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What lies ahead? Challenges and Opportunities for Samaaj, Sarkaar, Bazaar

Climate & Biodiversity | Aug 19, 2022

Rohini Nilekani and the panellists – Veena Srinivasan, K Vijayraghavan, Sameer Shisodia and Harini Nagendra, discuss the role of science and technology in the environmental crisis and sustainable economy in the future, among many other things.


0:00:01.8 Speaker 1: Thank you so much. Well, I have a great panel here with me. My job is to be a moderator. The way I see it is, all these questions, we are going to use these 45 minutes to take a peek into the future with the help of our panel. What lies ahead and how? Because all the problems related to environment ecology and the economy and society are going to need the cooperation of Samaj, Bazaar, and Sarkar. You know how they say, if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Because I produced a book called, “Samaj, Sarkar, Bazaar” everything to me looks like a topic to be dealt with that at least for the next few days, it’s going to be like that, so bear with me. But I’ve asked the panelists to prepare talks on either of these sectors. What do they need to do more of or less of to ensure that we reach our sustainable development goals that we are all so keen on achieving as a society and as a global community? That’s where I’m going to focus on, and hopefully we’ll get 15 minutes where all of you can ask my panel questions.

0:01:04.2 S1: Before that, I have a video to play to all of you. We have people, somebody from Samaj, somebody who works with Sarkar, and somebody from Bazaar as well, who are going to talk to us. All three happened to be called Anshu. One is Anshu Gupta of Goonj, one is Anshu Bapna of Terra, and one is Anshu Bharadwaj of Shakti foundation.

0:01:27.1 Speaker 2: [0:01:27.1] ____. In my opinion, development can happen in a very sustainable way if we listen to the people. If we do not treat people as benefits. If we treat people as stakeholders. If we leave our arrogance, listen to the people, we will find solutions also, because these are the people who understand problem very well, who are in the middle of problems. And they also understand and find the solutions. I’m always troubled by the very basic concept of “Unskilled,” as we often say. And I… My very basic question is that the farmers who have… Who have been able to innovate, who have been able to come up with some 7000, 8000, 10,000 different variety of rice, what makes us think and how can we call them unskilled? And people like me and you, who will go on Google, prepare a lecture for 10 minutes with the help of Google, deliver these talks, and we will be called “Skilled.” What makes us think that we bring them to the cities, give them a week-long plumber training and then start calling them skilled? That’s an additional skill, but the fact remain that they have been in the farming, they understand that subject, and they’re extremely, extremely skilled people.

0:03:01.0 S2: So it says if we really want to go for the sustainable development and economic development, it is extremely important to stop calling them “Beneficiaries” and start taking people as stakeholders. We can celebrate the resilience of people, but we often forget that people who are called resilient, they are the biggest sufferer of all the wrongdoings of the different part of the Samaj. For last many years, decades, we have been talking about circular economy, we’ve been talking about repurposing this stuff. And I wonder that what if we start talking about optimal utilization, if different parts of the society start using the same stuff in turn? It reduces the burden on the landfills, and it creates many many more opportunities. So for me, when I talk about development, I always feel that the optimum utilization of anything is much more important, must come prior to even thinking of repurposing or recycling.

0:04:14.1 Speaker 3: I would submit for this audience that India’s recent net zero pledge is of an attempt which could rationalize the contradiction between sustainability and growth. India’s net zero pledge is not just a mitigation pledge. In my view, it’s a fundamentally different economic development model from the one which the West followed over close to two centuries. What India has effectively said is, we are at a point where the west was hundred years back. We have a huge developmental agenda ahead of us to lift millions out of poverty. We are also facing the adverse impacts of climate change. Yet, we will achieve our developmental goals by progressively decoupling from fossil fuels and not relying on fossil fuels.

0:05:23.6 S3: The west is trying to decarbonize after they achieved a very high level of development. What India is doing is, decarbonize as we develop, and not decarbonize after achieving development. I believe it’s a fundamentally different economic developmental paradigm. If India can get its act right and do it rightly, it’ll be a beautiful example for rest of the world to follow, especially the developing world. Is it going to be easy? Definitely not. Nothing comes easy. As I said, it’s a new experiment. It’s a new model. So a lot of preparatory policy work is required. India will require a lot of investments. Largely, they’ll have to come from private sector, and therefore they will be expecting returns and a conducive policy environment.

