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SDG#15: Life on Land (?)


With the grand event of UNFCCC CoP24 coming closer. It is that time of the year when Politicians would be high or rhetoric & poor on delivery.

As usual, evidence on the above inference would be from experience from events happening in India.

We begin with the City of New Delhi which at present is reeling under severe air pollution, both due to the annual crop burning as well as the bursting of fire-crackers. The severity of the situation is best shown by News18 images some of which I will be posting alongside.

rashtrapati-bhawan

This image shows the Rashtrapati Bhawan ie; the Presidential Palace. The wings of the building North Block & South Block houses the HQ of Defence, Finance, Prime Ministers Office etc. Which means we are looking at the Nerve Center of Indian Administrative Power.

But it was the Supreme Court, which came out as the custodian of Environment, by virtually banning fire-crackers & crop-residue burning. Yet the honourable SC has been made a laughing stock! Nothing was done by the great political leaders, of all the great & grand parties of India which swear on their Gods that they are the messiah of the citizens of India. When they can’t fix issues in New Delhi, it would be foolish to imagine that any administration really works in other state capitals. We need not even mention the villages and small towns. It would simply add insult to injury.

Why have our political leaders and administration not been able to tackle this annual issue? What is the reason for those who know the subject in depth not been given the platform by our over-the-top, TRP seeking media to spread the message, to educate and prevent this annual disastrous event from taking place, instead of talking about it as an annual ritual after it has happened? We would never know.

indian-authorities-brace-for-worst-air-pollution-season-3However, an attempt will be made through this article to explain in the easiest language possible about the dangers of pollution.  So that the common men can relate to it. What we see in the image here is hay being burnt in the fields of Punjab and a thick smoke envelope the entire area. Crop residue has always been burnt when New Delhi was called -Dilli, & perhaps if we can get the historical records at the time it was called Indraprastha. So what has changed which causes such a havoc? To understand it we have to look at many factors.

The growth of Urban areas, which never took into account geographic or historical data. Things like wind direction, rainfall pattern, forest cover, catchment areas nothing has ever been considered. What was forest land a few hundred years ago became land for cultivation, as trees were felled to satisfy the ever-growing populations as Dilli became the Capital of the Mughals and then the British. With Independence, came the need for Green Revolution, and the leaders brain-washed into considering everything western to be superior went into the use of pesticides and herbicides completely contrary to the Organic way of farming (which we are again adopting, form the West!). So today when we are burning the crop residue we are also releasing into the air the poison we put into our food!

So, when the Punjab Farmers Defy the Government Ban, ( click the link to know more) they must also be explained that they must not just look at it from the point of view they have, which is mentioned in the article but to safeguard their own lives too.

morning-haze-envelops-the-skylineThen we schooled ourselves into the architecture which is completely western in form and function. Tall glass buildings, with utter disregard to wind-flow patterns, to such an extent that the wind flow within the city slowed down allowing dangerous fumes from unregulated use of automobiles, factory etc. What was once industrial district became part of new urban living areas, while the old well designed urban areas got haphazard building permissions for mixed use.

Today we have a problem, which can not be easily solved. There are economic and social considerations to be factored in. Add to that the political compulsions and vote bank politics and we all know that there will not be a decent solution coming anytime soon.

Suggested Solution:

But by next winter, should the governments both state and centre want, pollution from both crop residue and fire-crackers can be stopped. The governments must map out the farms and make a law where the rich farmers would have to buy composting machines as well as air-purifying machines. These would be made available on low interest in easy EMI to them. While to the subsistence farmers, community composting machines, as well as rental air-purifiers, can be supplied, via NGO’s or CSR. Crop residue burning can be staggered in places where the supply of the machines can’t reach in the initial learning time.

As for fire-crackers, a sustained political campaign, maybe even using the Ramlila actors, messages must be spread pan India that Deepawali meant lighting of clay lamps. The alien concept of fire-crackers which crept into it as tradition must be removed by the sustained evidence-based scientific approach. 

The Science and technology ministry should gear up with support form innovative startups to find better solutions. 

The next point we must now tackle is sensitivity to effects of pollution and how it leads to climate change. We will begin with a very simple fact, which many may not even think or know about. It is only then the affirmative actions we all seek would happen, as without a groundswell of support nothing ever gets done.

buildings-are-partly-visible“High levels of pollution found in many of the world’s major cities are having negative effects on plants and insects, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.”[read more] Science Daily published the above report on 9th November 2018. “…plants exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — similar to levels recorded in major urban centres — are able to better defend themselves against herbivorous insects…Results from the study show that insects feeding on these leaves grew poorly, which suggests high levels of air pollution may be having cascading negative effects on communities of herbivorous creatures.”

Anyone with basic school education has read about pollination knows that insects & herbivore animals play a super-major role in germination and growth of plants and fruits. With all the money at one’s disposal, the “Midas Touch” still stands true. We may all rave and rant about culture and traditions, political compulsions but we forget that the basis of life is to have clean air-water-food.

It was the 3 basic pillars which created the civilization and we live in the Holocene Epoch, of the Quaternary Period, in the Cenozoic Era. Yes, era and epoch & period aren’t words we need to remember in History books. We all are actually living in one!

The point is, will there be someone left, to read in their History book about our Era or we are the last of the Human Civilization? Before the Armageddon which has already hinted its arrivals with fire-storms [click to know more] and hurricane wipe us out?

 

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in Global Warming & Climate Change

 

SDG#13: Climate Action …..the woeful lack of it


On the eve of Earth Overshoot Day, I begin my  article on the UN SDG #13 Climate Action; with a paragraph from the venerated Magazine:

New Scientist

Biodiversity in crisis: How close to the brink is life on Earth?

Attention-grabbing headlines about extinctions obscure our dearth of knowledge about just how many species are being wiped out and how big the implications are?

“SEE those little beetles with a black cross on a red background?” I lean in to take a look. “They’re Panagaeus cruxmajor – the crucifix ground beetle. They were collected by Charles Darwin back in the 1820s.”

