My Three Cups of Tea

By Kathleen Buchholz, AUP

Today is our last day in India, and as we all pack our bags to head on to our next adventures, we reflect on what we have learned and accomplished in such a short time. Some of the best memories that I will have of this trip are tied to the relationships I started here. As I ran around town yesterday saying goodbyes and finishing up last minute errands, it really hit me that the most meaningful thing that I have done in India was sitting and listening and drinking tea.

In Three Cups of Tea, the non-fiction bestseller that chronicles how Greg Mortenson helped to build schools for girls in rural villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he discusses how plans are made and relationships are established over tea. He writes how these first communications and in fact the act of sharing tea is vital to establishing goodwill and creating a context in which plans can be made for a future act. The idea is to avoid rushing into any project but to first take time to think about what the best action is and create positive relationships.

Yesterday after we all finished our presentations, we sat and had tea with our organizations. I sat at a table with the heads of both my organizations, The Auroville Institute of Applied Technology, and Sunlit Futures Solar Energy. We talked about our projects, about the organizations’ futures and what they would like to see happen next year. It was conversations like these that led to the projects creations in the first place, we listened to their needs and wants and tried to match our skills to help.

From there some of us went into the village, Kuilapalayam where we had a cup of tea with a shop owner that Karen had befriended early in the trip, and with his mother. Even with a language barrier Karen was able to build a friendship with a woman she would never have met otherwise and we were all able to gain her insight into what life in the village is really like.

Our last cup of tea of the day was with a new friend originally from Kashmir. He shared tea with us as we sat on the floor and listened intently to his stories about the village, about the upcoming festival and about what daily life is like for him.

These interactions not only made this trip, they put the idea of sustainable development into a bigger context for me. Our communications projects matter only if they impact the people and this cannot happen if the people are not first consulted. NGO’s and development workers often face the criticism that they follow their own agenda and do not meet the needs of the locals they mean to help.   There cannot be development without first building lasting relations, and relations can only be made if people take the time to listen to others.

Soon we will have our final dinner in India and head out to the airport, leaving behind our mosquito spray and hopefully some amoebas, but we take our experiences and friendships with because these remind us why we came and what we are working toward.

Good job everyone!

Janine Schaefer, AUP
Today was the big day: in the Auroville Town Hall we presented the outcome of our work to our organizations and interested Aurovillians. I was impressed to learn what other students had accomplished in such short time! To name just a few, the presentation of Melissa and Victoria convinced me to buy tons of cocoa beans, the AIAT team impressed with a thorough strategy plan and Safi (from Linnaeus University) showed off her incredible graphic design skills in a village map she designed herself. All in all, our work paid off and every organization showed its gratitude.

Nevertheless, for us AUPlers it’s about time to say goodbye to Auroville. My trip here was a rich experience and a great adventure! I learnt so much about the country, the culture and society by working for SALT and through meetings with local organizations.

I want to focus my last blog entry, before I leave Auroville, on three issues that we encountered during visits with organizations: waste management, health and hygiene in India. Since I went on a Sustainable Development study trip to Brazil in October 2012, I would also like to make a comparison between the two BRIC countries in these fields, as they show similar characteristics in history (both countries were once occupied by the Portuguese) and their political and economic situation.

In India any visitor to the country will sooner or later encounter the mishandling of waste. Garbage and waste is thrown anywhere, streets, beaches, parks, etc. This is the main cause for the spread of diseases such as malaria. And as we saw on our trip to the garbage dump, the main problem is mishandling (no separation) of waste at a domestic level. In Brazil there seems to be a similar problem, which was even documented in the movie “Waste Land” in 2011. The documentary tells the story of pickers at the dump (unemployed workers like Shanti in India) at Brazil’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho. The workers wade through the thousands of tons of garbage that arrive each day, looking for recyclable scraps to sell. The movie led to a change in behavior: Since 2011 there are 4 different types of trash bins spread throughout the city in order to improve proper separation of waste. Furthermore, the government of Brazil passed a law in 2012 that prohibits retail establishments to provide customers with a plastic bag. Therefore it is no surprise that Brazil was ranked as the world champion in recycling cans for the past five years. In 2007, more than 96% of the cans available in the market were recycled. Although there may still be room for improvement, tourists and visitors are not confronted with waste on streets and parks as they are when travelling around India.