0:06:22.3 S3: We will require money both for technologies and for adaptation. They will be a plethora of policy questions to be examined, for example, in technology, economics, social aspects of transition. Should we go for electric vehicles? Should we go for hydrogen? Should we go for biofuels? How do we manage these social aspects of this transition, and so on and so forth? So it has to be carefully planned thought through, because it’s an economy wide fundamentally shift in how we produce goods, consumed goods and services.

0:07:02.7 Speaker 4: The big insight on which we started there two years ago was that the climate economy is gonna be bigger than the internet economy. The fact that we are transforming sectors as massive as energy, agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, construction, even horizontals like finance means that one, a lot of new jobs will be created, but frankly, a lot many of the existing jobs will need to have a very strong climate and sustainability lens to what they do, which means that just like 20 years ago, when we were all beginning to learn digital skills, almost regardless of what we were doing, we would now need to learn sustainability and climate skills. And that’ll happen across every skill, across every sector, and of course, across every geography. India is of course at the forefront of both the climate crisis, and in my opinion, also the climate opportunity.

0:08:00.6 S4: If you look at, especially areas like nature-based solutions, where India could potentially be one of the world’s largest source of the right kind of forestry solutions, offsets and so on, it seems like there’s a massive opportunity to build something there in India and ATREE recognizes that, knows that better than almost anyone else does. The other thing to recognize and remember in India’s context is the climate justice angle, which is, it is entirely possible that we might solve the climate crisis without solving for the underlying inequalities in our economic system. And that’s where the opportunity is. As we build out new climate solutions and deploy them, the desire and the ability to get individuals, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, from minority backgrounds, into the climate and sustainability space is critical. And again, that’s something, the work with local communities, et cetera, something that ATREE recognizes really well. I applaud you for the amazing work that you’ve been doing for years and years, and hope to help out and play a small role in supporting you as well. Thank you.

0:09:12.0 S1: So, I want to thank all the three Anshus for that time and their keen observations. Y’all can, please use something from that or say what you want, I’m gonna start with you, Professor Vijay Raghavan. And so there’s a lot of, in some parts of the world, there’s a lot of optimism about the role of science and technology in conquering some of the massive problems that we are going to face on the ecological front. You were the advisor to the government on exactly this, as you look ahead, where do you see the opportunities and the challenges from a science and technology lens and, in India specific as much as possible.

0:09:50.8 Speaker 5: Right. Thank you, Rohini and, really good to be with all of you. So the question to paraphrase it, is what are the opportunities from science and technology for sustainable development going forward now? Now, in my view, science and technology can be the fulcrum for change, social and economic change. And that requires A, the fulcrum should be strong, B, it should be correctly positioned, and C, those who are lifting heavy weights decide what weights are to be lifted. And those heavy weights are social and economic changes, and what those weights are, how they should be applied are decided by government and society. So, all these three have to come together. Historically, science and technology has been the fulcrum for dramatic change. Again, on this principle, because economic benefit, industrial benefit, and social benefit have been the driving forces for big change.

0:10:58.8 S5: Now that historically also has a very important parameter, it’s come about with very major positive changes in some societies because of the exclusion of components of that society, and the exclusion of other societies. So, order in some regions has come because of the creation of disorder outside. That is, the disorder comes by energy, fossil fuels and other kinds of fuels, which are used. So that is required to create order. The second is machinery of certain kinds. For example, started in the industrial revolution with the spinning jenny. That machinery requires workers to operate it. Are they well paid or not? And thirdly, communication, the telegraph, for example, to use markets. And this has been the tradition of industrial growth, where it is used, how it is used, is a big challenge. Now with sustainable development, being a critical aspect. I see many technologies readily available, both for adaptation and mitigation and for developmental use, whether they’ll be used in our context or not, is a huge question, but the opportunities are there.