Ed Turner is curator of insects at the University of Cambridge’s Zoology Museum, where many of Darwin’s beetle collections are held. He is proud to show me specimens collected by the man himself, and I am chuffed to see them. But the thrill doesn’t last. If we were to follow in Darwin’s footsteps and go out hunting crucifix ground beetles on the fens north of Cambridge, Turner says, we would have no chance. “They’re extinct. In this county, anyway.”

The last time anyone saw a crucifix ground beetle in Cambridgeshire was 1951. Changes in land use and overuse of pesticides haven’t been kind to this dweller of watery fenland.

You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the biodiversity crisis. Since about 1500, expanding human activity has condemned vast numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles to an early grave. Now worries have spread to smaller creatures that actually do live under rocks, in leaf litter, in dung heaps and in puddles and ponds.

Turner is in no doubt. “Insects are in massive decline and have been for some time,” he says. “It’s quite a clear picture and a depressing one. By any measure that you choose, biodiversity of insects is declining.” I ask him what that means. “It means something is very, desperately wrong with our world.”

Readers may wonder how it is worrisome if insects are becoming extinct? After all, it is a great thing if these pests and ‘creepy’ creatures die-off. Well, one look at the food chain diagram would explain that ‘humans’ too would become extinct. Whether we like it or not, all life is linked to one another in a complex manner which is explained as the food chain/web. [To the uninitiated ‘nematodes, arthropods’ = worms,insects]. The insects are like the foundation of a building and even children understand what would happen should the foundation of a building is destroyed. To those who may have forgotten their kindergarten science; worms help in keeping the soil fertile for germination of plants, the primary source of energy. And the bees ensure pollination. So, it’s the worms and insects who hold the key to our wellbeing.

Image result for food chain diagram for humansCourtesy: https://www.blm.gov/

Climate Action is a topic on which much can be written. But, today I would like to take my readers to a scenario which could make most understand why we must safeguard Earth’s ecosystem. The below mentioned 9.31-minute video could perhaps change the mindset of many, who do not understand that our planet is a complex living organism by itself. Every action has its reaction and the sooner we understand and come into harmony with it the better it would be.

The explanation given for the demise of Mars is theoretically possible and perhaps accurate. The stripping of the Atmosphere leading to the escape of all surface water and with it, life itself.

What if something similar should happen on Earth? Before we scoff that idea, we must remember that it was somewhere in the 1980’s we found that our Atmosphere was thinning out. It was called the Ozone Hole!

While the World came together and we think we have plugged it, there are other events which are taking place around the world which is fast accelerating us towards Aggremendon! This summer of 2018 has some of the record high temperatures as given below –

UAE: 51.4°C Africa + Algeria: 51.3°C Tunisia: 49.2°C LA: 48.9°C Baku: 42.7°C Japan: 41.1°C Kabul: 40.5°C Montreal: 36.6°C Swedish polar circle: 32.5°C Baltic Sea: 25°C.

IMAGE: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY/ THE EARTH INSTITUTE CLIMATE SCIENCE, AWARENESS AND SOLUTIONS

War, unprecedented destruction of the Rainforest and a stoic refusal by some of the most powerful Nations in the world to turn away from fossil fuel has been making the Earth warmer than ever before.

Some would question, as to why seemingly rational people. National leaders of Nations which are the most prosperous and powerful have steadfastly refused and refuted the Science, to debunk the theory of Global Warming? Some did come up with evidence that the Earth was, in fact, cooling in the period between the mid-1990’s to 2000 AD!

There was indeed a “Pause” in the Global warming for 15 long years.

However, recent research has found that the Earth was actually warming all the while but the effects felt was exactly the opposite. This can be explained by the fact as mentioned in Live Science Article:

The Earth really does have a massive, hidden air-conditioning system that messes with the climate in paradoxical, unexpected ways and is, in turn, affected by climate change. And a new paper turns to that AC unit to, possibly, answer one of the abiding mysteries of climate change.

This has been furthermore accurately supported by EarthSky with detailed analysis. And also putting out a clear argument to the ‘Nay’ sayers, who rely mostly on Satellite observations, to refute Climate Change.

On the 1st of August, the Earth will Overshoot. which I explained in my previous article. We are still trying to extract more and more resources, from the planet without really thinking that short-term political gains would leave the successors to the throne with unprecedented problems.

We can still have a course correction, as devised and explained by many environmentalists, we need to roll back the Earth Overshoot day as planned. Just 4 days every year, as that is the least painful solution available. Any further delay it shall no more be an option.

Before I end, let us think of a Hollywood Sci-Fi Script.

Let’s imagine that in the year 2025,  Mars probes which are trying to probe in detail the underground water found in Mars happen to find not just life forms, but traces of ancient civilization of Humans. Could it be that we destroyed that planets magnetic field by detonating underground atomic bombs? Stripped the vegetation in search of coal? And created an Ozone Hole so big that it couldn’t be plugged?

Would the Meghalayan Era of the Holocene Epoch, which we know as the Computer Age be the last for the Human Civilization on a planet we Martians named Earth?

 

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SDG#13: Climate Action


India was the global host of 2018 World Environment Day which took place on June 5, 2018. There could be no other event more important for India than the World Environment Day. That the Nation should align as one and consider the Sustainable Development Goal #13 – Climate Action as its manifesto in the strongest possible manner than ever before. The reasons become obvious with the following articles and videos. In fact, the first news report from WION below was Published on 16 Nov 2017, It is almost as if Nostradamus not NASA who is predicting them. For the below-mentioned news just proves them 100% true and then some more.

That it has only 1691 views and 7 likes till date tells a story no environmentalist would want to know….The attempt therefore, once more is to ramp up support for Climate Action, through this article.

Climate Prediction:

Reuters: India is the most vulnerable country to climate change, followed by Pakistan, the Philippines and Bangladesh, a ranking by HSBC…… Of the four nations assessed by HSBC to be most vulnerable, India has said climate change could cut agricultural incomes, particularly unirrigated areas that would be hit hardest by rising temperatures and declines in rainfall. (read more)

Climate Re-Action:

 High-intensity dust storms uprooted trees and caused buildings to collapse across India’s northern states, resulting in multiple deaths across North Indian state of Rajasthan. .
Climate Prediction:
According to an HSBC report published in March 2018, India is amongst the most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change. The highest risks related to climate change are concentrated among the low-income groups living in houses, which are especially vulnerable to wind and water hazards due to extreme weather events. Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are especially prone to bear the brunt of climate change.
(courtesy:swarajyamag.com)

Climate Re-Action:

The above video is perhaps the best compilation of what India is facing. All at the same time. Extreme Heat Conditions in Kashmir, Floods in Karnataka and Drought in Madhya Pradesh.

But what is the actual story on the ground? According to the latest report filed by Nibu Pullamvilavil scribe with the Wire –

preliminary assessment by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, IIT Gandhinagar and IIM Ahmedabad found in 2015 that India will have to invest Rs 24.3 lakh crore every year by 2030 to implement adaptation actions. The study noted that total government spending on capacity development in India has grown consistently over the last decade; Rs 6.2 lakh crore was spent in 2013 alone.

The National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC), established by the Government of India in 2015, aims to support concrete adaptation activities. As of today, 26 projects have been approved at a total cost of Rs 648.9 crore, and of which Rs 315.3 crore has been released. This is woefully inadequate given the size of our country and the challenges it faces. 

Urban India has been largely ignored vis-à-vis adaptation efforts. Climate resilience and risks associated with climate change have failed to find mention in ‘smart city’ proposals approved by the Centre. (read more in the Wire)

To make a City ready for adaptation and mitigation, it is very important that the general public are made to understand the dangers of climate change. This is woefully inadequate.

Post three years after the Prime Minister of the Nation has signed the Paris Agreement. We still don’t have all the states adopting the SDG’s as their agenda. If one peeks into the Niti Ayog website:

Niti

If you click on the above and go into the menu from the states, click say Maharashtra, it says that it has gathered reports in detail for goals 3-4-5-15. While the rest are awaited.

Once on the page, you would notice, only one from the Environmental Action Plan, Goal 15 has been touched. Goal # 13 which is Climate Action, the state of Maharashtra is yet to compile its detailed information. Let alone take action! In fact, it states that the action program on SDG # 13 would be done by 2020. This is because of the promised funding by developed countries of $100 Billion. But what happens if that promised money doesn’t come. Do we have a plan B? This is the state post signing the agreement in 2015. And the program has an end date of 2030.

Not only Urban areas have been ignored, the City of Mumbai with its 2034 Development Plan shows no real thought has been put with the SDG’s in mind but the standard fare of ‘Business as Usual’.

We all know that the recent Talona Dialogues held in Bonn in May was not a great success to indicate that the Developed countries are anywhere ready to owe to their historic responsibility by giving grants to fix the problems related to Climate Change.

If India is serious about climate change it would have been mentioned in the NAINA in clear words about its adherence to the SDG’s. But it only offers a vague lip service to the same.

It would be unfair to say that the officials and the top political masters are not interested or want to implement a sound policy which aligns to the urgent needs in a highly dangerous Climate Change situation.

But it is the lack of action at the grass root level, which doesn’t allow the common man on the street to grasp the meaning and the importance of Climate Action. This is what should be the plan B.

India can generate enough resources of its own to develop and plan truly smart cities and implement not only Climate Action but all the other goals from within its own means. But for that sound policy should not remain in paper. They should be openly debated in public and solutions found for logjams which plague it.

The biggest hindrance to Climate Action is that it in itself has no immediately perceivable Return on Investment for the Investor. This is the major reason for the lip service which most of its industry are doing, one such example is the Building & Construction Sector. It is a shame to see buildings being built and claimed to be Green Building Rated when all that is happening is a scam called pre-certification. Under Pre-Certification all the Builder-Developer needs is to sign an undertaking that his design & construction would be in accordance to the documents submitted. Once they receive the Certificate they become eligible by the green tribunal authorities to construct. If an independent verification is done by say the UN designated independent bodies. Almost all the top-rated buildings will fail barring a handful.

For a country which is grappling with corruption in every layer of the society, Climate Action is the least priority for the vast majority. Unless there is a peoples movement as it happened in Tuticorin – an industrial unit became a focal point to fight pollution. things will not change.

But such movements are neither good for the society nor for the country as it only creates havoc. Havoc not only because it has already damaged the Environment but also because it leaves a permanent scar in the society which has to deal with death and destruction.

Therefore the country should consider as Plan B;  a mandatory high-school to college level subject & examination on the effects of Climate Change. Thus when the next generation managers and industrialists take charge there is already a strong connect and understanding of the complex subject. And at the same time, it would enable those very people the to create a conducive architecture for a monetary benefit which is tangible for all.

 

 

 

 

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SDG#2 No Hunger?


Climate change is one of the major causes which will cause food insecurity. This is known to almost all the governing agencies in India & abroad.

But the common person can not understand this. For them it is policy failure and ineptitude of the governments who are supposed to provide with succor. Although that being partly true, if the present government still fails to address the problem of climate change and educate its citizens to address the challenges of hunger not only from the perspective of responsible consumption (SDG#12, will deal with separately) but also trying to balance it with the environmentally friendly activities to develop a variety of forests like, Agroforestry, Social forestry, Farm forestry, Community forestry, Extension forestry etc. The Goal of Zero Hunger is set to fail.

This article shall look at what hasn’t really changed in the behavioral pattern, especially in India to be able to achieve this stupendous goal by 2030. Before we begin exploring let us understand the correlation between hunger and climate change.

