Wisdom from the chaff of Knowledge: Confessions on the World Environment Day, 2021

Ajay Rastogi
Village Majkhali, Uttarakhand, India

Clad in white Khadi Kurta Pajama a distinguished man with long flowing beard was sitting on an indefinite fast on the bank of Bhagirathi in 1994. He was demanding a thorough review of Tehri Dam project. It was the 34rth day already and the news was spreading fast. I was working in an environmental organization in Delhi and the youth network of INTACH was mobilizing people to go to Tehri together with Medha Patkar ji, the leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan. Almost 30 of us took the night bus to Tehri with her. It was amazing to see the health and zeal of Sunder Lal ji as he filled all of us with ecological, geological, cultural, social, historical, economical and spiritual insights into why the Tehri Dam should not be built the way it has been conceived and planned.

Having studied environmental science in college when the EPA (Environmental Protection Act, 1986) had just come out; I could feel that the explanations Sunder Lal ji gave were much more comprehensive than any scholarly literature could provide at that time. Filled with awe and inspiration, we sat through the night on the river bank and spent another couple of days witnessing his routine. His prayers, deep seated belief in human goodness, natural curiosity, universal values of human dignity and sovereignty. This was the first shake up on how university education is giving us an impression of ‘knowledge’ which has been incubated in silos. Obviously, the EIA (Environment Impact Assessment Guidelines, 1988) that came as a follow up to EPA were far too removed from the complexity that Sunder Lal ji talked about.

A restless heart of a young environment activist was further unsettled…it was a futile life in Delhi so it seemed. I requested for a job somewhere far and remote, and my office fortunately was starting a conservation programme in Arunachal Pradesh. So, soon enough my wife and I were living in Itanagar. As the luck would have it, the Arunachal unit of Himalaya Sewa Sangh, a network of the Gandhian institutions was close by and many Gandhians from across the country had gathered for an annual convention. There we met more women and men who wore simple khadi clothes and knew much more about their place say it be about water resources, forests, weaving clothes, rearing honeybees and cattle or growing crops. They went about in hand spun cotton clothes, talked in local lingua-franca, laughed a lot and ate simple meals. They didn’t have any airs about the Padma Shri/Padma Vibhushan, several of them were national awardees, and the recognition seemed only incidental unlike our graduate events of passing out from college where we feel the pride that now we know, how to change the world or perhaps to find out what is wrong with the world in the first place.

Many a times, the accessories become more important: proper shoes, dress, computer, phone, office etiquettes and the likes. These people just went around in ordinary sandals/chappals without much pride. Hobnobbing with them came with a natural ease of access, their eagerness to share life experiences and an easy laughter were another dose of reform that perhaps we need in the echelons of educational institutions where ‘degrees’ sometimes are treated with more respect than the ‘humane aspect of practical wisdom’.

Having settled down in Arunachal, it was time to reach out to the communities to work with. The first encounter was with an Apatani farmer. She was in her paddy field apparently weeding and selectively removing only some plants, and of certain age even within the same species of a weed. Prior to studying


Environmental sciences, I had graduated in Agriculture and immediately my instinct to share the knowledge with her that she should keep the whole field clean, devoid of anything but paddy arose. However, with the language barrier between us, I was forced to keep patience. It was only after we reached the Kasturba Ashram in Zero, that I could raise the question to a hindi speaking sister, simply clad in a white khadi saree. The explanation was vivid with details on how many uses those ‘weed’ plants have not just as food for humans but in harbouring and nourishing other species that in turn are nurturing creatures up the food chain all the way to fish and to birds of prey.

She was not just a farmer, she was a steward of the local ecosystem. It was not just a lesson in landscape or watershed science or a theoretical lesson in agro-ecology requiring modeling and more experimentation on crop mixtures. She had inherited the wisdom and worked with a natural flare and grace. Going back to her simple bamboo dwelling, perched on stilts; recycling practically all the household water and food. No green labels, no responsible business awards or carbon credits; who cares in a simple and rich daily life. In the agriculture degree, 30 years ago I don’t remember being talked about indigenous knowledge systems or ‘bio-cultural agriculture’ respectfully. Though, there is some difference now, with acknowledgement for these and other organic systems, but the mindset of care is yet not a part of our natural resource education.