0:12:17.3 S1: Can you… Sorry to push you on this, but when I talk to… I get a chance to go around the world. And when I talk to global investors, when I talk to VCs, they get bullish about technologies and hope that miracles are just around the corner, right? And that’s their job, that’s their nature. If you were to say, suppose… Because, of course, hydrogen… People are pushing hydrogen quite a lot and they think 10 years, it can be ready for market. Fusion, people are saying, of course, they’ve been saying it for centu… For decades now. But apparently there’s a lot of work going on. So I know people who say in the next 10 years, there are five or six technologies that the, that at the brink of really enabling a rapid transition out of the fossil fuel economy. Is it right to even think like, “Are there silver bullets? Will such developments actually create the conditions for faster sustainable development? Or is this just like a chimera?”

0:13:18.9 S5: So, I mean, historically when something was running out, human ingenuity apparently came to the rescue. When fertilizer was running out from use of guano, people went to using nitrite from mines and then the Haber-Bosch process allowed the development of ammoniacal fertilizers. But I think that time is passed now to the world has come to a tipping point where this hubris of assumption that there will be a tech, which will save us on while we go on making producing in a manner which the future pays for. That’s not going to happen, not because of human in generality is poor in any way but the scale of the challenge is just absolutely enormous. So this requires a different kind of approach, which is not tech alone. Of course, hydrogen and renewable energy is important. Nuclear energy may be important and so on, but how rapidly can we implement changes in a context dependent, sustainable manner. You heard about the context dependence from our three speakers before. That context dependent speed is necessary, both for adaptation and mitigation. And that requires technology, policy, politics, economics, all to come together.

0:14:40.6 S1: Thank you, we’ll come back to you. Veena, you want to go next because we are talking about science and research in your experience. As you look ahead, what are the two or three things that say the government, Sarkar and you have been trying to create market linkages for your research to actually go from lab to land. What two or three things need to change for us to have a sort of holistic approach to the future?

0:15:08.7 Speaker 6: I think speaking about it from a Bazaar perspective, so to speak. I think the Bazaar side of the economy needs to understand… Recognize more openly there’s this fundamental contradiction, because in all our talk about circularity, the underlying assumption or unstated statement is somehow that you can get circular and the energy that’s required to fuel that circularity will be hydrogen or renewables. That’s kind of the unstated statement. Now, I think we all realized that this is kind of not how it exactly works. And if you actually look at what technology has done over the last 30 years, it’s also resulted in the same technology which has been beneficial for millions has also resulted in that… The benefits not accruing equally to all segments of society. And in fact, what it has done in many places where you’re seeing this extreme polarization, it’s coming from the fact that large numbers of people are therefore been left out of it.

0:16:09.9 S6: So I think from a Bazaar’s point of view, realizing that having some very simplistic image of what technology can do. Without also understanding that are we actually cutting off our own feet because we are alienating such large segments of Samaj in the process that if you don’t create an inclusive economy, as well as in addition to a sustainable economy, you’re never going to get there. So I think that’s the first thing I would say from the Bazaar’s point of view. The second thing is I think the piece that I would say from the market linkage point of view, what we are seeing everywhere is, there are a lot of sustainable transitions so-called possible. Often though, the reason why you have lock-ins in the current, if you wanna say the bad paradigm consumption economy that we exist in is because the subsidies are all directed towards enabling that system.

0:17:07.8 S6: And unless you have a complete redirection, some of those fundamental shifts cannot happen no matter how hard we try to innovate on cold storage chains or getting farm to fork and so on. If you fundamentally don’t change how you redirect subsidies, it’s not gonna happen. So Bazaar cannot work completely independent of Sarkar without in order for that larger change to happen. So I would say these two things that you need Samaj, you need to think about Samaj, you need Samaj to be pushing the whole consumption and demanding accountability from Sarkar. And then you need Sarkar to actually work in order to make that transition happen better.

0:17:45.7 S1: Yeah. In your last three, four years of working at the building out of CSCI where have you felt most optimistic?

