The need for old wine

It turns out, indigenous practices and innovations meant to sow equity and sustanibility will be useful in the battle against climate change. 

Despite the fervency of the current debate over climate change, and questions over how to deal with it, the hard science of the issue has been around for more than a century. One of the earliest links between the burning of fossil fuels (coal) and a change in climate was made during the late 19th century. At that time, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius calculated that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would raise the Earth's temperature some five to six degrees Celsius. Along the same lines, in 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calculated that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would be likely to produce an increase of between two and 4.5 Celsius. The 'discovery' of these alarming statistics in recent years has led to a crucial, if belated, discussion over how to mitigate this rising temperature. Yet in this clamour for new techno-fixes, some obvious opportunities are being missed.  As important as the current global negotiations are, there are a huge number of innovative initiatives outside of the climate framework that already help people to reduce their impact on the environment by addressing other aspects of their lives. Neglecting these activities in the search of new-fangled approaches is wastful, to say the least.

Though not directly involved with the issue of climate change, the work of myriad groups on sustainability, empowerment, equity and alternative models of development has used novel systems that are only now being recognised as positive approaches to dealing with the problems associated with global warming. For instance, with electricity generation from non-renewable sources (such as coal) being a major contributor to global warming, electrification through decentralised grids based on renewable energy would quickly lessen the carbon footprint of any country or community. And contrary to some criticism, such a decentralised, renewable energy grid would in fact provide assured, regular and timely electricity. This has been proved by the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, which has been promoting and using solar energy to power rural areas – in addition to training villagers to become 'solar entrepreneurs' in their own right – since 1972, well before climate change and renewable energy became the buzzwords they are today.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian