Future Imperfect

Our future is our choice

March 17, 2016 03:44 pm | Updated 03:44 pm IST - MADURAI:



It’s 2050: Sunita wakes up in her new two-bedroom unit in Chennai. The sensors have slightly reduced the temperature in the room to let her body know it’s time to get up. Using the toilet is an act of active citizenship now – the sewage from her flat is treated and used to grow gardens that cool the building and provide food to its occupants. Her breakfast has locally grown veggies and a yeast-stake – a new fad that has yeast strains mimicking the taste and nutrition of meat. So few eat meat now – there is no need. She walks down to the bus station in the pathway that was recently modified. It’s covered to protect from the heat, but the cover is made of solar panels that help power the bus station that won the city’s Form-Function award last year. It has ceiling covered with new flexible, colourful solar panels mimicking a fish; mood music, performance spaces – it really perks one up! The bus arrives – Sunita settles into her seat: she can customise the seat colour, check the news, get a massage. If she were in a more social mood, she could head upstairs to the coffee club on the upper deck.

The news today is all about the anniversary of the Climate Adapt Bill passed in 2025 – the one that completely revamped how everyone lived, with fully priced water, heat adaptation, smart city design and a complete overhaul of the education system. Within five years, the effects were felt – there was weather-proofed farming, for starters. The smart city program overhauled the infrastructure and the revamped education system allowed rural youth to play a big role. The city kept changing and improving. This month it was the platform. Last year it was the bus station. It’s hotter now, true and some parts of old Chennai, especially near the beach are not liveable. But most of the power now is drawn from Carbon-free sources, so the CO2 levels in the air actually has been falling for the past 5 years. By recognizing the threat and adapting, there is not just hope but renewed energy that makes for an exciting new world.

It's 2050: Prakash joins a long line outside the ration shop. The smart ones begin to stand by 8 pm, when the heat is a touch lower. They removed all shelter outside the shop to discourage people from coming, but the people still came and fainted when it got too hot. The crops have failed…again. Water could never be priced they said, so people used it carelessly until it ran out. The rivers flowed differently today as well – much less water. People began to move from the fields to the cities until the slums overflowed. There too, water ran out as the drills ran ever deeper and people built slums over ponds.

For the rich, apart from the threat of disease and sporadic violence, it’s not so bad. They have cooling. They have access to cheap labour. But there is a simmering, something has to give. And when it does…

If only…20 years ago, he was a young boy, and heard talk of people marching to take action. The rest put them down, saying no action was necessary, it was too expensive, what can a few of us do. If only…they had taken action.

Two roads are diverging before us now. We can choose to be ostriches, hiding our heads under the sand and hoping business as usual continues. Or we can choose to act.

The most impactful individual action would be to watch what we eat and cut down our consumption of milk and meat. Be mindful of food waste and of the need to quickly adapt our plants to a rapidly heating environment. Agriculture uses 75% of our water and ruminants like cows cause twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as our transportation sector in India. We waste/lose a substantial portion of our food from farm-to-table. This action is a no-brainer. As is switching to LED lighting or energy efficient appliances. Enabling a Bus Rapid Transit System for our cities is a little harder – we need the discipline, but a climate-friendly escape from our torturous daily commute is worth the effort.

The next big action would be to manage our waste – segregate, compost and repurpose it – to prevent it from clogging up our waterways and water bodies. Because flooding that is likely to increase in our cities, and managing our waste is a key step to reduce our vulnerability. We should learn from the success of others – Israel or Singapore – who have learned to treat and reuse their sewage and price water – allowing them to thrive.

The Earth we rest on, who we draw from, has limits. And we are nearing or passing those limits.

Let us Act. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?


(For a complete summary of actions we can take, you may log on to www.climaction.net)

Feedback and questions may be e-mailed to climaction2015@gmail.com

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