0:17:54.0 S6: I’m really optimistic, even from a Sarkar perspective, I’m really optimistic that there is a recognition that we cannot afford to not get it right. And there is a large interest in saying, “How can we get it right in terms of… ” There’s a lot of innovation happening, but I’m also seeing a lot of positive energy from various kinds of government, whether it’s local, whether it’s distinct to engage and build those ecosystems to make that happen. So whether it’s the skilling missions, whether it is… In some cases, whether it’s a pollution controlled board saying we wanna work with startups. So this coming together of Sarkar, Samaj and Bazaar to build these ecosystems to allow these transitions to happen. That’s where I see the most excitement.

0:18:41.0 S1: In water, a very quick example?

0:18:43.4 S6: In water, I would… From the urban perspective, for example, one of the exciting things that we are seeing is, this basically real recognition of wastewater as a resource, it’s fundamentally an engineering problem. So the engineering piece of it, of course, you need the contractors, you need the startups that do the testing and all of that. And there’s a lot of stuff there, but the government coming together with the… In Bangalore’s case, we are working with the Bangalore Apartments’ Federation, which is clearly Samaj. We are working with a number of startups, like TankerWala, FluxGen.

0:19:18.7 S6: Which are very clearly Bazaar, and then on the government side… On the Samaj side, we’re working also with these large associations like the plumbing standards agencies like IAPMO, and then the government itself, which is the various BBMP and BWSSB. So the coming together of these agencies to say, “None of us can do it alone, but together, if we all agree that this is a sensible thing to do, and we all throw our feet behind it, what you’re able to then achieve is exponentially greater.”

0:19:46.2 S1: Thank you. We’ll come back to you. Sameer, you want to talk to us a little bit about why Rainmatter Foundation is interested in these issues of environment and climate change, and why do you think philanthropic capital plays a role in this and how will it be most effective?

0:20:06.2 Speaker 7: So thanks for doing this discussion and thanks for inviting me for this.

0:20:12.7 S1: You want to talk a bit louder.

0:20:14.1 S7: Yeah. So why we’re doing it is because I think sustainability is understood best in its negation. What unsustainable means is that you can’t keep going to the ATM and withdrawing cash if nobody’s refilling the account. And on all the materials and all the resources that we depend on, that’s where we’re headed. So like Nitin once quipped, there will be no stock market if we don’t solve this, and it’s true in a very large sense. So all that we see… You mentioned a decade, the inside view is that we don’t have a decade. If you don’t turn the ship around, if you do not invent the new…

0:21:06.1 S1: Who are the insiders saying that?

0:21:08.9 S7: Inside Rainmatter, inside Zerodha.

0:21:10.7 S1: Oh, inside Rainmatter. Okay.

0:21:12.1 S7: Inside the team. It’s only half in jest that we say this, because if you don’t invent these new pathways, if you don’t invent these new approaches to doing this, it may be too late, and we are approaching a lot of tipping points, planetary tipping points, we may… It may… London 2040 happened this year already. So we are wrong on our estimates again and again and again.

0:21:43.9 S1: The people like you… Rainmatter is the a foundation of Zerodha’s whole… People like you in the corporate sector are a bit rare, right? I don’t expect you to represent the entire corporate sector here, but since you’re here on this panel… I can’t see how many minutes, so you’ll have to… 20. Oh my God, I don’t know, we only have 20 minutes left. So sad. But very quickly, how will corporate introduce… Do you think you need corporates to get a sense, to have enlightened self-interest that like otherwise, there’ll be no stock market sort of thing, therefore we have to do this. Is that… You have to frighten the corporate sector into being more environmentally responsible or from seeing the benefits of investing in greener and greener businesses, or what is the… Is it characteristic or both?

0:22:41.5 S7: I think it’s both the characteristic. If there were more systems thinking and understanding of emergent systems, I think if people were looking beyond the quarter, they would get to this answer because it’s not very far away. The stresses are right here.

0:22:56.3 S1: And how will… I’m not sure, how does this… Like QSQT, quarter se quarter tak culture, how does that change any time soon?

0:23:07.5 S7: I think climate change is behave…

0:23:09.1 S1: Going to change.

0:23:09.2 S7: Running faster than that. It’s running faster than quarters change, so we don’t have to wait too long.

