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Outlook of Serendib: We are what we do!

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 29 November 2012 00:00

Doing good is catching on in developed economies and for some the impending doomsday concept has meant the urgent need of some positive deeds under their belt.

Maybe we have had decades of action devoid of this objective and concentrated too much on yield curves and monetising our thoughts and deeds in any way we can. We have forgotten that all investments should not be made with returns in mind and the hurdle rates for positive living are different.

Today the growth disease is on us as we keep postponing doing better things or helping the environment etc by thinking first let us develop and then we will look after the environment subsequently.

How many times we may hear this and witness action only qualify as greenwashing but Margret Mead is quite clear on this – we won’t have a society if we destroy the environment. Part of this title is a title of a website – www.wearewhatwedo.org simple and a focused idea. You find more of such in the web today, pushing people to think and change habits and the way we move forward.


Web-based advocacy

Websites targeting the more ICT savvy generation such as www.onethingperweek.typepad.com and www.onegoodeedperday.blogspot.com are some individual efforts. However, these are greatly outnumbered by others who still want to outrace others.

I can see the power of a good deed per day of course over and above what one is doing anyway. A simple numerical figure in Sri Lanka may mean 20 million positive deeds a day! The power of good is clear and the urgency is to create that the time is now feeling. In the absence of such multimillion bad deeds can take place every second which may be what we experience today.

Over a period of time done in a purposeful manner what we will witness is big change. This should be good news for all those who think that we may have reached the point of no return. There is no question that small positive change carried out by lots of people certainly amounts to big change.


Two examples

I would like to place on record two examples. Both related to energy consumption. I had the opportunity of being present in two meetings within a short period of time. One was about how to make loss making public institutions turnaround and CEB too was included. The other was a discussion on National Science and Technology Policy. Both discussions were in hotels as is usually the case.

I believe the underlying assumption for the choice of locations being that you should discuss difficult topics in salubrious surroundings. The global environmental meetings too reflect such thinking and accords over the years indicate where the events were held!

You hear the need for popularisation of science and the need to conserve energy though real life applications are found to be wanting. Answers lie with technology choices and innovation. As innovation takes time the immediate adoption of certain available technologies as a starter is in order.

In lighting we are already in the post-Edison era as his famous contribution the incandescent bulb has been shown the way out – some by regulation and some through voluntary redundancy. In Cuba Castro ordered all people to change the bulbs and they did. It was quite voluntarily carried out in Australia. Sri Lanka too tried but the ubiquitous incandescent can be still seen in places where there is enough capital to change and lead.

In both places I noted the presence of these energy guzzling incandescent bulbs in abundance while the discussions were on. The situation has not changed still with many years gone by. It is indeed sad that places that can go incandescent free embracing the higher efficient CFLs are not doing so even when they can. The ability to pay may be there but the generator has to keep supporting the inefficiency in some way and there is a definite cost to society as a whole.  The world is already heading for LEDs, which is the next lighting revolution. LEDs are much more efficient and even more environmentally friendly as the mercury that is an issue with CFLs is gone in these. One can strategically use LEDs too, realising even better energy utilisation.

LED is an area for supporting innovation. Can we walk into a building and see incandescent free claim? Can we align all our houses too in this direction and not even forgetting the gate post lights? The silent revolution can be seriously positive both to the CEB and the country. This will be our positive deed – one bulb a day!

Need of the hour

It is important in organisations to stir up individuals within to understand, commit and deliver. In environmental and energy terms I would seek literacy (meaning understanding of these issues from energy conservation, resource scarcity to climate change) among my workforce to be 100 per cent basic literacy.

The need of the hour is not only to know the rules and functions of an organisation. The eco-system within which the organisation operates today has a profound impact on operations. Spiralling cost of energy can really spin an organisation out. One incident of polluted resources or accumulated waste can spin the operations out of balance too.

If the whole work force is not with you it is difficult to move ahead. When the workforce understands these, they also become roaming ambassadors and they will influence and change the emerging generation as well. For work force involvement, prepare a learning and execution plan which will enable one to arrive at some stretch goals along the way.

Contd.on pgage 18

(The writer is Professor of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. With an initial BSc Chemical engineering Honours degree from Moratuwa, he proceeded to the University of Cambridge for his PhD. He is also the Director of UOM-Cargills Food Process Development Incubator at University of Moratuwa. He can be reached via email on ajith@cheng.mrt.ac.lk)

Outlook of Serendib: We are what we do!

It is stated by David Robinson who pioneered ‘wearewhatwedo’ that his first book ‘Change the world for a fiver,’ which had been sold more than a million copies, only had 50 simple actions. The website at one stage had more than 970,000 actions registered! The current statistics are not available though we can do with a list of 50 in the first instance!

Each of us transforming our homes one by one to be incandescent bulbs free and those who can transform their offices and factories to be as such are important milestones. Even in transportation which is quite a headache to the commuters as well as to the CPC if we are to switch on a better fleet of higher efficiency vehicles and work on convenient public transport, the impact would be tremendous.

We simply forget that the unnecessary consumption of a litre of fuel in few seconds or going through few kilometres means that you have used a resource that has taken millions of years to form! If you have a bit more empathy with the resource, naturally you tend to think more about what you use and how you use and not only the end expectations. The end does not justify the means. You will only think about mobility for yourself and not you plus all inflated egos.


Hedonic aspect

We do have a significant carbonated drink market and some score brand choice of the year awards consequently. It is interesting that for some of these drinks we tend to incorporate carbon dioxide obtained through the burning of valuable fossil fuels. We do that to obtain the carbonated effect. The gas only serves a transient function as we take the lid out, thereby releasing the pressure and the compressed gas moves out. Once the fizziness is gone, the drink is dull and the desire is not the same. Quite valuable fossil reserves are consumed to serve an interest that is serving a more hedonic aspect than a necessity.

However, in Sri Lanka we can devise different mechanisms to generate carbon dioxide from biomass resources or from other fermentation operations and then to use carbon dioxide from these sources rather than follow these wasteful routes. Overnight switching is impossible but an intention to do the right thing once you get to know that there are better sustainable ways of doing what you like to do is important. Indeed positive thinking is a sure way to positive deeds.

We go through the day thinking perhaps ‘I am just a single individual, what contribution or a difference can I possibly make?’ If we continue to think this way, yes, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Collectively our inactions will showcase the nation to the outside. Take strength from the words of Margret Mead – Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For, indeed, that is all who ever have.


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