The road to Rio+20 – Thoughts to ponder on the way

12 Jun

As the road to Rio+20 nears, there is hope that after 20 long years, may be it is time that the World would listen up and do something about Climate change in a more positive manner than what has been seen in the last UNFCCC meet. By that what we mean is concrete change in the ground, not just resolutions and policies, which doe not get as much ground swell it should get to make an impact.

During the recent World discussion held by Unilever and later the Sustainability 24 on-line conference by Accenture; there are two thing which were the most striking. The first, there are many in this World who have some really meaningful solutions which can be built from ground up to help society make the positive change required and the next; one does not need to travel 1000 miles by Air, rail & road accumulating a massive  Carbon-footprint to talk about Climate Change.

English: Graphic illustrating the percentages ...

English: Graphic illustrating the percentages of public opinions on the likelihood of some scientists falsifying global warming research. Based on Rasmussen polling of 1,000 American adults conducted July 29-30, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If one pauses and looks from the perspective of those who deny climate change, and answer their fundamental question about why they should adapt to a reduced carbon life-style; one would be in loss of words to justify the carbon foot print each UNFCCC and its related meet creates when it is the very thing we want to reduce.

English: The carbon footprint as it is underst...

English: The carbon footprint as it is understood by people. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seriously does the UNFCCC even think of mapping its carbon-footprint every-time the UN conducts these meets? The amount of  energy and water that is required by the host Nation to sustain the hundreds to congregate at those summits ? Add the support staff and the other logistics and it is one huge foot-print. And for the last 20 years we are creating this huge Carbon foot-print, to meet up and talk on how to abate Global Warming, and going by what the lead institutions like CAN International, Green Peace International and many more, there is much to be desired.

Let no one for a minute mistake my intention. I would never deride the stupendous work that has been achieved till date by the effort of hundreds of dedicated people, more knowledgeable and sincere;  I’m sure I have not even learnt, heard or thought of, what they may have already chosen to implement. But having said that, 20 years is a long time for the world to take a quantum leap in the way we communicate. What may not have been possible 10 years ago, such as VoIP, has become easy and inexpensive tool to be used even by children.

But, VoIP ( Voice over Internet Protocol), such as Skype, CISCO systems; is not a child’s play but a serious business which has the potential of reducing many ills in the present form of Urban living and reducing the Carbon foot-print. I had covered this in an earlier article in detail, VoIP – “Skype” the new medium to reduce Global Warming ?  Therefore I would like to move to the next existing business, which we can think of “greening” in our present Urban life-style.

And that is – eliminating THRASH.

New and upcoming Urban spaces can if it wants stop generating thrash, for landfills. What is required are zones where all the garbage disposed, especially bio-degradable waste be turned into gas via installing small gasifier. They may be small units but when one evacuates the energy thus developed directly into the grid, the amount of power received is huge.

For the non bio-degradable waste, what one can do is incentivize  the materials.

Say for example a 1lt  plastic water bottle, when one sells to the local “kabaddi wala” ( rag-picker / thrash collector ) in Mumbai, he gives you a mere 0.50 Paisa. For the international readers, let me translate the sum US$ 1 = INR 55 approximate today. We are talking of half of INR 1.  Don’t try and convert in dollars as it would be a decimal amount so small that it is not worth the mental effort. And that is exactly where I want to arrive. Value of the product. The intrinsic value not the face value.

Why would not a common person, without a second thought throw away a plastic wrapper  on the street, unless s/he is sure of two basic things –

a) He will not be punished, as it is culturally accepted. ( with revulsion of many and with resigned fate, as the governance, both self and administrative is lacking in India )

b) He will not get any money worth the mention, to have it sold for re-cycling.

But, Governments and environmentalist know the true value of a plastic bottle. If one just does a life cycle analysis and map the foot-print of a bottle from its manufacture, to its journey to a bottling plant to the retail unit, the value spent on it is huge. And also equally huge are the sum which are allocated, every year to decongest clogged drains, clean up ocean floors which are turning into desert because of the trash. Add to that the perceived economic loss to the fishing industry.

So what are the things one can do?  Let us explore  some Ideas –

1. Collection van to pick up all things made of metal; let’s assume municipal authorities all over the World and hopefully in India wake up to legislate a simple rule.                                                                                                                                               a) Pay the actual value for the metal.This can be easily derived from the cost it takes to do maintenance and upkeep of the Urban space, in absence of a collection program. Help set up recycle plants wherever the need is and issue diktat to existing plants which are the original manufacturers of the product to show use of recycled materials. For example, The Construction Business in India generates a lot of waste metal and has a more or less a well established method of collection of the same. This is because steel/iron rods have been given a value which is  worth the effort to recycle as re-rolled steel has its own market.

b) Sensitize the masses, through sustained advertisement, this too I have touched in more detail in UNFCCC – A Little Advertisement can help save Earth. Very few among us correlate Plastic bottle to petroleum, but that is a fact. Therefore when we do not add value to a plastic bottle, in its scrap form, we are hurtling towards extinction. There are many products which are derived from petroleum some of which I covered in the article Save Petroleum form Extinction – Save Earth !  which we discard without a second thought. It is important that laws be legislated to offer a minimum value to these when they are  discarded so that a scientific method of collection can be applied.

Once this is done, a new Business avenue can open up for those who are enterprising, by collecting and segregating products and perhaps reselling them to the original product manufacturers who thus get to “green” their supply chain.

I have seen and heard many examples of how difficult it is for asking a common person to segregate Wet and Dry waste / bio-degradable and non bio-degradable waste; but limited success is found. I speak especially of India. To all the “Pundits”( wise men) of the trade I put one simple thought –

Give a common person a bag full of Gold, Silver, Copper and Tin coins. Observe the speed and dexterity s/he uses in segregating it.

The day, the UNFCCC declares that the term waste can not be applied on products and the World Bank issues a diktat that a proper value is attached to the scrap, we shall see a sea change in thoughts. And for those who would be thinking, where would we find the fund to apply this thought. I request them to look into the fundamentals of this idea and the problem “waste” creates. They will have their answers. And the best part is, being the leaders in economics they would find the most economical way to address the situation.


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