So, how much to unlearn, what to retain and how much to reform in ourselves and the institutions that galore, is a deep question. What we learn from these few examples is often shoved off as small scale or alternate. 30 years later, I am not so convinced anymore that what was taught as mainstream should anymore be considered so. I have had the fortune of meeting and learning from some of those who cared less about how much change they can bring about but lived their traditionally rich lives and also those who changed their life to ‘be the change’.

Sunder Lal ji left his body 2 weeks ago on May 21, 2021. He has faded away but an era of extraordinary accomplishments and changes brought about through simplicity and force of self conviction would perhaps remain and hopefully consolidate in future. There are many more like him and wonder when we would be able to bring that ‘transformative education’ in our institutions of learning. I am fortunate to live in a village, close to Lakshmi Ashram in Kausani where Radha Behn in her 80s is still going strong in helping young girls flourish, despite her ailing health now. It would be a real loss for the youth in college and out of college not to have had the experience of meeting and getting inspired from many such people spread across in every community and country.

How many universities equip us to deal with local issues and incorporate the traditions that may have positive potential in pretty much every subject? How many agricultural scientists are able to break through silos to make a self regenerative paddy field and see it as a part of the ecosystem? Above all are we able to instill pride in being happy in a simple and rich life where deep wisdom, love and optimism is deceptively hidden behind seemingly ordinary ways and means.

Scientific publication : Determinants of microfinance facility for solar home system in the rural bangladesh, by Syed M.Rahman

Access to electricity in rural areas of the developing parts of the world is yet to reach a minimum satisfactory level. Bangladesh is no different, and hence widespread dissemination of solar home system (SHS) is a suitable vehicle to ensure greater access to electricity in remote rural areas of the country. A substantial portion of four million installed SHSs in Bangladesh has availed microcredit provided by various microfinance institutions. However, what determines the users’ preference towards microcredit in installing SHS on the rooftop is yet to be answered. This research aims at analyzing the determinants of microfinance for installing SHS in rural Bangladesh. This research employed binary logistic regression to analyze the factors that affect selection of different mode of purchase: upfront payment or installment purchase. It identified a set of independent variables based on existing literature in order to investigate their influence on households’ choice between cash payment and installment purchase. The research found that more than 63% of the rural households in the study areas used SHS financed through microcredit. Level of education, location, family size and occupation affects choice of purchase mode. Logistic regression analysis showed that age, location and size of SHS affect the likelihoods of choosing upfront payment or installment purchase.

Climate Finance and Adaptation Funds : a new article from Syed Rahman, oct. 2019

There is an ongoing debate about criteria based on which allocation of climate finance, particularly financing adaptation, is made. This article aims at investigating the determinants of fund allocation and the consequences of rearrangement considering the case of the Adaptation Fund (AF). This research conducts a mixed-method approach including binary logistic regression and multiple regressions to analyze the factors that influence access to and volume of funding from the AF, respectively, along with a qualitative assessment of the AF’s institutional features.
The findings suggest that the level of vulnerability of a country is likely to affect accessibility to and the volume of funding from the AF. Besides, low-income countries are more likely while least developed countries are less likely to access the fund.
Readiness of country is not significant for accessing the AF; however, it affects the volume of funding. Funding allocation rearrangement may put the AF on pressure for effective use of the readiness program.

Keywords : climate change adaptation, climate finance, Adaptation Fund, determinants, multilateral fund

Link to the full article : https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/U5F33NJCBRFYSUVW8DXR/full

Environmental Diplomacy and Environmental Negotiation – Colloquium of October 14, 2019 – University of Coimbra (Portugal)