The United Nations Reports on Indian Nutrition & Food Security: With nearly 195 million undernourished people, India shares a quarter of the global hunger burden…….The government has large food security and anti-poverty programmes but there are critical gaps in terms of inclusion and exclusion errors. Women and girls are particularly disadvantaged. Despite the achievement of national food self-sufficiency, new challenges have emerged: Slowing agriculture growth, climate change, land degradation and shrinking biodiversity. Large tracts of farmlands in India have become barren due to imbalanced fertilizer use and excessive use of a single fertilizer, urea. ……..With a five-fold increase in food grain production from 50 million tonnes in 1950-51 to about 250 million tonnes in 2014-15, India has moved away from dependence on food aid to become a net food exporter. In 2016, the government launched a number of programmes to double farmers’ incomes by 2022……..They include the National Food Security MissionRashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), the Integrated Schemes on Oilseeds, Pulses, Palm oil and Maize (ISOPOM)Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana,…..The government has also taken significant steps to combat under- and malnutrition over the past two decades, such as through the introduction of mid-day meals at schools, ……The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, aims to ensure food and nutrition security for the most vulnerable through its associated schemes and programmes, making access to food a legal right. [Read More]

My arguments begin by reading between the lines of the above report. The lines I have marked in red shows how fragile is the system presently. And it will take years of sustained efforts before we can turn the clock back. Barren lands do not become fertile in one season. It takes at least a decade before the natural balance is restored.

The erstwhile Planning Commission had created the ‘development agendas’. Mostly they were copies of the western thoughts. They did not have any ill intentions. But the result is for all to see. The “Green Revolution”, which yielded bumper crops. DDT is now considered a confirmed poison. Yet with years of schooling to use pesticides have now made the simple farmers reticent to let go these dangerous health hazards. When farmlands were declared as Non-Agricultural patches for the Urban Sprawl & Industries came upon forest lands, in the name of Development. We took one more step in the wrong direction.

As per government data, independent India lost forest area in the following manner:

4696 million hectares forest land to non-forestry purposes,

0.07 million hectares to illegal encroachment,

4.37 million hectares to cultivation,

0.518 million hectares to river valley projects,

0.141 million hectares to industries and townships, and

0.061 million hectares to transmission lines and roads.

If we read the analysis by Wakeman Neutron, published in Legal Bites: Farm Crisis and Unrest in India – Case Study Farmer’s Agitation, it says;

The major causes of the agrarian crisis are unfinished agenda in land reform, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, access, adequacy and timeliness of institutional credit, and opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing. ….The per unit area productivity of Indian agriculture is much lower than other major crop-producing countries. This is a major impediment in enhancing the farm income. Out of the gross sown area of 192 million ha, rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 percent of the gross cropped area and 45 percent of the total agricultural output….Adverse meteorological factors add to these problems. [Read in detail]

In spite of Prime Minister Modi declaring Agriculture as one of the prime focus agenda for development & despite bumper monsoon and a good harvest in the year 2016-17 the country has and is continually witnessing farmer’s agitation.

With a sea of agitating farmers swamping Mumbai and pressure mounting, the BJP-led Maharashtra government Monday accepted almost all demands of the farmers, including their right to till forest land and extension of farm loan waiver to those who had borrowed between 2001 and 2008. [The Indian Express

This unprecedented pressure made the policymakers take a very dangerous and wrong decision once again. And its fallout will be an unmitigated disaster in the years to come.

The previous Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) wrote in his will before his sad demise on May18th 2017 – “Do not erect a memorial when I die, but plant a tree if you loved and respected me,”

Mr. Anil Madhav Dave had reasons to be worried.

Between 1880 and 2013 India lost about 40% of its forest cover. Today, 24% of its area is under forests or 7 lakh sq km, according to government data. The area under forest and tree cover has grown by 5,081 sq km between 2013 and 2015. A rise in forest and tree cover may seem like a reason to celebrate but a careful look at the state of forests shows the government has many promises to keep before the woods are lovely, dark and deep. To revive forests will take more than a public campaign to plant trees.

With an ever-increasing population, people are compelled to cultivate on the same plot of land more frequently as there is very little forest area available. Forests are also being converted to permanent settlements.

The quest for Sustainable Development Goal #2 to be true within the timeframe of 2030 AD seems impossible in the face of such unprecedented challenges.

In our quest to eradicate hunger in the short term, we are destroying the very diversity which allows for food to grow. Food is both plant and animal life. Nature is so beautifully balanced that each is dependent on the other for survival. When we start to destroy the basic bio-diversity by cutting down the forest to grow a particular type of crop. The crop yield would go up for a short while but then we will face the same challenges as mentioned above. And by now even a 5th-grade student knows that without forest there is no rain.

Therefore, if we wish to actually strive for Zero Huger we need to educate the people and make them participate in mitigation and adaption to Climate Change.

 

 

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SDG #1: The mindset of the Rich cause Poverty


The World Bank Organization describes poverty in this way:

“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.

Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways.  Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action — for the poor and the wealthy alike — a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”

The Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation puts it more simply: –

Poverty is about not having enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing and shelter.  However, poverty is more, much more than just not having enough money. [Courtesy: New Brunswick Canada]

Most of us have never been hungry for days, unbathed, unwashed, with tatters on our backs and the open sky as a roof to sleep. We have never been so hopeless to have carried the carcass of hope to its funeral and come to terms with the fact that hope is indeed dead!

So let us find and try to correct some of the fundamental flaws humans have created into their complex civilization. That has given rise to such deep divides of the Rich & Poor.

The richest people in the world have a staggering amount of wealth — comparable to the GDP of small countries for some.

But before we end poverty we need to understand that between the rich and the poor there are other income groups which fill the gap!

And that huge population are all looking towards the rich lifestyle and aspiring to reach there. Everything is geared towards consumption and more consumption, which puts an enormous amount of stress on the planets finite resources.

And as the unmitigated consumption continues, it is but a matter of time before this finite resource will get over. But by then it would be too late to reverse the clock, pushing more and more people towards poverty.

Now, once we understand that the poorest are not in such huge numbers, and change the fundamental way in which we think, we may just be able to reduce this gap. Else it is the people in between the richest and the poorest who would keep sliding backward. With the last in the line vanishing into oblivion!

To make us understand how deep is this problem. We must look at what is happening to our resources. Let us understand what is Earth Overshoot Day.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.

To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day for each year, Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint. The remainder of the year corresponds to global overshoot. Earth Overshoot Day is computed by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year), by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand for that year), and multiplying by 365. [Read More]

So, as evident from the illustrated video above, that we are slowly but surely contributing amongst a host of problems; extinction of species. And Homo Sapiens ( humans) are also just another species among many which habitat Earth. And like it or not the laws of Earth applies to us too!

So, as long as we keep consuming the way we are doing at present, the last man in the line of poverty is just…Disappearing!

So, what difference does it make to the human society should the poor die?

Well, they are the blue collared workers in the factories, the invisible conservancy worker who cleans our clogged city drains of filth. The poor constitute the bulk of Maids, Newspaper vendors, Sweepers, Watchmen and Drivers in a City. They are also the invisible masons and coolie who build our infrastructure. And they are the farmers without whom we would not be able to grow a single blade of grass to feed ourselves. And finally, they are the vote bank of the political parties in India.

So, when more and more people who constitute the lower middle-class start sliding back into poverty, due to resource depletion it would create huge social upheaval which no political or social scientist would be able to contain. The promises of development would fail. And chaos will prevail.

So, what needs to be done is to frame policies which will reduce this consumption pattern?

As per the Global Footprint Network – If we reduce driving by 50% around the world and opt for walking, biking or taking public transit instead, Earth Overshoot Day would move back 10 days. 

And many more such solutions lies in the hands of the cities. The global efforts for a Sustainable living will be won or lost on how Cities and its citizens behave. Below is a brief look at the % contribution of the global footprint from each Nation.

earth_overshoot_day

India thankfully has the least contribution to the disaster in the making. But let’s not celebrate yet. We are poised to make a quantum jump in becoming a “Developed Nation”.

The definition of a Developed Nation is one that appropriates the total world resources for its own consumption. Is wasteful and decadent in every manner possible, when looked through the prism of Sustainability.

Before I close, let us look at the infographic from WWF India & remember that in 2018 too August the 2nd would be the day the Humans would exhaust the Natural Resources which belongs to all life in this Planet.

So the question is, do we need to become Rich or we should aspire to become Wealthy?

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SDG#16: Sustained Destruction or Development Goals?


After a long hiatus, I begin a series which will focus on the Utopian aspirations of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals & the ground reality as it stands as of now. Mostly, my comments would be more India centric with a generic view of the world as I can but only capture what others have written, being no expert myself on World Affairs.
I would begin my series with the lofty goal #16. PEACE & JUSTICE.

An Extra Half Degree of Global Warming Could Displace 5 Million People

Business | March 18, 2018, Sunday // 14:35

A half-degree increase in the planet’s average temperature may not seem significant, but new research suggests the increment could be the difference between 5 million people having a home or not, according to News Agency UPI.  Read more

Warming climate will displace millions in coming decades: World Bank

AFP|Mar 19, 2018, 08.02 PM IST

WASHINGTON: The number of people fleeing crop failures, droughts and rising sea levels will grow drastically over the next three decades if world governments do not intervene, according to a World Bank report released Monday. Read more

Well, the above news is almost dime a dozen nowadays. But are the players in the video below actually reading them?

 The question that arises is, therefore are we really looking at saving this planet? Or it is still a handful who really are trying hard to tell the world that Aggremendon is near but to some that have always been good business.
Destruction ( read armed conflict ) is the most sustainable development ever in the History of Humans. Let us look at the conflicts that are ongoing currently.

Therefore the question arises, how does one end conflict? And there would be several experts around the globe who would come up with stupendous theories on it.

But none have ever said – “Well, just stop supplying arms and ammunition in the conflict zone!”

It does not take a rocket scientist to tell us, that in absence of Ammunition, existing armaments would simply be useless. And while we humans are born bloodthirsty and greedy, and would not actually stop ourselves from killing each other, the mayhem by sword, spears, rocks and hot oil doesn’t really affect the health of the planet.
Therefore SDG-16 which stands for Peace and Justice. Must be seen from the perspective of the other members of Gaia  Not just the Homo Sapiens!
To most Peace, Justice, Compassion are words and/or feelings which one has for Humans & perhaps to domesticated animals. Rare would be a person who considers chopping down of trees as murder. Yes, we all know plants are living things, it has a life which we snuff out without much ado. Trim it branches ( consider cutting off the fingers) so that it looks pretty.
As for Earthworms and Bee, well they make a good subject for Hollywood movies but the UN Security Council will never discuss the mass destruction of all types of life in the conflict zones. It would be such a frivolous and silly thing to do! After all, they are wise men, on whose decisions lives depend.
The funniest thing about the United Nations is that it is not United at all. It may have been created as the ultimate Utopia but right at the beginning of its birth, a defect was inserted. A defect so subtle that not many have been able to see it. Although it is in plain sight.
The right to VETO!
Strange as it may seem. The Champions of Democracy. France, USA & UK who have had a democracy somehow aligned to the autocratic idea of USSR and China.
And while the UN itself would find it appalling if called anything but a democratic institution, that it allows just one Permanent Member from the total 193 Nations to wield the power over all 195 Nations is amazing in itself.
Unless and until this very fundamental flaw is corrected, there is no way Peace and Justice will prevail. And with the never-ending wars of the modern era, which has enough arms and ammunition to blow the Earth into bits, warnings given out by climate scientist and peace activists would fall on deaf ears!
So, when we talk form lofty podiums tomorrow about Peace and Justice, let us remember that Extinction is the only option if we don’t find a way for SDG#16 to win.

 

 

 

 

India is set to fail the Sustainable Development Goals


A recently published study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – the European Commission’s science and knowledge service – analyses the interaction between  and heat. The novelty of this study is that it looks not only at temperature but also  to estimate the magnitude and impact of heat waves. Heatwaves amplified by high humidity can reach above 40°C and may occur as often as every two years, leading to serious risks for human health. If global temperatures rise with 4°C, a new superheat wave of 55°C can hit regularly many parts of the world, including Europe. 

The study analyses changes in yearly probability for a high humidity heat waves since 1979 under different global warming scenarios. If  increase up to 2 C above pre-industrial levels the combined effect of heat and humidity (known as apparent temperature or Heat Index) will likely exceed 40°C every year in many parts of Asia, Australia, Northern Africa, South and North America. Europe will be least affected by up to 30% chance of having such strong heat wave annually.

However, if temperatures rise to 4°C a severe scenario is on the horizon. Scientists predict that a new super- will appear with the apparent temperature peaking at above 55°C- a level critical for human survival. It will affect densely populated areas such as USA’s East coast, coastal China, large parts of India and South America. Under this  scenario, Europe is likely to suffer annual heat waves with an apparent temperature of above 40°C regularly while some regions of Eastern Europe may be hit by heatwaves of above 55°C. (Read more )

Lipponen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, used publicly available data from NASA to demonstrate the rising temperatures across the world.

In light of the numerous reports of negative impacts of climate change, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa urged participants of the annual Munich Security Conference to consider climate change as a “security story” with far-reaching implications for global peace and stability.

In preparation for the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security released a series of reports on how SIDS could get adaptation support, including help to migrate, under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The above information is nothing new to the initiated and neither does it come as a surprise to the Political class of the World. Why else we would have been meeting up like clock work every year under the aegis of UNFCCC? And once more in less than 100 days, we meet at CoP23.

Yet when we look at the ground situation in India. The only narrative that we see is political. The noise is one of divisiveness, corruption & apathy of the governing class and neglect and ignorance of the people.

The only ray of hope lies with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who like many of his predecessors ( not all ) actually wants to lift India from the rut it has put itself in and considers that as status quo.

But how does one man alone change the narrative of a Nation?

While it is true that recent survey shows him as the most popular, with slightly diminishing returns. It is not because the NDA which he governs has done everything supremely. But more because many still believe in the person. Rather than the government. When people vote in State elections, Municipal elections they vote for PM Modi & not for the person who stands for the election. The wins of many MP, MLA, MLC is the direct aura of Narendra Modi, which kinds of blinds the vision of the voter, who otherwise would not even look at the ordinary achievements of these politicians who are no better than the ones defeated. And a couple of them even worse than them.

The PM began with taking up the broom & try clean up the filth in and around cities. But has failed to remove the filth of lethargy from the peoples. He is as the polls predict the best chance India has. Therefore it is all the more important that the Sustainable Development Goals don’t fail under his parties rhetoric of Good Governance.

We are a people who love the cacophony of posturing and politics instead of implementation of policy. We love to blame the politicians ( and rightly so to a very large extent) but don’t for a minute reflect that it is us who choose our representatives and they come from the very society which has forgotten its roots and have no pride in our traditions or culture. We are a Nation where a very high number have no civic sense, ethics or moral compass. While the remainder belongs to a class which has no influence to change the mindset.

Disconnected are the urban class and Disoriented the rural folks.

This allows the unscrupulous to bend every policy which would truly make India into a great Nation, to something they can use for their own narrow personal gains.

So much so that the narrative of a Shining India is slowly turning into a “Signing India”. Almost all the MoU’s which are being signed have headed nowhere. The states which copied the ideas of our PM to promote them have as of now not really made an impact. In a way, it should have.

Here is a test to prove it – If one still finds traffic violation, double parking, encroached footpaths and people throwing garbage all around, in-spite of CCTV installed all around. In the cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata. Not to mention the toxic froth spewing lake in Bangalore. 

Then India as a whole has failed! She voted for change. Which can’t be brought about by bringing in the same set of people into governance through the back door whom the people had rejected.

The country voted for change in 2014. And every State & Municipal elections thereafter!

A few good people at the Center can not govern India. We need the same mindset of people at the grass-root level. Sadly the NDA government equals the UPA government at this level. The apathy and inefficiency along with the latent corruption are slowly reducing the impact of all the good initiatives which India needs to take to fulfil its Paris Agreement Obligations.

The apathy & mindset of the lower rung in governance will not allow for any Sustainable Development. And Climate Change is a clear & present danger leaving us with very limited time.

Let us analyze The Global Goals vis a vis India. And see where we stand so that a course correction can be done by those who have the wherewithal and influence to do so.

spc20sdgs-globalgoalsforsustainabledevelopment-05207220dpi

Goal 1: No Poverty; Goal 2: Zero Hunger; Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

These are goals which can’t be achieved 100% anywhere in the world. It was not possible when God’s walked the planet and will not be when AI – Robots would.

Having said that, in the Indian context, it is not just the population but the methods used which push people towards poverty.

In ancient India, there was the Varna system. A class where based on IQ and financial capacity a person was either a Teacher, a Warrior, a Tradesman or a Peasant. This combined with lower population increased the well-being amongst most. And this idea must be explored in the modern context. Sans Politics. A difficult but not impossible task.

Inequality is created when a person of a certain skill set is made to work on areas in which the persons simply can’t excel because they lack either in Physiological, Psychological or Financial strength, which makes it extremely difficult for them to train and apply the methods required to succeed and reach the higher echelon.

We have landless farmers coming into the city and do menial jobs such as security guards or sweepers etc. A person who would excel in cultivating the best wheat which a bread manufacturer, who perhaps employs them as menial labour, would never be able to. This tends to keep the poor always at the bottom of the pyramid, with hopelessness staring at their future.

This is simply because we lack the idea of creating urban farmlands which would enable the farmer to live within a city and yet find a job which he is skilled for. That such urban agriculture would have umpteen benefits can be discussed later.

India is always found to provide knee-jerk solutions more out of political compulsions rather than a long thought policy. It provides sops via loan waiver etc but has still not thought that under the PM mission for “Skill India”, it should first identify the aptitude of the people and then train them to excel within that sphere. We are trying to skill most of the farmers into everything to do with Urban India.

