Sabyasachi Patra

How can you make a difference to the World?

How can you make a difference to the World?

In an increasingly polluted world where man is the dominant species and is forcing all other species to cede space to itself and hurtling them towards extinction, where the actions of man is having severe consequences on the ability of natural world which in turn is having consequences on man in form of pollution of air, water as well as poisoning the earth and other species which man feeds on; in a world where man’s actions have led to climate change with higher mean temperatures and natural calamities occurring at greater frequencies, at a time when the leaders of large nations are behaving like small men and are bickering among themselves for petty gains, it is time for all the common men and women to act in their own way and send a strong signal that it is time for course correction.

So what can the common man do? What can folks who are engaged in a regular job in corporates do to lessen the burden? After all something is better than nothing? Hopefully these small actions if done by many people can have a contagion effect?

First and foremost we are consumers. A vast majority of corporates thrive just because they are able to peddle us some product or service which we often don’t need. However a want is created so that consumers buy those in droves. It has been proved again and again that only when the corporates realise that they are going to face the ire of determined consumers they come out with policies and actions. So as a consumer what all can you do to make a difference?

 

Say No to Palm Oil:

An estimated 3.5 million hectares of rainforests are logged, burned and converted to palm oil plantations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Every day 25 Orangutans lose their life due to rainforest destruction. Though we can easily visualise hearing about the loss of a large wild species like the Orangutan, the devastation caused by the Palm oil lobby is not limited to decimation of only Orangutan as a species.

Orang-utan with baby

Orang-utan with baby

When entire pristine rainforest patches are being burnt down, a large number of mammals, plants, birds, reptiles and other herpetofauna and many tiny species lose their lives. Our current level of scientific knowledge is woefully inadequate in understanding the complex inter-relationship between different species. We don’t know what we are losing out by burning down a rainforest.

The premier biologist George B. Schaller writes this about the Rainforests. “The rainforest is “

An intriguing aspect of rainforest life is its extraordinary mutualism, a dependence of organism upon each other. For instance, each of the many fig species has its own wasp pollinators….A rainforest is remarkably complex, yet its stability is tenuous. The extinction of a pollinator or seed disperser may cause the death of a plant species and with it many other species, especially invertebrates, which depend on it. Such responses are subtle and perhaps long delayed. How many key species can a rainforest lose before order becomes chaos, before the community collapses in an avalanche of extinctions?”

You can plant some trees. However, you can never create a rainforest. The amount of interrelationships between the species is amazingly complex and yet to be completely understood. So loss of such rainforests is going to hurt the entire world. In a world, which is increasingly facing climate change related catastrophes, it is important from a economic as well as ethical point of view to raise our voice against Palm Oil. So as consumers we have to ask our food companies as well as toiletries companies whether they are using palm oil or not. The fact is they are not going to tell. However, it is important to tweet and email and use other social media to ask the companies to clarify if they are using palm oil.

Tweet them to say that you are not going to use their products. Palm oil is an active ingredient in many food items. Palm oil is used in biscuits, chocolate, potato chips, bread etc. It is also used for cooking. Palm oil is supposed to add the foam in toiletries so you it gets used in shampoo, soap, toothpaste etc.

Palm Oil Tree

Palm Oil Tree

 

How do you know if palm oil is an ingredient?

See if the name “Palm” is mentioned in the list of ingredients like Palm Kennel Oil, Palm fruit oil or Palmate or Palmitate. If so, don’t buy. Following are some ingredients to look for to know if Palm oil is used:

  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Cetyl Palmitate
  • Elaeis Guineensis
  • Emulsifiers 422, 430-36, 470-8, 481-3, 493-5,
  • Glyceryl Stearate,
  • Octyl Palmitate,
  • Palm Kennel Oil, Palm Fruit oil, Palm Stearine, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmitic Acid, Palmityl Alcohol, Palmolein,
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Laureth, Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Stearate, Steareth 2 & 20, Stearic Acid,
  • Vegetable Glycerin, Vegetable Oil, Vitamin A Palmitate

Unfortunately, when you start checking these ingredients you may find some of your popular snack labels or toiletries containing those. Don’t get intimidated by the big corporations. Fortunately these corporations generally try to avoid bad press. So raise your voice.

