Head is spinning. I walk out of one of the world’s major conferences on sustainability and climate change with very mixed emotions. Gloomy images of extreme weather dramas and predictions of catastrophes mixed with an energetic urge to act and the hope that we, the human race, full of creative and bright thinkers and inventors, still can perform miracles.
It has been three fantastic days in Delhi meeting an overwhelming amount of environmental experts, entrepreneurs and activist – “24/7 I am thinking green,” as one of them told me. Wonderful people. That includes the organisers, the staff of The Energy and Resources Institute, who have catered so well for us all, the 1,000 delegates and speakers. Very high standard of service and conference infrastructure. Yummy Indian food.
But at the same time, it has been deeply worrying to learn how little consensus there is, how confused we apparently still are, even among those ‘already converted’ who met here in Delhi because we take the devastating predictions and warnings from scientists seriously. The over 100 speakers spoke in so many different directions, and had so many different suggestions to what needs to be done.
What I learned by coming to Delhi was that no one yet has found that ‘booster-rocket’ or ‘killer application’ which will make a transformation take off and save our children from having to live with the desasters that a global 4ºC heat raise will cause. No one has that recipe which at a global scale can give us confidence that we will tackle this problem before it is too late. Some speakers at the summit were convinced that it IS already too late, and that what we need to talk about is how to adapt to the climate change.
We were presented to loads of depressing facts. Consequences of human greed. Numerous times the conference delegates were reminded of Gandhi’s statement that “the world has enough resources to cover our needs, but not our greed.”
And we listened to predictions, nightmare scenarios, of what life for our grand children will be like when the civilised world as we know it will fall to pieces because of insecurity, wars over resources, migrating masses on the run, combined with endless catastrophes caused by extreme weather and water rises. Struggles over fresh water resources.
“Let’s stop talking about climate change,” suggested one speaker. “Let’s talk about how our current lack of action on the climate issues inevitably is going to lead us directly to World War 3,” one speaker suggested.
We are over six billion people on the planet now, and before we know it, we will be nine billion human beings. We claim we are different than the animals we share this planet with, but as it seems, we really aren’t. Just like every other animal, we are built and controlled by our genes. Which means that what drives us in life is to satisfy our basic needs. Food, to begin with. Then… sex, prestige, power, status symbols and all the other things that make our lives comfortable and feel good. Mother Nature’s reward to us, when we do these things we have been programmed to do, is to make us feel good. Which is what makes the human world go around.
All of which makes it so hard to call for awareness and change the current development with continuous and increasing CO2-emissions.
The world press certainly couldn’t care that yet another climate conference was being held in Delhi. Not even the local Delhi press bothered to report about it. (Maybe it is still on its way, though. Let me know if you see something).
I browsed through many newspapers during my three days in Delhi, and all I saw was the usual chit-chat reporting about topics that humans are concerned about: religion, gender issues, IT, day-to-day economy, fashion, mixed with full page advertisements for cars and real estate projects. Nothing about the climate, or about environmental issues.
Thick and visible air pollution
In the days I was here, Delhi was covered by a thick, brown fog, and the newspapers reported in great detail about how many airplanes it had kept grounded, but not a single word about what had caused it. My taxi driver told me the mist was caused by the local industry and car pollution. If so, then very similar to the news coming out of Beijing where air pollution figures allegedly have been so bad that the measures went completely “out of index” and people were warned to stay indoor.
But… as much as possible, life somehow goes on. In capital cities all over the world, people do complain, and feel guilty, but then, after a while, the air cleans up a little bit, and people continue their lives. Collectively we close our eyes to the pollution – and CO2-emission – problems.
Conscious about their environment
According to a survey by National Geographic Society, however, Indians are the most conscious about their environment footprint. India topped a list of 17 nations on best sustainable behaviour, with consumers in the US last on the list. 45 per cent of Indian and 42 per cent of Chinese consumers feel guilty about the impact they have on the environment – in contrast to only 21 per cent of US consumers.
Greening the globe
So let’s remain positive. At least the visibility of the extreme weather incidents we currently are experiencing is an eye-opener to people around the world. People who – like myself – come to realise the urgency and the seriousness of the matter.
The hurricane that hit USA recently allegedly cost the government 60 billion dollars. Taxpayers money. I don’t think anyone has yet been able to estimate the price of the damages which Australia experienced this January. Our CO2-emission comes at a cost, and it could soon begin to look like a better way to spend our money to invest in initiatives which decarbonize the atmosphere.
At the summit in Delhi, I met a man who wants to do just that: Mr Raju Palanisamy, Chief Executive Officer of the Greening Globe project.
Also, I learned, ‘Earth Day’ has the tree-planting Canopy Project which over the past three years has planted over 1.2 million trees in 18 countries, and the United Nations and the Plant for the Planet Foundation runs an ambitious Billion Tree Campaign. Stop talking – start planting!
Great to meet people with that kind of energy towards creating a green transformation. I also found it uplifting to see that India actually has a monthly magazine devoted to inspire people to live a green lifestyle. “Now going green saves more than the planet,” sounds the slogan of “India’s first mainstream green lifestyle magazine”, Green Life, which has 14 glossy paper issues out, and is sold in India for just 100 rand, less than two US dollars.
With less than 500 likes on their Facebook-page, they could use a click from you, here: facebook.com/GreenLifeMagazine
Conference newsletter no 3:
Bulletin about Day 2 [PDF]
Conference newsletter no 2:
Bulletin about Day 1 [PDF]
Conference newsletter no 1:
Bulletin of the CEO Sustainability Summit [PDF]
TERI’s new Knowledge Database:
– knowledge exchange for sustainable development
Summit home page: