The Climate Solutions Road Tour was an epic adventure across India, aimed at catalysing a change-making movement. Travelling in solar and electric vehicles, a bio-fuel truck and a used-cooking-oil powered van, an international team of young people toured 15 major cities and numerous towns and villages. En route, the group visited visionary individuals and communities working to create low carbon solutions. ‘India has a long tradition of respect for the environment,’ said Deepa Gupta, from the India Youth Climate Network. ‘In my experience, when I say to people that we must not forget the old ways’, a smile of understanding lights up their face.’ Deepa, who was one of the organisers, spoke to Positive News about the trip.
In January, we travelled from Chennai to Delhi, via Goa, communicating and celebrating India’s climate initiatives. This is what we discovered.
After I addressed the crowds, during the Mumbai Marathon, audience members agreed that they wanted to end poverty, disease and environmental damage. From the corporate runner, to the chai seller, all raised their hands in solidarity to put a stop to climate change. It was incredible!
We went on to visit the largest slum in the world, Dharavi. Here, no one talks about carbon footprint’ or corporate social responsibility’, yet their informal sector is one of the greenest. The level of recycling is astounding. Plastics, paper, cardboard and cloth are all reused but no machinery is involved ñ just people ñ hence more green jobs are created.
As we journeyed through Gujarat, we stopped at the industrial town of Valsad, to visit a demonstration-cum-research facility for solar cookers. Not only does this method of cooking rid the effects of smoke inhalation but the time saved by not having to collect wood, allows families to seek other sources of income.
In Andhra Pradesh, on the eastern coast of India, we went to see the Centre of Sustainable Agriculture. Through the education of sustainable techniques, the local farmers have been empowered to begin a silent revolution. In three years, they have transformed thousands of acres of land, by using rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation, natural fertilisers and organic pesticides, mixed crop rotation and localised seed banks. They have also seen an increase in yields and harvests.
We may think that eco-buildings are a relatively new idea but India has been constructing green properties’ for many thousands of years. Artificial lighting, air conditioners and water-filled toilets are a recent addition. Over the centuries the country has refined its architecture to suit the climate ñ wind tower cooling systems and intricate sand stone lattice walls, roof terraces and natural lighting. Even the mud brick home insulates from the heat and is less energy intensive to build and recycle.
One of the aims of the Tour was to conduct workshops with young people, to prove that environmental education can be done in a way that is both fun and engaging. Unfortunately, today there is gap between what is taught and the skills required in life. However, Barefoot College in Rajasthan, is not a traditional school. Here, no degrees or certificates are awarded. Instead, all the pupils are encouraged to make mistakes, so they can learn humility, curiosity and have the courage to take risks, improvise or constantly experiment. It is a college where life’ is the qualification.
From the big to the small, we saw and heard it all. There were even announcements from the Gujarat Government to implement more solar and wind projects. It was good to hear about official incentives for green energy. It was equally exciting to see all the new solar lanterns lighting up the villages along the way.
Each country faces its own challenges but India has some wonderful ideas ñ in the form of technology, traditional knowledge and spirituality. If it chooses to, it could show the entire world that sustainable development is possible. Be the change. Be the solution.
Children are shown hand-crank radios during a workshop in Rajasthan. Photo: © Indian Youth Climate Network