Skills like – Housekeeping, Shuttering Carpenter Solar Installer, Apparel, Machining, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning, Welding, Electrician Construction, 2 Wheeler Repair, 4 Wheeler Repair, Appliances, Fitter, Security, Bar-Bending, Construction-Mason, Plumbing, Kitchen, Front Office Tourism & Hospitality, Beauty Wellness, Healthcare, Retail.

How many generations would it take for a family of a poor marginalized tribal coming from the remote areas of Naxal infested states to become a skilled welder or a retail salesman? When AI is fast catching up and snatching away the traditional jobs of the urban poor, towards whom the Skill India is more targeted? Can’t really be sure poverty can be eliminated by becoming a bar bending or construction Mason. As for Beauty wellness & Hospitality, we have to be real in acknowledging that not many “customers” have the sensitivity to speak with a village bumpkin who can hardly communicate in the “slick city/town language” and is not trendy enough. Which would only lead to depression and failure for these marginalized sections of the society!

Yes, some of the urban low-income groups may benefit from the Skill India program. But it would be more of statistical and optical success good for politics rather in terms of SDG achievements.

The disaster through neglect of rural India, especially Agriculture and its related programs such as watershed implementations can’t be corrected within a short term. It would need a change in approach and mindset of all stakeholders.  But in the short term if India needs to eliminate poverty it must look at Urban & peri-urban farming as a solution and laws made to make it a viable alternative. Food is a fundamental requirement and India has the chance with its young demographic dividend, most of whom live in the rural areas to be the exporter of food and reduce inequalities amongst Nations.

However, it is most unfortunate, that even after years of running from one business house to another, by those who understand the crisis of poverty & food,  almost none have been able to figure out the math of considering Urban Farming as a profitable venture. For it is the “Cost of Land” which is very steep making RoI not very attractive for those who can help. (For the idea of terminal market complex click this link)

The laws of Capitalism is most powerful!

Goal 4: Quality Education; Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

While we talk about education, all we focus upon is literacy. In the pretext of freedom of expression, we dish out out-dated and regressive soap-operas on Television in every regional language across India. For want of TRP, paid media creates false news and debates take place which completely polarizes society.

Cities look like hovels, as no civic sense is instilled within the citizens by the governing council members and the public at large give scant regard to basic cleanliness, driving sense or even bother about illegal construction. In-fact they willingly buy into those very properties knowing fully well that the political dispensation a decade from the present would regularize all that is illegal. This is the fallout of literacy without education. The reason for this can also be squarely attributed to politicians who have understood it to be a tax-free venture open institutions only to loot and also to launder their ill-gotten gains.

While there are no great incentives to be a teacher, in which women at large can excel & is one of the noblest profession. Decent pay and training can work wonders for the future of India.

With the city infrastructure creaking, commuting to work is one of the most stressful events for the common man, whose output shrinks day by day leading to a loss in economic growth.

Political parties are quick in mobilizing workers for disruptive agendas which serve their narrow political gains. But if the same mobilization is done of party workers, block by block, ward by ward of the elected council members to clean up the city and look into the ways by which urban farming can be done. Employ on a weekly rotation basis the unemployed persons who can monitor the basic civic rules amongst the citizens. And spread the awareness into the peri-urban areas of the megalopolises, there is hope yet that the above SDG’s could be met to some extent.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; Goal 13: Climate Action; Goal 14: Life Below Water; Goal 15: Life on Land

As long as water would remain the cheapest commodity and education the last priority the availability of clean water is not possible. Couple that with corrupt industrial houses who still consider profit as the only motive in their lives.

While it was reported that the National Green Tribunal had taken strong action and closed down many industries in the start of this year, they are up and running with only cosmetic changes applied to the sewage treatment. These companies have the money and the legal minds to fight it out in courts to circumvent the strict laws so much so that in the state of Maharashtra at Navi Mumbai area stray dogs have turned blue in colour. (Click on the NDTV Report for video.) 

It is not just life below water that is affected by these kinds of pollution but also life on land gets affected. As ground water turns poisonous and unless stringent penalties are taken India would see Minamata Disease.

A simple solution would be to use drones with image sensing radars which can spot pollutants on both land and river. It could also collect water and soil samples through a robotic arm and help authorities to find the right solution.

We are already having CCTV cameras in our towns and city roads. Hovering drones over industrial areas would definitely help in limiting damages towards the planet and it would perhaps be the best climate action taken by the government.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy; Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

India is blessed by the Sun & the Sea. It’s long coastline and abundant sunshine makes a perfect case to apply Wind/Solar power stations to meet its energy needs of the present and can tap into the wave energy as and when required in the future.

However, this opportunity for abundance hides the fact that large tracts of land are required to install solar power stations. Land at no point of time is devoid of biodiversity nor are there any place on earth where there is no Life on Land. There may not be human or mammalian occupation but micro-organism or invertebrates are sure to exist.

But then we have a proverb – “crushed like an ant”, “trampled the grass”  to prove our infinite strength and that is exactly what we do when we set up the wind or solar parks. Now we are also thinking of apeing some other countries and the thought of floating solar panels has gained currency. But when one covers vast track of water body, what happens to the marine life just under the shade? What would happen to the pond/river/sea bed which would not have the option of sunlight touching it? Would we then not disturb Life on Water?

There is no lesser evil. One must stop this choice between development and destruction. India stands in a unique position which can give it leadership position is showcasing a balance hereto unseen. And I daresay that it would be Prime Minister Narender Modi, should the right ideas reach the PMO.

India by default knows about sustainable living, it has been a way of life which we have forgotten only in the last 30 odd years, in our race to ape the “developed” west. The disconnect of a Nation from its culture is one of the root cause of global warming. A study of the link given above would make many agree that we know how to connect with Nature. What we need is how to do so in the modern concept.

We must declare mandatory Rooftop Renewable Energy, for both green field and retrofit. Yes, city skyscrapers are not of the same height. As of now let them be fed by the green power from already established RE Power Plants. But the Development Plan henceforth shall take into account the Sun Path and build heights across towns and cities would be determined by it. This would enable every roof to carry Solar PV. Roads cutting across cities would be as per the wind pattern determined through computation of fluid dynamics, so that tunnel effect is exploited to the maximum by vertical axis wind turbines which also doubles as street lamp-posts.