Go Local for foods:

A lot of food products are imported. When fruits and other food items are transported from abroad over thousands of kilometres there is huge amount of CO2 emissions. These imported apples or food items may have been branded and advertised well. However, do you really want to have food items that are not fresh? And many of these food items also have genetically modified fruits or vegetables in them. The impact of the GM foods on human health is a serious topic of debate whch is being suppressed by the immense money power of pro GM lobby. (https://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-9-issue-v/)

 

Go Organic

The amount of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers used in our fields is amazingly high. Many of our foods and vegetables have harmful chemicals in it. These chemicals pollute our streams after through water runoff as well as leach into the ground and pollute the ground water. Bio-accumulation of these chemicals is happening in our body. A 2014 study by Greenpeace India has found that there are traces of pesticides in most of the tea samples. Out of the 49 samples 34 contained atleast one pesticide. And 29 samples that is 59% of samples contained more than 10 pesticides with the pesticide residues higher than EU (European Union) limits. Acephate and Monocrotous affect the nervous system. Acephate has been categorized as possible human carcinogen by US E.P.A. (Slow Poison: Pesticide Tea, IndiaWilds Newsletter Aug 2018, https://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-6-issue-viii/ )

Monocrotous causes blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, convolusions, coma and death and has resulted in many bird deaths in America. DDT and Endosulphan were also found in some samples.

The Government of India allocates around 70,000 crores of rupees as fertiliser subsidy. So this lobby is pretty powerful and is well integrate with corrupt politicians and officials. So the Government hasn’t focused much on organic farming, even though Narendra Modi after being elected as PM had made favourable noises regarding organic farming. So it is important to raise our voice in favour of Organic farming. Apart from tweeting your voice, it is also important to find out wherever organic products are sold and buy those. Remember only when we start consuming more organic products there will be a better demand pull on Organic products. Remember our health is more precious than the few more rupees that we are going to spend.

If you are in responsible positions in corporates then demand your canteen vendor and supplier of special parties to provide organic food.

 

CSR:

These days many of us travel to distant parts of India for vacation. If we keep our eyes and ears open then we may be able to find an opportunity where our organisations can help in the local communities and wilderness areas under Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Many corporates are struggling to use their CSR budget in meaningful ways. During my previous stint in the corporate world, a school headmaster had told me how several corporates have approached him for donating computers and he can only take from one company. Donating computer was the easiest of the things that the corporates were doing. There is a big lack in expertise in the persons manning the CSR work in the corporates.

In my Nokia days, about a decade ago, during a visit to Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve, I had talked with the field director and he had told me that the problems he was facing was from the use of antiquated wireless. One person had to be engaged to man the wireless station. It is also a one way communication and reach was poor. So we soon agreed that we can help them with mobile phones to shift their communication from the poor wireless to mobiles using GSM technology. I could arrange 100 phones to be distributed to the staff and BSNL agreed to set up towers in the hill. So it became the first Tiger reserve in India to shift to GSM mode of communications. This enabled the office of the Field Director to easily connect with patrolling teams and quickly redeploy them to tackle any threat from poachers.

As individuals you can help guide your own corporate to better implementation of CSR policy earning a better name for your corporate and yourself as well as helping out in making a change for the better. (CSR to Save Wild India, IndiaWilds Newsletter September 2014, https://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-6-issue-ix/ )

We have only one earth to live in. This is our only home. We have ravaged and savaged her enough. It has come to such a point that we have to use air purifiers at home and use masks. Even people in their early twenties are having lung cancer. Why do we relegate our well being to a few leaders who have a narrow vision and continue to sacrifice our wilderness areas and environment which in turn is hurting our well being? It is time for all of us to take a stand. The time to take a stand is NOW.

Sabyasachi Patra
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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning Cinematographer and shoots for international broadcasters, feature films and corporates to make a living. He is a passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer and has won awards and accolades for his documentary 'A Call in the Rainforest'. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.
Sabyasachi Patra
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