0:23:16.0 S1: You feel positive about change, that a large global corporate interests will have to align to what’s happening at a planetary level and in India also that our… I mean whatever you may think about it, the Ambani’s and the Adani’s are going to be investing hundreds of billions of dollars on renewables and green energy. Do think that’s a positive thing for India? Do you think India will show the way through these kinds of risk capital investments for the long term? Do you see that as a positive thing? And I’m right now, not going to question… Right now, I’m not asking the question about inclusive equity, I’m right now not saying that. But just in terms of the energy transition, do you think India will lead the way through big business?

0:24:09.0 S7: No, I think India will lead the way through Orissa still being in touch with its natural resources, still having light fences. Because when the floods hit Kerala, finally the people who had the tapioca ate for three days before the supplies reached. And the energy transitions and the green hydrogen that we keep hearing about are maybe necessary pieces to a certain extent, but we need to change this problem from individual perspective to a place perspective. We have ignored place too long. We have solved it for eight billion people on this planet and completely ignored the planet. So I think people in their bio-region have a better understanding of their place. In some pockets, a good connect left with their natural resources, and I think the answers will be found there to a great extent.

0:25:06.9 S1: So local contextual responses based on geography and diversity because of the contextual response needed.

0:25:16.0 S7: Yes, because I mean the simple question we ask is, how much of transportation is unnecessary for up to 80% of your basket of needs being brought in from outside your cluster unnecessarily today. That is a huge footprint on the planet. Solving the transportation is not key, looking at this question is key.

0:25:38.4 S1: Right. So I think in all this, and I’m coming to you Harini anyway, under all the answers that my panel has given so far, it looks like everyone is looking forward to a kind of real mental model shift about consumption and about what development actually means. Harini, the urbanisation is absolutely going to be the key, right? And you’re passionate about urban ecology. Picking up from what the threads the other two said, where are we looking in the future?

0:26:11.2 Speaker 8: So I think one of the things I’d like to take this to, I hear a lot of discussion about speed of change, rate of change, systems change, and I think climate change we are all agreed here that has going to be a game changer. From children can’t go to school because it’s too hot, so education is going to collapse. Roads are going, tar is going to melt because it’s too hot for people to walk on roads, what cities will you have? What transport will you have? I think we’re looking at game changers in terms of can we even live as a society? So no culture, no economy, no society is possible, unless we fix climate change. And we’ll have to do that at scale and fast.

0:26:44.3 S8: So as somebody who studies system change or transformations, I think three things, if you’re asking about positivity, three things have given me positivity in the past few days. And I’ll come to the learnings, which is… So the first thing is looking at the US inflation bill, which is really a Climate bill. And why did that bill come? So it’s got a lot of flaws. We all know that it has a lot of flaws. But we also know that it’s the first positive big changer which will have global impact. As you get cars, for instance, which are hybrid cars and electric cars, that’s going to spread to the rest of the world.

0:27:18.8 S8: A lot of that happened because of activism and because of citizen activism so much. And citizen activism from the Senate, from elected representatives, citizen activism from their own staff who had citizens from the Senate, which was historic. And from groups of youth, The Sunrise Movement, the Fridays For Future, so many of these youth movements. So I think looking at the kind of citizen movements that are already there and the grassroots movements that are there in India, which have frankly gone from the US to the same extent, they are now trying to rebuild them. That is some place where we really can do this because you can see that elected representatives even Manchin responded to the citizen activism. So I think everybody will respond if there is that level of citizen activism.

0:28:05.1 S8: The second thing is, I think a lot of the climate change discussion focuses on the two relatively easy pieces of it, which is using the nature-based solutions to capture carbon and transitioning to renewable energy and I said, easy on a relative scale. They’re not easy by any means. But the piece we haven’t solved is that one third of our emissions come from manufacture of things like cement and ammonia. And there’s absolutely no way that we have technology to transfer away from those. And if you look at countries like India, we are going to grow. We need that cement. We realistically however much we talk about organic agriculture or not, for the next 10 years, India is going to use ammonia. It’s not going to be able to transition at scale. How are we going to do things like that? So there, I think, again, the role of research and the state in supporting research. For instance, MIT is looking at how can you use old concrete and re-purpose it. Speaking of circular economies to build, to get away from this whole climate. Other groups are looking at how can you use cement itself to trap carbon dioxide? So, I think we’ll have think of how the state can drive some of these along with the market and along with research institutions.

