Arrogant or hopeful?

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How does it make you feel and what goes in your mind when I say: Cleaning up air pollution may strengthen global warming. Bacteria are evolving to eat the plastic we dump in the oceans. Some corals are flourishing in a time of global warming. Coal and gas are far more harmful than nuclear.

First of all, all of it is true, it is supported by scientists. Scientists are fallible humans who are just trying to figure things out in the constant tug of war of deficit and surplus of information. It’s a learning process. Second of all, I for one felt lost, what do I do with this information? I was polarized just like Mulder and Scully from the X-files, chasing after the truth, sometimes ending up lost along the way, wanting to believe. Good news is, at least we know more. With the pace at which we are working, I will be arrogant enough to say that we will figure things out within my lifetime. I’d rather be hopeful than scared.

I like how Zat Rana puts it, “Uncertainty isn’t a condition to be avoided, but a tool for better decisions. ”

Are you arrogant or hopeful?

I’d also read: Keeping an open mindDo you take climate science with a grain of saltIs the earth adapting to climate change?

Who is phasing out what

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Volunteer Image Author TheDigitalArtist

The world is phasing out fossil-fuels, old polluting vehicles, plastic products, toxic substances, nuclear power, biofuel, incandescent light bulbs, ozone depleting substances, waste imports, second hand clothes, food waste, and ivory trade. These are either gradual phase outs or immediate bans. So, who exactly is phasing out what? Read ahead to find out.

Who is phasing out fossil-fuels?

Who is phasing out old polluting vehicles?

Who is phasing out plastic products?

Who is phasing out toxic substances?

Who is phasing out nuclear power?

Who is phasing out biofuel?

Who is phasing out incandescent light bulbs?

Who is phasing out ozone depleting substances?

Who is phasing out waste imports?

Who is phasing out second hand clothes?

Who is phasing out ivory trade?

 Who is banning food waste?

Who is banning deforestation?

Last Edited: April 4 2018

Litterbug is not a bug or is it?

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In a 2006 Indian film, an underworld don turned Radio Jockey tries to resolve callers’ problem with lessons learnt from Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhism/Gandhigiri). One such scene involves a caller fuming over an issue with his neighbor. His neighbor happens to be a compulsive spitter.

DSC_0059I wonder if his compulsiveness to spit on the caller’s door has anything to do with what he chews. In India, many people who are like this spitter chew on a psychoactive preparation called ‘paan’. Some swallow and some spit. The latter seems more prevalent. Munnabhai, the don-cum-RJ in the movie offers help. He advises his caller to greet the spitter with a smile each time he catches him spit and clean up the mess he has made. For days at end the spitter continues his thoughtless act. Frustrated, the caller calls Munnabhai again and is suggested to continue to do the same. Finally, as is shown in the movie, the spitter feels ashamed to spew out the staining cocktail and instead apologizes to the caller. The caller rejoices and so do the listeners. So will you if you watch the clip I just described, if you haven’t already.

Why should anything be clean?

Are people more inclined to litter a place that is already dirtied than to do the same at a cleaner place? May be. The most important question is why should places be kept clean? Places that aren’t clean not only breed diseases, but also lose its aesthetic value (which unfortunately many in India don’t consider). As children we are taught of hygiene but when we grow up why do we fail to apply it beyond ourselves or ours houses? The answer may lie in the absence of direct effects of such activities. It’s not like how we recoil from fire in order to protect ourselves from a burn. An example of indirect effect would be Leptospirosis, a disease. Rats are attracted to leftovers that people discard in public places. If any of these rats bears a disease, its infected urine can contaminate any water body it comes in contact with. If you happen to have an open wound on your body, let’s say your feet, and if you put your feet in such a water body, you can acquire a lethal disease called Leptospirosis. This is just one example.

Aesthetics and human psychology:

It is human nature to be attracted to beautiful things. It is also human nature to be repelled by things that look ugly. While the perception of beauty is subjective, there are many examples where we share the same view on things that are beautiful or ugly. A litter-free place can contribute to emotional well-being of people. If I ask you to choose between two apartments to live: one clean and the other with stained and chipped walls, which one would you prefer? I bet we have an unanimous answer. We would all choose the clean place to live. This being a constricted question, a much broader question would be one that applies to public spaces. We would all like to spend our time in a garden that is clean and green, won’t we?

In the general field of Environmental Psychology an increasing number of studies propose that subjects’ general well-being can be significantly increased as a result of contact with environments considered to have high aesthetic value. – Psychology in Spain, 2000, Vol. 4. No 1, 13-27 Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos

In 1988, Taylor and Gousie found that the architectural settings of a school can “facilitate the transmission of cultural values, stimulate or subdue, aid in creativity or slow mental perception, and cause fear or joy” – University of Georgia

German researchers found that just glancing at shades of green can boost creativity and motivation. – New York Times

When there are such undeniable benefits from clean and beautiful things, why not inculcate them into our lives?

Sanitation – a privilege in India:

In India, while sanitation and hygiene is a privilege for many, many also neglect it. The repercussions of which cost lives and the economy.

A recent study by the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank estimates that inadequate sanitation costs India the equivalent of 6.4% of its GDP.  –India Sanitation Portal

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has always been on the forefront when it comes to creating awareness. Many attempts have been made to keep India clean and green. The new Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has called for a cleanliness drive for Indian Railways. The purpose of this drive is to create awareness among the travelers to keep railway areas clean.

