome it?

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(Image credit: 48hourslogo)

Here are some parameters that can measure a company’s extent and limitations:

#1 Going ‘green’: Green is called nature’s color. But it is not wise to color your websites and offices in all possible shades of green: green wall, green chair, green pens. It can come across as a green wash. It affects your brand and credibility. Jeremy Heimans, co-founder of GetUp and of Avaaz.org, calls it the ‘green vomit‘. Instead let your greenness reflect in your inner and outer workings of the company. Embrace energy efficiency and less polluting strategies. Save water. Become an eco-friendly business at all levels possible. Help others do the same. It does make business sense to do that. Lead your way.

#2 Keeping intentions clear: Environmental responsibility is possible with profitability but not at the expense of it.The third pillar of sustainability is economy which cannot be forgotten. A business is capable of solving environmental and social problems, although it is not what it is primarily based on. Take, IKEA for instance. IKEA is a Swedish company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, appliances and home accessories and does green business with solar-panels. IKEA doesn’t accept child-labour and supports sustainable forestry. Companies like this are doing well since green business is now popular among consumers.

#3 Incentives: Just because one cares about having a healthy and clean environment doesn’t mean he/she has to work for a green company at low wages. It is a deterrent because everyone works for a living. Pump up some creativity in everything you do and it is bound to grab some attention. Honesty is the best policy. Millennials will dig it. Instead of making people guilty of not recycling, how about creating incentives for the process? What do you think about Coca-cola’s new idea about making recycling fun? Have a look at this video:

#4 Transparency: A business is affected by how transparent it is in its actions. Sustainability reporting is one way to convey transparency. Whoever expresses it the best is at an advantage.

What else do you think that businesses can do to go green without limiting themselves?

 

This article was first published on LinkedIn.