0:29:16.0 S8: And the third for me is this… See, if you think of it, it’s very odd that IPCC reports have been coming out and ever since the world started knowing about climate change, we’ve emitted more carbon in those ten years. So clearly our understanding that science will drive changes in society is not going to happen. So my third idea of optimism comes from new kinds of economics, which is looking at this. For instance, people have actually done this calculation, if you’re a philanthropist or at a very small level, let’s say you’re someone like me who wants to put maybe 100 rupees a month in funding something. Where do I put it? And they’re actually saying you’re better off funding climate activism because for every $1 you will get $3 worth in terms of driving large system change. Whereas if you give it into anything else, you’re going to actually not get that system change, so it’s better to drive activism. Now, there are a lot of problems with those number crunching. Does it go this way or that way? But the fact that there are numbers that you can crunch on this, that gives you a certain insight on where do you actually drive levers for change? What are these levers?

0:30:22.7 S8: So I think wrapping up all of this, what comes to the core is we need more interdisciplinary information that stretches across humanities, social science, economics science, technology. And so really my big game changer would be education. How can we get young people who are not yet trained in very disciplinary narrow thinking, which unfortunately our Indian education system good as it is, has been so specialized and so focused that we’re all trained to think only in that straight line. So that’s the one thing. I think Idris program, the number of other programs across the country that are building these interdisciplinary efforts to educate people on the environment, is going to give us…

0:31:00.1 Speaker 9: This open game changer.

0:31:00.1 S8: So you too seem to believe that there needs to be a groundswell of citizen-based understanding, interdisciplinary understanding, education and knowledge. And that eventually the force that is going to create the maximum change is public pressure from around the world.

0:31:16.9 S8: Yes.

0:31:17.1 S1: And then the Bazaar and the Sarkar will respond. We don’t have too much time, and I do want get two, three questions in. But I’m still going to give you all a minute each to talk about. So Veena, starting from you and coming this way, in one minute, I know it’s not fair, but still you have one minute. What does resilience in India look like to you? Keeping also Anshu’s point in mind that resilience sounds very nice, if you have to be the one to be resilient, it doesn’t sound that great. But what does resilience mean? The potential for resilience in India to all four of you, and then we’ll open it out and please prepare your questions for my fabulous panel, yeah.

0:31:57.3 S6: You didn’t give me any chance to think about that one. Okay, I think well, we are… In terms of resilience, we’re talking… We have 10 minutes, okay. In terms of resilience, we’re talking about, at what scale, so is it… Are we talking about resilience of individuals or resilience of systems? And I think both of these are important because you kind of need resilience at multiple scales. So if you’re talking about individuals, you’re really saying, “Can they bounce back from shocks?” And in a realistic sense, you’re basically saying, “Firstly, can we minimize the shocks that they’re experiencing in the first place?” So from the farmer’s perspective, we know that monoculture farming means one pest attack and you are going to completely lose everything. So how do we make it so that it’s a little more resistant, so that you’re not vulnerable? And COVID has shown us that one virus could bring the whole world down to its knees, so we understand that now better.

0:32:56.8 S6: I think from a system’s perspective, I think we’re really talking about not putting all of our eggs in one basket as a country. So whether we’re looking at food production systems, we’ve seen that if we have all moved to just eating rice and wheat and now it’s rice and wheat based out of pretty much places where rice and wheat shouldn’t be grown, we already understand intuitively that this is a non-resilient system. And so therefore, I would say creating diversity at the individual scale and at the system scale. I cannot see how you can minimize variability without that.

0:33:35.2 S1: Thank you. Vijay Raghavan.