We must contain the spread of Powerplants to new areas. We must aim for Net Zero buildings not by deriving smart calculations but by use of vernacular architecture. By instilling pride in Indian Architecture so that we consume less energy and water, to begin with. Only through responsible consumption & production of already fragile and scarce resources, we can hope to survive. To adapt to a changing climate which we are already too late to stop.

The devastating cycle of floods and droughts have begun and no political calculations can stop the downfall of the ruling party when millions die or there is a scarcity of food. The vast majority of voters are the peasant and the blue collared workers. Who can simply connect to one attribute of the adult franchise; if s/he has voted for a particular party it is because they want their livelihood to be cheaper/better. The recent price rise of vegetables has already been squarely put as a failure of Modi Government by them. They will simply throw out the present incumbent irrespective of having the knowledge that the alternative would also not be better. It is their only way to vent frustration and they will use it.

But those who understand governance know that at present continuity is the best hope. We don’t need populist measures but hard risk-taking decisions which the Prime Minister has the gumption to take. Only such actions would help stave off the extreme danger which is already manifest.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Goal 9/11 is perhaps the most important in the Indian context as they are drivers for growth. They are the change agents which can catapult the country from a developing to a developed nation.

And therein lies the extreme danger and challenge!

The danger is building cities which would destroy forest and biodiversity, uproot indigenous population and further marginalize the poor. This would surely happen if we use the calculation of Capitalism. Where the only motive is to profit and to a large extent profiteer.

And therefore the challenge, the effort it would take to make truly Sustainable Smart Cities using the best of industry and innovation. Of using products which by themselves have a small carbon footprint and by design would help reduce consumption. They would not come cheap and would, therefore, fail in showing returns on investment in the traditional way of calculation. Where the principal factor is greed, not sustenance.

Mansoor Khan in his book The Third Curve. has rightly looked at the factors; excerpts are given below –

Financial markets are under threat. Growth rates are dropping. 
The age-old remedies prescribed to boost economic growth are proving ineffective, if not outright dangerous. 
Eight years after the 2008 global financial crash, nothing seems to work as per projections. 
But what if the rules of the game have inverted? 
What if economic growth is eluding us for a reason that we have discounted all this while? 
What if there are indeed limits to growth? 
Yes, the Modern Industrial World stands at a crucial and unavoidable turning point. The sacrosanct paradigm of modern economics, namely perpetual growth, is in the process of ending. Our economic growth model makes 2 simple yet amazingly unreasonable assumptions: 
1. That money is the currency that runs the world. In fact it is energy. 
2. That we have limitless energy & other resources on a finite planet.

Each of us must read what he says or hear him speak, to understand what each of us must do to push the government in the right direction.

We, therefore, can not design the mundane cities and call them Smart. We can not afford to use glib mathematical calculations and call buildings “Net Zero” and hang a plaque from some crediting agency whose underlying raison d’être is to promote Business As Usual.

Here is a simple example to prove the charge. India recorded the maximum temperature of 51°Celsius in May this year in Rajasthan. It has already been scientifically established that temperatures are set to rise in India due to climate change, the excerpts of which are at the start of this article. We also know that the mean average temperature of the Indian subcontinent has risen by 0.6°Celsius . This was declared by no other than Union Minister Dr. Harshvardhan on the 5th of August’17.

We also know as per NEERI report, that glass facade increase surrounding temperature by 17-19°Celsius. Yet we have “experts” who with the use of clever and sophisticated software prove that the building is a Net Zero energy emission building. This is not only happening in India but all over the World.

The Global Goals indeed require Innovations. But we are innovating lies! The problem with that is while the pretenders would make some money and the architects of the Paris Agreement would pat themselves on their backs.

Earth would neither spare the smooth talkers nor the soothsayers. It would simply extinguish everything. 

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

August -15th: Climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, according to a major scientific report out Tuesday that reviewed 70 prior studies on global warming and agriculture. (phys.org)

August -18th: Extreme weather events are costing India $9-10 billion annually and climate change is projected to impact agricultural productivity with increasing severity from 2020 to the end of the century. In a recent submission to a parliamentary committee, the agriculture ministry said productivity decrease of major crops would be marginal in the next few years but could rise to as much as 10-40% by 2100 unless farming adapts to climate change-induced changes in weather. (Economic Times)

August -19th: Sending worrying signals to the farm sector, deficient rains in central and peninsular India have taken toll on the ongoing Kharif (summer crop) sowing operation, bringing down the total acreage as on Friday, as compared to the sown area during the corresponding period last year. Oilseeds and pulses are the worst hit. It will increase the country’s import bills if the sowing does not pick up in next two-three weeks. India, in any case, has to depend on imports to meet its domestic demand for these crops. (Times of India)

The Ph ys.org report on Climate change as reported on August 15th’17 juxtaposed with the two local news on India proves that nothing is a “Chinese Hoax” as claimed by a brilliant(?) analyst of world affairs.

In fact, both the Chinese and Indian governments must tone down their political rhetoric and get into actual cooperation to save their peoples from the Danse Macabre of Planet Earth. Unless peace prevails, there would be an atmosphere of mistrust and with the ever severe climate change impacts of drought/flood cycle neighbours would not come to rescue of each other when most needed. Hegemony will not help. We still have but one planet and finite resources. Greed has brought about Climate Change, further lust for an appropriation of wealth would lead to Armageddon. And there is no prize for knowing that Goddess Earth will win.

There has to be Partnership of Nations to ensure that the Global Goals are actually met. It is the need of the hour but real-politics is taking precedence of utopian ideals. While this article is India centric, it does not limit the issues to this Nation alone. For what happens to the Indian continent is true for the whole of Asia and in fact the world. We are failing due in our duty towards the planet. And no amount of platitude and self-praise would help us.
It is time to get real and do Justice to Earth.
 

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