I grew up in the one of the most populated mega city of Mumbai (Bombay) in India living in and surrounded by tall, compact concrete boxes that we have for homes in the city, albeit among the most expensive real estate in the world. The urban life is similar to just as any other ‘big’ city in the world - a fast, zipping way with hardly time to breathe let alone soak in the wonders of nature or listen to the chirping of birds. What kept me rooted to some extent to the ‘earth’ were stories of traditional practices of loving nature and utilising its things without destroying. Stories of how the entire banana plant from its leaves, its flowers, to its fruits to even its trunk are useful. My special fondness for the banana story is eating food using the leaves as plates. An organic serving dish – its biodegradable, no toxic waste released to the environment and what’s more it adds a special flavour to any meal served in it. These then form part of an ancient culture of sustainability in India – less harm and consume only as is necessity was the mantra. There are many more such wonderful stories that lie in the heart of India – sustainable practices as diverse as the regional biodiversity of the land. As a communication professional I believe in the power of storytelling, and stories as such practices help in positive awareness of the climate change and sustainable issues.
My experience of working in the area of sustainability awareness and implementing policy decisions coupled with my background of communications has taught me that while the nation and businesses grapple with how to limit carbon emissions and to what extent, it’s the power of 1.2 billion population of the country that ultimately will decide how effectively will India manage its growth economically with minimal harm to environment. The same population also needs to wake up and quickly adapt themselves to the impacts of climate change already seen with respect to extremities of weather (Heat and Cold waves), erratic rainfall pattern, combating disasters like floods and droughts. To this 1.2 billion people the stories that need to be told are stories of inspiration, stories that echo ‘nature’ and ancient wisdom. Some of my favourite stories here are of the living roots bridges handmade from the aerial roots of the live Banyan Fig Trees (Ficus Elastica)by the Khasi people and War Jaintia communities of the Northeast State of Meghalaya in India. Or the story of the indigenous tribe in Kerala called the Kuruchiya, who a tribal farming community that conserve a number of traditional rice varieties, which are suitable to the land they possess and vary in maturity periods. Each variety possesses unique characters and adaptability to biotic and abiotic stresses. The diversity of rice varieties possessed by the communities helps to meet their food, nutritional, cultural and economic requirements. Varieties of the rice crops cultivated are drought tolerant and help in fighting diseases like diabetes. Ancient culture of India irrespective of whichever religions – be it Hindu, Muslim, Jainism or Buddhism believed in living in harmony with nature and thus was more climate resilient. Stories of the woman conservationist Amla Ruia who has single-handedly transformed 100 villages in semi-arid regions of Rajashtan in to fertile lands by adopting traditional water harvesting methods of check dams, that are not as expensive as building a mega dam and which also are minimal harm to the environment.
Developmatrix Consulting LLP, set-up by myself to advocate and implement sustainable solutions, aims to map and crowd-source such stories of climate change innovation from ancient India to the population using social media, crowdmap and social media community like the Humans of New York does to common New Yorkers’ stories. Information and interviews from tribal communities, farming communities, senior citizens of different regions of India would be sought and mapped using crowdmap. So that each regions or communities’ sustainable practices can be identified through geography as well as solution category (e.g. water conservation).