0:33:37.8 S5: Thank you. One of the lessons from the pandemic is the following: For at least a decade, very strongly and a few decades before that, at moderate intensity, people have been warning about zoonotic explores. It doesn’t make the impact on health systems the way it should, and health systems which have been very strongly supported have turned out to be not resilient. So that’s an important lesson from that going forward, in terms of climate crisis, extreme weather, and agricultural damage and so on. And that is we cannot expect people to deal with forthcoming catastrophes when they have got extraordinarily pressing interests and problems now. Therefore, our entire resilience has to be planned in a manner similar to those transformer toys, you’re catering to something which is needed now, but when there’s a crisis that toy can change its shape and purpose into something else. So transformable infrastructure of various kinds, whether it’s school or college or industry, you’re making something you can move to making masks, or you’re doing something you can use to mitigate water threats, that kind of improvement which is acceptable by society as seeing immediate profit or also as future resilient is needed. People are not going to… I mean there’s a movie, I forget the name, don’t look up or look up or something. People carry on with their TV news until the disaster actually happens.

0:35:15.5 S8: Thank you. Very interesting. And I’ll build on that to say, there are new mental models looking at what are people changing to, when you say resilient as a society, and what they find is… So you can have resilience to slow changes and fast changes. COVID is of course, our fast change of floods and heat slowly build, the cities are getting hotter would be a slow change. And what I find is people will transform as societies or build, bring in new laws or do new things if they see slow change. But a crisis could be COVID crisis, none of us are wearing masks and we want to stop wearing masks, right? Because… So that kind of a change, however severe the shock, it’s gone and we think it’s not going to come back, even though we know that we’re now going to be in a world with shock after shock. So I think we have to figure out when we’re doing the language of trying to message change people, not talk about shocks when we talk about them, because we all know that we’ll forget them tomorrow, but talk about the long change, slow change: Is agriculture, heat all of those things. And can we be resilient to those changes. I think then we’ll bring in the resilience to the fast shocks anyway.

0:36:20.7 S1: Take the long-term, you wanna expect people to develop change mechanisms over time.

0:36:27.7 S7: I think it relates a lot to the multi-dimensional view that you were describing, and it’s a sense of place. So any place is resilient when a shock on any one of the parameters doesn’t totally take it out. The parameter could be your comments, your water, air, it could be your income levels, the kind of… You may have great income, but you may not have a diversity in livelihoods, and that could create a shock, it could come from the level of carbon you’re emitting, it could come from your health and nutrition levels. So I think we need to quickly figure out what is the set of indicators that gives us a sense of place Which you need to have at a hygiene level or higher? And it will vary by context, the values for these set of indicators will look different for Orissa and for Coastal Andhra and for [0:37:33.3] ____ Vistan Guts and so on and so forth. But today, we optimize for one variable or the other in our public problem solving, in governance, and definitely as markets and without understanding the adjacencies, without understanding what else we are impacting, and climate change has been born of a series of bad tradeoffs. So we need to just make better tradeoffs. Or one little aside I want to make that we need to stop using science and technology in the same breath, the two are very, very different things. We are enslaved to one and we don’t listen to the other enough.

0:38:08.6 S1: Good one. I feel really inadequate because I have four great panelists and very little time to go into depth into anything at all, but I do want to bring in the audience. If I can take three questions directed to a specific person, I take all three and then let them respond before we close. Please go ahead. Yeah. Mike, who’s next? Can you… All right, two and this side, anyone? Three. Okay, fine. Keep your question short, we’re running out of time.


0:38:56.0 S1: It’s okay. Use the energy from the biscuits you ate just now.

0:39:00.0 Speaker 10: Yeah. Okay. My question is particularly to Mr. Vijay Raghavan sir. There is a debate that due to NFT and Metaverse, there’ll be a lot of e-waste generated, your comment on that one.

0:39:10.3 S1: Okay. Next question. Due to…

0:39:12.2 S1: Metaverse and NFT, cryptocurrency and all, there is lot of…

0:39:17.6 S1: There will be lot of e-waste, okay. All right. Next. Yeah. So you just speak loudly till the mic comes.

0:39:24.0 S11: So, Veena. So, a question for you, in the example you said about startups, government and Samaj, all getting together, what catalyzed it? What was the thing that triggered it?

0:39:38.3 S1: What catalyzed it? Okay.

0:39:41.5 S12: In the last session, I think, it was a very interesting juxtaposition of conventional versus organic.

0:39:45.2 S1: Yes.

0:39:45.2 S12: And I think, they misunderstood what conventional really means. It means deciding what your resources have and what you can have, according to what your resources are, not letting some extraneous factor decide. So in this farm to fork business, why can’t you…

0:40:00.5 S1: You’re asking question to whom?

0:40:01.0 S12: Any one of them. Cannot the farmer himself decide, rather than, whether the farm should produce for the fork or whether the farm should produce at least first for the farmer himself?

0:40:11.9 S1: Okay. Who… So this last, last question about farmer and fork.

0:40:20.4 S7: You want to start with that?

0:40:23.2 S1: Yeah, I want to start with that. Do you want to take that?

0:40:25.4 S7: Over the long term and over long geography, you cannot fight the land.

0:40:31.5 S1: You cannot fight the land.

0:40:33.0 S7: Yeah.

0:40:33.3 S1: Okay.

0:40:33.7 S7: So you have to work with it.

0:40:35.0 S1: Working with the land. You can say something too, because I’m very interested in urban agriculture, but anything can… How can urban lands or urban spaces also contribute to all these questions about food sufficiency?

0:40:52.1 S8: Completely. We have to be multifunctional. For one, we should stop… We should just get back to this old idea of planting mangoes and jackfruit instead of all of the…

0:41:02.1 S1: And Tamarind.

0:41:02.5 S8: Yeah. I love the tabebuias and the rain trees as much as anyone but we just have to be multifunctional, we don’t have any space. And we don’t need white roofs, we just need to start planting on roofs and cook… Basically everything that we can have in terms of greenery should be multifunctional. Foraging for food, making the wetland such that people pick their own food, parks so that you know you can start picking your own weeds and cooking with them. I think that…

0:41:25.9 S1: Exciting new version of cities. I want to live in that one. Veena, answer your question, and then we’ll end with Vijay Raghavan.

0:41:33.7 S6: The question on what brings people together, there’s… In this case, we were talking about our own project. So I would say we were the, “Backbone Organization.” But to talk about backbone organizations in general, there is an increasing, well established theory on how collective impact has to be achieved. And the set of principles and roles that a backbone organization plays. And there was… Which basically says, bringing in money, but also just basic things like carrying pieces of paper and ensuring this communication between the organizations, all of those things, but yeah. So the simple answer is a Backbone Organization.

0:42:12.5 S5: Thank you. Very quickly about the energy used in non-fungible tokens or the power supply required to create cryptocurrency and so on. Now, that’s, of course increasing, but overall, the IT industry in general, the hardware and the energy required, that’s going to increase rather substantially. And that forms one of the major components of the manufacturing industries linked to manufacturing in a big way. And so when the West talks about sustainable development, green energy and so on, and gives loans of, let’s say, $42 billion to all of Africa to develop sustainable development, there’s a slight problem. The assumption is that electricity, water, schools and healthcare are sufficient for Africa. But the West needs… The IT industry, it needs a Boeing company, it needs Airbus. Africa doesn’t need that, right? But that’s not a valid assumption. So when we look for sustainability, we have to look at that. Now, one possible solution is fusion. The sun does a great job of that 13.5 billion years ago, but we still don’t have it and it’s not clear that we’ll have it soon on the planet. So we have to look at both adaptation and mitigation on scale, while having these resources available for other countries also.

0:43:39.7 S7: To just add to the server thing, Google just announced that recently that at current European temperatures, they have a finite risk of their servers, their server farms basically going into a meltdown. So much for NFTs and the metaverse.

0:44:01.0 S1: If there are any fiction writers here, note your plots are ready. Unfortunately, we have to close. But I do want to take one minute to say, first of all, thank you to the panel and I feel we underutilized you and my apologies for that. Wherever I go and I don’t think we’ve all internalized this enough. People have begun to realize, how much the whole globe is going to be dependent on India in the decades to come. Indian innovation, India’s economy, India’s talent, India’s biodiversity, and I think ATREE’s 25 years have been a lot about researching some of these issues in a long term way, and it is going to continue to do that for at least 25 years more, which is going to be quite a tipping point for this planet. So just that all of us in this country have such a significant role to play, not just to bring all our people to some level of abundance, but also for the rest of the world. So more power to ATREE’s Elbow, and thank you so much to my panel and thank you to the audience. Namaste.


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