Changing Ego-Systems to save Eco-Systems
London, UK - 26 June 2007, 08:56 GMT - We are grateful to Anouradha
Bakshi, Founder Director, Project WHY, based in New Delhi, India, for "Changing
Ego-Systems to save Eco-Systems"; Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman,
Anglo-American, and Member, Tomorrow's Global Company, Inquiry Team, based
in London, UK, for "Need for Legislative Frameworks
to Guide Markets"; and Anouradha Bakshi for "Where
is the Empathy? Short Term Capitalism and Long Term Environmental Damage";
in response to the Launch of the International Inquiry
Report - Tomorrow's Global Company - Challenges and Choices signed by
senior figures from businesses and NGOs based in Europe, North America and
Asia. These include: ABB, Alcan, Anglo American, Amnesty International Business
Group, BP, Dr Reddy's, Ford, the International Institute for Sustainable
Development, Infosys, KPMG, Leaders' Quest, McKinsey, Standard Chartered,
SUEZ, and SustainAbility. The international inquiry draws on their experience
and on dialogues, workshops and interviews conducted across the world in
countries including Australia, China, France, India, South Africa, United
Kingdom, and United States by Tomorrow's Company led by Mark Goyder.
Dear ATCA Colleagues
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors
are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral.
ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and
Anouradha Goburdhun Bakshi is the Founder Director of Project
WHY in New Delhi, India. She is the descendent of an indentured labourer
and an Indian freedom fighter's daughter, born in Prague, then Czechoslovakia,
in 1952 and raised in numerous world capitals where her diplomat father
was posted, including Prague, Beijing, Paris, Rabat, Saigon and Ankara.
At 16 she returned to India, where she completed her studies and obtained
a masters In French. She qualified for the elite Indian Administrative
Service (IAS) examination but preferred to follow a different path. Fluent
in French she was Assistant professor in Jawaharlal Nehru university for
a few years. After marriage in 1974 to a young aviation executive, she
pursued a career as an interpreter and conference manager working for
Indira Gandhi, Jacques Chirac, and many other world leaders. The loss
of her parents and the last words of her father "Don't lose faith
in India" made her question the validity of an almost perfect life
in an India were things were wrong. After a period of retrospection and
the realisation that many "WHYs" needed to be answered she decided
to find some of the answers by setting up Project WHY in 1998. Anouradha
was voted "Citizen One" by the India Today Group in 2005 and
has received the Red and White Silver medal for Social Bravery. Anouradha
is a member of The Philanthropia network and blogs on IntentBlog.
Project WHY came into being as an answer to a simple question: why do
so many children drop out in India's capital city? It began with 20 children
in 2000. Today over 500 children enjoy the education delivered to them
by committed teachers, many of whom are the products of slums themselves.
'Success' as measured by examination results is also remarkable. It has
also established strong ties with the community and is today engaged in
a medley of programmes ranging from medical assistance to children in
distress to community empowerment initiatives! Project WHY does not receive
any institutional funding and is supported by a network of friends and
well wishers. She writes:
Dear DK and Colleagues
Re: Changing Ego-Systems to save Eco-Systems
Sir Mark's response to the points raised in "Where is the Empathy?
Short Term Capitalism and Long Term Environmental Damage" are extremely
pertinent. The ideal situation would undoubtedly be that all concerned
partners get together and come up with workable solutions.
However this is not simple and to borrow Don Rittner's words "Trying
to save ecosystems has more to do with changing egosystems." In emerging
markets like India, buying a big car or washing one's hair with a well
advertised product is a matter of proving that you have 'arrived'!
It would be far too ambitious to believe that this generation would give
up what they have got after a long struggle. The urban slum dwellers arrogate
themselves certain rights when they finally come to cities. Unfortunately
most of these rights are harmful to the environment.
Last week we held a day long workshop on global warming with our secondary
children. While I was preparing for it I browsed many global warming sites
to look for the what can we do sections and found that most -- if not
all -- suggestions given were irrelevant to the urban poor.
If one looks at the site
one realises that most of the suggestions are irrelevant to the urban
1. Learn about it -- start with this Web site and see the References.
Most of the urban poor are barely literate.
2. Sell the SUV and choose cleaner, more efficient vehicles. Reduce
your driving: one gallon of gas burned creates 20 pounds of CO2. Fuel
up on ethanol and biodiesel.
They do not have cars.
3. Use efficient appliances, replace light bulbs with low-voltage compact
fluorescents. Check your home insulation. Buy renewable energy, like wind
and solar, from your power company.
When you live or actually survive in poorly designed shacks there
is not much you can do and low voltage bulbs cost 10 times more!
4. Companies -- the one you work for and the ones you buy from --
can save lots of money and reduce global warming by taking similar steps
toward energy efficiency.
Even if the slum dweller works in a company, s/he is the invisible
voiceless person. Many times s/he is not even a permanent employee
5. Shop smart: Look for products made from recycled materials, created
with renewable energy, and which help you save money and reduce pollution.
This again is not possible as the cheapest is often the least eco-friendly
7. Use your vote and influence as a citizen to elect responsive leaders;
help them organize the neighbourhood and town for energy efficiency.
Though slum dwellers vote, the votes are often controlled by politicians
who rule the roost.
8. Suburban sprawl makes for lots of global warming pollution; plan
for walkable communities, lots of trees, open spaces, and public transportation
in and between cities.
Again not possible.
9. Build new homes and buildings for efficiency and solar power.
Not possible. In urban slums even basics are not provided for. Most
of them are illegal and people live in the terror of seeing them razed.
10. Support sustainable farming and forestry, including new crops to
make into ethanol and other biofuels.
11. Let the corporations who make our cars, fuels, goods and power
know you want their products to be as ecological as possible.
12. At all government levels, develop an efficient energy policy, moving
away from fossil fuels.
13. Export new energy technology that uses renewable energy sources
to the rest of the world.
14. ....and start doing these things today.
On another website for children these are the suggestions:
There are some very simple things that everyone can do to help stop
· Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Use fluorescent
bulbs in your room.
· Turn off your computer or the TV when you're not using it. Unplug
chargers when not in use.
· Wait until you have a lot of clothes to wash before using the
washing machine. Don't use the machine for one item just because it's
your favourite shirt.
· Take shorter showers. Heating water uses energy.
· Close the blinds on a hot day if the sun is shining in. Dress
lightly instead of turning up the air conditioning. Or use a fan.
· Dress warmly when it's cold, instead of turning up the heat.
· Offer to help your parents keep the air filters on your AC and
· Walk short distances instead of asking for a ride in a car.
· Plant a tree.
· Learn more about global warming so you can talk to people about
Here again the suggestions are not relevant to a slum child. One has to
review them in the light of their reality. We are in the midst of preparing
the to do list with the staff and kids based on the way people live in
urban slums. The main idea is to see how each one can do his or her bit.
We then gave ourselves the task of drawing up a list of things they could
do and are in the process of doing so.
Here are a few of the ideas that were discussed and accepted at the workshop
in terms of offering advice to the urban poor:
ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH
Aims at each one of us thinking of one other use before throwing something.
It could be cutting up a plastic bottle and planting something in it,
or using it as a container..
Cutting up newspapers into newskins, or napkins that you can hang in places
and use for wiping a coffee stain on a table and so on... The idea is
to get each one of us to stop and think before throwing.
COLLECTION OF PLASTIC
We also plan to start collecting the plastic and pouches strewn all over
the streets as people tend to throw them. These normally choke the rain
water drains and are often the reason for flooding. Though we are a country
that recycles things, often much that can be recycled does not reach the
right place. By collecting the plastic around our many centres we hope
to be able to clean up the environment and also ensure that it reaches
the right place.
SWITCHING OFF TVs AND OTHER APPLIANCES
Most homes have TVs hence we plan to teach children not to leave TVs in
the sleep mode. Many people have cell phones and often leave the charger
plugged in. That is another point we need to address as in slums often
people pay a fixed rate for electricity and hence leave many things plugged
Water is a scarce commodity but is often wasted. Many community taps
are often dripping or even left open. Children will be taught to motivate
people not to leave taps on and also to see that leaking taps are repaired.
We had launched a water
project last year but we had to slow it down, as we did not have enough
funds for the filters.
Children will be taught to plant seeds in containers and pots.
There is proliferation of motorbikes in slums as these are now available
on credit. Kids are seen zipping around senselessly. We plan to raise
awareness about carbon emissions using this as an example.
These are the starting points and of course we have to keep in mind the
psyche of the urban poor and his egosystem and then try and bring about
It is truly about egosystems as when a couple of years back we suggested
that we could buy a product in large packing and dole it out to individuals
in their own receptacle(s), the idea was derided and found unacceptable.
I realised later that our suggestion could not compete with the lure of
the publicity package. Maybe if the idea came via the TV screen and through
a celebrity then it would become do-able!
Societies like ours need to go through a period where new found dreams
are fulfilled. Our duty would be to make that period as short as possible
by raising awareness on the one hand and finding a temporary solution
on the other: hence our idea of a green pouch that would be made mandatory
till people themselves understood the dangers.
It is maybe an onerous and long drawn way but keeping in mind the alarming
reality, it is one we should perhaps look at.
We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank
For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency
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