Summary: Environmental issues are sources of serious conflict between people, communities, regions and countries. Normative dispersal in the environmental legal system hampers the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This reality gives rise to a particular and growing field of action, which highlights a difficult societal and geopolitical context in terms of cooperation and collaboration. The need to address climate change, protect biodiversity and share a use Sustainable, equitable and sustainable natural resources require environmental governance at different levels – local, national, regional and international, involving all sectors – citizens. governments of economic agents to organized civil society in the third sector. It is in this context that environmental diplomacy emerges in a perspective of sustainability. The legal concept of environmental diplomacy in the broad sense faces challenges in terms of identifying its purpose, methodology, actors involved, implementation instruments and measurement mechanisms.
On this occasion, Séverine Borderon-Carrez, President and co-founder of the International Institute for Ecological Negotiation (INNE) will highlight the tools of ecological revival developed within the Institute.
She will discuss current international environmental issues, the limitations of existing environmental diplomacy tools to present the Institute’s 2019-2020 work program. It will speak of bonds, of Love, of Peace and of surpassing oneself in the service of the Unity that humanity forms in its relation with Nature and the Planet. It will have to be seen to believe it, but many tools are already in place to solve many conflicts …
Time is up for action. There will also be some good cooperation, both academic and operational, to drive the implementation of a number of INNE’s activities in the various countries represented at the Symposium, namely Portugal, Brazil and France.

What is ecological negotiation?

Ecological Negotiation is a negotiation whose object and consequences go beyond purely anthropocentric considerations and directly affect the future of nature.

For a long time, decisions about the future of nature have been made unilaterally between policy makers and promoters. Administrative procedures aimed at informing the public of a new project did not allow for a real sharing of knowledge about the local natural context, nor to obtain a real influence in the final decision-making.

Based on the work of a thesis in law, we realize that the law applicable to environmental impact studies could allow nature to be better defended in negotiations that may have consequences for its future.

To improve the consideration of nature in negotiations, a group of researchers and environmental engineering companies, called Nego-Eco ©, develops research and innovation in two main areas:

– training of actors in ecological negotiation

– development of methodologies and tools for decision support

These approaches allow a constant improvement of the consideration of nature in the decisions that concern it.

The goal is to tighten the human-nature links and better translate the influences of one on the other.

For this, it is necessary to better understand how the law is built and how each actor can find his place to act.

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A universal principle

Ecological negotiation is a universal principle that humanity must learn to develop in a sustainable way taking into account the limits of the planet. These natural boundaries are non-negotiable. Nature can no longer be regarded as a negotiable thing that is available. Nature destroyed is irreplaceable. Human and natural temporality is not equivalent.

It is the human activities and demography that humanity must learn to control and negotiate within the confines of the planet. This negotiation can no longer be a business negotiation. It must be ecological. It must flow from the heart of humanity. It must use all the human potential to carry out this balancing exercise. Ecological negotiation implies a deep listening to the needs of humanity in its diversity, complexity, specificity and comprehensiveness. Humans must act together. They must beat to the rhythm of the same heart. To implement ecological negotiation, it is necessary that our decision-makers (State, private companies) learn to make their hearts vibrate to the rhythm of the planet. This approach is not economical but universal. Ancestral cultures teach us a lost discipline that we must find. Our modern knowledge offers invaluable tools to try to observe and orchestrate diversity as a whole. The ecological negotiation imposes a discipline first personal, then collective. An essential listening between the actors, economic and financial operators up to the territorial actors coordinates and impels this practice of the negotiation. The arrangement of the actors and the role of each must be clarified by the expression of the vital needs of each and must find root in a territory with limited resources. The territories support our families. They feed us and feed humanity. Earth is our Mother. It is hand in hand, with her, that we must build our future. Some territories are bursting with life and could revive our humanity by listening to these reciprocal needs.

Practicing ecological negotiation means accepting to live together, to listen to one another, to share, and to take one’s right place at the right moment in a perfect balance with the territory and, more generally, with our planet. Respect for nature – silent but present negotiator – is at the heart of this rare and yet daily practice in the business world. This world is still disconnected from the lands on which it is actually actually put into practice.

Ecological negotiation is thus reconnecting the needs of humanity and commercial and financial practices to ecological issues of the first order such as the protection of biodiversity, healthy food, environmental health, climate change…

We know the damage we are doing today to the planet, due to a lack of regulation and long-term visibility on our actions. Today we know and can correct our actions. Let’s act differently. From within what we are, outward. This will gradually bring peace and balance to our beautiful planet.