The following post is an extract from email I received from my friend Deepa Gupta, who co-founded the Indian Youth Climate Network. She’s travelling around India with a group of Indian youth in solar-powered electric cars. I find what she’s doing so inspiring that I wanted to share it with you all.
On a side note – it’s interesting to see that Evan Thornely’s new business is batteries for electric cars- this could revolutionise private car transport in Australia. The Australian reported on it below, but I’m surprised it hasn’t had more interest from science reporters.
Mr Thornley said Better Place’s plans for a $1 billion network ofcharging stations and battery exchanges could wean Australia off its $30-billion-a-year petrol habit while creating jobs, cutting carbon emissions and reducing global conflict.
Here is Deepa’s email –
“Goodmorning 🙂 I wrote this as I travelled in the backseat of a solar powered electric Reva. I’ve driven it a few times. It’s amazing to sit in a car which has no ignition, and when driving on a smooth silent road there is nothing but silence, and when you brake you can’t feel the petrol being guzzled away, or smell the fumes. It’s an experience of the future. With us in our caravan of alternative vehicles we have 3 solar powered electric reva’s, a waste vegetable oil powered van (which is also a home with a bed, toilet, shower, table, kitchen, fridge, film and editing equipment etc – where the electronics are powered by solar) and a pure plant oil fuelled truck.
Where do I start! I’m travelling across India – which is an experience in itself. I guess highlights are the best.
· I travelled on top of a truck!! A bollywood experience indeed, an experience of a lifetime, with wind whipping through my hair and a bunch of us singing and shouting.
· Meeting farmers in villages who are practicing sustainable agriculture and seeing their improved livelihoods and success and talking to them about all the opportunities.
· Training 250 uni students on climate change in Hyderabad, seeing them get pumped up and excited about stopping climate change and taking action in Hyderabad!
· Meeting many leaders who are joining hands with us and supported us in our events, including the CEO of Infosys (big IT company), CEO of Reva (biggest electric car company), state minister for renewable energy, lots of Vice Chancellors, a internationally reknowned Chief justice from Bangalore, a south Indian actress – the list goes on.
· Teary eyed, I watched 20 children who were deaf and dumb dance to a song at our climate change day at a school. It gave me so much hope that if children who can’t hear music can dance, surely we can inspire the worlds people and leaders to understand the urgency of climate change and act.
However it would be wrong if i only painted it as a happy picture. What has made me sad is seeing rivers and streams that have turned into sludge and sewer. The increasing rich poor divide. I feel selfish at times as I sit in a car working on a laptop and lookout where there are children without enough clothes to wear…
What really saddens me is the state of our agricultural sector. I’ve started working on the issue of “Green Jobs” in recent times. 60% of India’s workforce is dependent on farming for their livelihoods yet it only contributes to 18% of India’s GDP. This means that India’s average farmer earns under $2AUD a day.
According to the human rights commission for the past decade around 20,000 farmers on average have committed suicide every year. This number is ridiculous! It breaks my heart and makes me want to cry. These people that the world’s population is relying on for food and life, feel that they have no solution but to take their own life, because they are drowning in debt due to increasing crop failures. They’re story is that due to heavy subsidies they are taught and encouraged to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides. They do not have the money for this and hence have to take out a loan. We live in a time where climate change has begun, increasing droughts and changing rainfall patterns are resulting in increasing crop failures. Each season their crop fails increases financial stress and results in the suicide of tens of thousands of Indian farmers every year!
I just wish that everyone, especially those with the power and money, that our climate is changing and people are becoming more affected. That we only have 3-5 years left to peak our emissions, after that we’ve reached the tipping point. Tipping point after which a chain reaction of events will mean that no matter how much we try to curb our emissions, in many ways things are going to start becoming increasingly chaotic, more floods, storms, droughts, less food, more population with the end result of suicides, riots and violence due to even more scarcity. Our politicians and leaders won’t necessarily make the right decision until they’re encouraged by the people.
Ah, sorry I get emotional at times about it, because it is scary and overwhelming. We have enough problems in the world and we don’t need it to be doubled, tripled, quintupled.
However there is hope some in the solutions, there is some amazing work happening. I met an NGO that have managed within 2 years to get farmers in Andra Pradesh to transform 10,000 acres of land to sustainable agriculture (rain water harvesting, chemical free, self sustaining farms). 10,000 acres! These farms are now seeing increasing yields and a major increase in income – and are also reducing their environmental footprint. What we need is to involve more affluent and educated young people, who can empower young farmers and help them feel valued, guide them on how they can pursue sustainable agriculture to avoid crop failure.
See the solutions exist, as do very feasible business models. Its just that we need visionary and intelligent leadership, along with motivated and concerned masses.
Ah enough ranting from the Reva. I will arrive in Pune tonight as we continue our journey across India. You can check out the solutions and stories on www.indiaclimatesolutions.com. I’ve attached a photo of the cool cars we are travelling in.