Plastic litter:

There’s so much plastic litter out there that if you set out to collect it from all over the world and sell it, recycle it, convert it fuel, you might end up on Forbes’ list of richest people in the world. There is so much of it that a new kind of rock is being naturally formed out of this plastic waste. There has been so much of it for so long time that bacteria have started to live on it. This is a serious problem for every part of the world and vertebrates mistakenly eating it – the fishes especially. Humans eat fish, right? The joke is on us.

Recently, Illinois became the first state to ban microbeads – small plastic bits found in cosmetic products such as facewashes.

Plastic litter has many environmental consequences, it not only harms us but also other living creatures that come in contact with it. It looks as if plastic litter is the only litter we make. It is not the case. Plastic or not, litter causes problems.

According to the most authoritative study, it constitutes only 0.6 percent of visible litter across the United States. So, even banning all plastic bags would have little impact on overall litter. – Fox & Hounds Daily

We can deal with this. It starts with me and you.

‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ – Mahatma Gandhi

Water pollution in China and India

On August 2nd, 2013, I re-blogged an article ‘The greening of China’ in my blog titled ‘Optimistically green China‘. While China intends to go greener, another renewable energy, hydropower, cannot be overlooked. A study by Sean Gallagher, a Beijing-based British environmental photojournalist mentioned that ‘renewable energy has no negative consequences’ is a myth, busted in a guest post by him at National Geographic.

water pollution in china and indiaKeeping renewable energy aside, what’s even more concerning is the pollution of the water systems in China. A new video by The Economist that hosts Mr John Parker, tells us how exactly this has happened and its implications.

Not to mention the smog that’s making China rethink on the strategies to host Olympics, an air pollution disaster. The World Bank has a multi-year, multi-sector study that estimates the physical and economic cost of air and water pollution in China. It speaks of water scarcity and what remains too is polluted, the impact of which is significant.

Watching India lying next to China, in terms of demographics, I wonder if India is taking sufficient measures to avoid such a situation. India Infrastructure Report 2011 and Water in India: Situation and Prospects, a report by UNICEF puts forwards the harsh realities that exist and the measures that are being taken.

India cannot be categorized as a water scarce country like China, but it sure does fall into the ‘water-stressed’ category. Although scarcity is also an effect of natural phenomenon like drought, it sure can be avoided if water resources are not over-polluted or over-used. Water can be kept safe for drinking through proper waste disposal and sanitation. In my blog ‘Water mining and its consequences‘, I mentioned how water mining can also lead to water shortage, so that’s one other aspect we can deal with to avoid future scarcity.

Read more:

Performance audit of water pollution in India

Introducing, Ludwick Marishane.

I bet at least one of you who’s reading this hates to have a bath. Well, if not every time, SOMEDAY, you must have wanted to not bathe.

Ludwick Marishane, is the guy who invented water-less bathing lotion, just because he did not like to bathe. Sounds funny, but it has a potential to have profound implications in areas where water is scarce. For some of us, not wanting to bathe is an utter denial of luxury, but not for all.

Well, that is just not it, the lotion creates a biodegradable film that cleanses and moisturizes the skin. Go green!

See how he did it: Ludwick Marishane: A bath without water | Video on TED.com

Why do we waste so much?

“You should eat everything that is served in your plate! Don’t waste anything.”, said my mother and she has been saying it ever since I was an infant. Many of us can relate to this in one form or the other, from one person or the other.

Ever wondered why we waste so much? Why do we waste food, water or anything for that matter? Is it something innate to us? What could possibly be the psychology behind such a behavior?

When I was about 20 years old, I heard a yoga instructor say, “Your stomach is not a garbage bin, if you don’t need it, don’t push it inside you, do not eat it. You are causing more harm that good.” She was right, in a way. Only problem I think with this piece of advice is that it needed an iteration of the question ‘why?’ Why did we feel obligated to not waste food? Why is it morally right to not waste food? If we have to waste food, why do we harm our own bodies for being morally right? Why do we create so much food needlessly? What do we think when we do all this?

My main point was that our perception of waste is relative to our experience of scarcity, and for most of us, things like water, food and energy do not feel scarce, even though, taken globally, they are. In so far as there is a solution, it may lie in simulating the experience of scarcity. I do this incidentally once a year when I visit my in-laws in India, where I learn to live with water shortages and power cuts, even in a relatively developed and affluent part of one of their main cities, Bangalore. – Jonathan Rowson, RSAblogs

Did this ever happen to you? Did you ever experience scarcity? I have. We had a 24 hour water supply for a few days, when I moved to a new place. The new society was yet to have a good foundation of rules. After our society was fully populated, new rules were made. Water was then only supplied for two hours, one hour each, morning and evening. We felt the scarcity. It was uncomfortable. We bought new storage tanks to store water. My mother made sure that nobody wasted water in the house. She’s been always the same, she must have experienced scarcity long back but we, the ones who have not ever lived in a world like she has, do not know of scarcity but we are experiencing it now. She always coaxed me into building things from waste, to save resources. She, like many mothers or people alike out there have continued this legacy, for the good.

A layperson may ask, “We have so much water in the oceans, then why do people say ‘Save Water’?

Everyday, something or the other strengthens my belief in this quote from the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still: “People change at the precipice.”

“Fifty-four percent of the world’s food wastage occurs “upstream” during production, post-harvest handling and storage, according to FAO’s study. Forty-six percent of it happens “downstream,” at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.”

Read more: Food waste harms climate, water, land and biodiversity – new FAO report