A Mindful Life; Day Through to Night

 In Grassroots

In 1962, marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Louise Carson sired a revolution that had previously been largely disjointed and ineffective. Her book Silent Spring spurred a global environmental movement, resulting not only in the nationwide prohibition of DDT, and similar toxins, in the United States, but also in the inception of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While Carson authored a few other books and documents of import, it is in Silent Spring that she painted this startling image:


“They [DDT and other synthetic pesticides] have been found in fish in remote mountain lakes, in earthworms burrowing in soil, in the eggs of birds, and in man himself. These chemicals are now stored in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings, regardless of their age. They occur in mother’s milk, and probably in the tissues of the unborn child.”


It’s a disturbing picture, that. For an inconceivable amount of time, our species has continued to produce materials without giving much thought to the toxicity index of waste that is created in the process, while altering our surroundings for worse. Even though we are touted as the only species capable of mentally traveling through time, it would appear that this form of time travel, too, suddenly discovers its limits when it comes to our actions and their impact on our surroundings. This self-serving approach would be OK, except Carson’s book, and endless research since, illustrates how every toxin we are putting out into the world is coming back to haunt us; through our air, through our water, and through our very first source of nourishment. It is this circular order of things that Tanya Kewalramani, a science communication expert and one part of the core 3-people See Sharp Festival team, has dubbed ‘material karma’.


The ‘dravya karma’ concept in Jain Material Theory postulates that our actions release karmic ‘dirt’ which pervades our universe and consequently finds its way back to us. Tanya’s material karma theory is dravya karma-adjacent except in this case the dirt, or for the sake of accuracy, toxic particulates, aren’t just metaphors. Case in point: Global CO2 levels finally crossed 400 parts per million in March last year [source], a year already filled with enough terrible news to put most other terrible years to shame. 50ppm over safety limits, this increase in CO2 levels implies our planet is no longer suitable for human survival. The apocalyptic future is already here.


This specific piece of news propelled Tanya into action, along with husband Ashwin Mani Sharma, and Ajit, resulting in the culmination of the See Sharp Festival in Goa, India. Work began in October 2016, and in 3 short months Tanya and other stakeholders have put together an impressive event.


Tanya reps the Hamburg-based Environment Protection Encouragement Agency in India, and is a sworn supporter of its biomimetic Cradle to Cradle design ideology. Envisioning an economy based on products that don’t simply turn to waste towards the end of their life cycle, but are repurposed in entirety, C2C design advocates a holistic framework which hopes to create a waste-free world where humans not only refrain from impacting their surroundings negatively, but instead begin to leave a positive ecological footprint. The brainchild of Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, Founder and CEO of the EPEA, C2C is slowly changing the way businesses operate. A few notable examples of C2C’s regenerative design’s application are the Puma InCycle collection, and Nike’s Considered range, but Tanya’s quick to point out the incredible feat achieved last year by a 16-year old Delhi girl concerning the use of rice waste to make ‘green wood’ that can be used to build low-cost homes [source].


It’s in keeping with this spirit of bringing about positive change, that the three-day See Sharp Festival has come into existence. Focused on sustainable living and learning, See Sharp is set to conduct workshops around four elemental themes (earth, wind, water, and fire) to design a day of living that involves making positive environmental change, simply by transitioning how we conduct the more mundane daily chores. My personal favourite is perhaps the proposed workshop on creating a small windmill to act as a phone charger.


From making cooking gas out of waste food to converting waste oil into detergent, these workshops will focus on breaking down otherwise complex scientific concepts and contextualising them for us to understand their relevance, and use, to us. Human beings already consume these resources every day, hence See Sharp’s goal is to enable us to continue doing that, albeit with mindfulness.


It would have been near-impossible to put an event of this scale together in the short period of three months, given the small size of the core team and financial constraints. Regardless, a visibly overworked but determined Tanya is effusive. I’m constantly reminded of the almost synchronous manner in which the event has come to life. Finding support has been surprisingly easy, what with a host of speakers, business owners, and other stakeholders volunteering proactively to get involved. Sponsorship has come through similarly, and while it may still only be fleck of sand in the desert of requirement, Tanya is greatly appreciative.


Our team’s recent sojourn to the Cansaulim vaddo had brought to light the overall disinterest the youth and recent property developers have shown in protecting local ecosystems. The general indifference displayed by young folks towards learning the fundamentals of proper garbage disposal was, and continues to be, a hot-button issue. The callousness exhibited by developers erecting structures that are about ten times as inefficient as the older houses, most of which are equipped with dedicated spaces for composting, was another. These revelations can be disheartening and a source of skepticism over people’s commitment to being green; however, it’s hard to stay cynical in the face of her overwhelming hopefulness.  


It’s not as if she is being a hopeless romantic about the issue of this disenchantment among a large section of people. She is simply content in knowing that the workshops will have a ripple effect, changing our surroundings in subtle but all-pervasive ways, consequently meaning that things are better than they were before she started.


And there is something to that.


See Sharp Festival is scheduled to happen in Ashwem, Goa, on 24-26 February ’16. A complete schedule and tickets are available on the See Sharp website here.

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