Proper waste management is important as it correlates with health and hygiene issues. Garbage not only causes diseases, it also intoxicates soil and water, making water unsafe for drinking and rivers unsafe for bathing. Although both, Brazil and India, still face challenges in water sanitation and supply (WSS), Brazil invests almost triple the amount in WSS than India: $14 per capita compared to $5 per capita in India. In other number: only 88% of Indians have access to an improved water source compared with 98% of Brazilians. Above that, the hygiene behavior seems to require greater improvement in India due to unclean habits such as washing hands without soap and eating with unclean hands. India furthermore does not have a public health care system that includes the lower classes due to discrimination issues in the caste system.
In contrast, Brazil provides all of its citizens with a health care system that may still have its flaws, but all in all, it proved itself to be very successful: Brazil’s average life expectancy has improved at a faster rate than that of the U.S. since 1960, though it continues to lag behind. Life expectancy there increased from 54.49 years in 1960 to 73.1 in 2010, compared to the U.S. increase of 69.77 years to 78.24 (SUS Brazil, 2012).  In comparison, the Indian government lacks expenditure towards the public health sector which explains the lower life expectancy of only 65 years on average (Times of India, 2011).

In conclusion, it can said that there is still a lot of room for improvement in both countries. However, as we have seen at garbology and Yatra, there are already movements for change and towards a better, healthier life for Indians.

I am eager to see where India is heading in the future!
Goodbye Auroville!

Gay rights, human rights, everyone´s rights

Before going to India we were provided with a list of all the organizations available to us. Already at the first reading my eyes were drawn to SCOHD – Sahodaran Community Oriented Health Development, who is working with gay- and transgender rights in India. In this country, being homosexual is not a crime, but “unnatural” sex is, meaning that it is okay to be in love with someone of the same sex but it is not okay to sleep together. Many homosexuals are also victims of violence, assault and sexual abuse, and some of them also lack the important ID-card needed for almost everything in the daily indian life. This is due to the fact that many families deny the existence of their gay child. Being homosexual in India therefore brings with it large difficulties in the daily life.

SCOHDs main area of work is the health of homosexuals, how to practice safe sex, use condoms and avoid HIV/AIDS/STIs. But they also work with advocacy, trying to change laws and create a better life for the homosexuals. Their office is a place which people can visit and be themselves at. Many pretend to be hetero out in society and in their villages to avoid attention, but at SCOHD they can live out their feminine side and express their true sexuality without being judged.

The difference between India and Sweden in this matter is large. Even though many swedish homosexuals still are met with prejudices, assault and violence, they have a whole other support from decision makers and face a very different attitude from society than their indian likes. The biggest difference coming to my mind is that homophobes in Sweden are frowned upon whilst in India being a homophobe is fully accepted. This is a crucial difference in attitude that to a large extent affect the lives of many people.

I am convinced that a society in which not all people are equal and not everyone is allowed to show and use their potential is not a sustainable society. In order to develop a country, all its resources must be used in a positive way. Excluding for example women, homosexuals or disabled people leaves a too small workforce to be able to develop in a sustainable way and create a efficient living standard for all. Social exclusion of minority groups, when rights such as ID-cards is withdrawn can easily lead to large social problems such as poverty and unemployment which will hinder development in general and sustainable development in particular.

I have been making a new brochure for SCOHD during our stay here in India, and as help in my work I have been using their old brochure. One of the things I kept from it is the slogan on the first page, saying “You have the right to be yourself!” It is a simple slogan, and to many of us it is obvious. Of course everyone has the right to be who they are! But for homosexuals and other minorities in India and many other countries, this is no reality but only a dream for the future. We all need to work together to make this dream come true. It is not just a matter of the rights of the homosexuals. It is also a matter of human rights, cooperation towards a better world and a sustainable society.

 By Ronja Ekström, Linnaeus University

Digital vs. analogue values

During our many visits to local organizations around Auroville I have observed quite a lot of differences. Even though all of the organizations work in one way or the other for a sustainable future the values within these organizations varies. Some work through the means of technology and others tend to prefer old-fashion techniques.

The issue of digital and analogue values exists not only here in Auroville but also within the greater global community, especially when global warming is considered. Some argue that we need to cut down on our consumption while others believe that technological advancement will solve the problem.

Two of the organizations that demonstrate this matter well are Sunlit Future and Solitude. Sunlit Future is a company dealing with solar energy to solve the increasing demand for energy while Solitude is a farm with a restaurant that focuses on permaculture farming as a solution to global issues. Both these organizations work for a sustainable future but believe in different solutions.

_MG_1719blogSolitude´s values are the values of nature. The owner of the farm, Krishna, told us during a tour of the farm that nature is perfect and we discussed how one must work within the framework that nature has set for us to achieve a sustainable future. Sunlit Future on the other hand works more with the needs of the people while at the same time relating to the limits nature has established. Through the use of solar energy, a renewable energy source, one can completely eliminate the exhaustion of greenhouse gases during the production of the energy, thus partly solving the energy deficiency locally.

Of course there are many drawbacks of both of these approaches. Examples would be the battery life for a solar system. Because of the relatively short lifespan of a battery (usually around 6-7 years), the battery swap needed to keep the solar system going creates new waste, even if most batteries are recycled. At the same time if a house is not connected to the power grid it is completely dependent on the battery capacity as well as the number of hours of sun during a day. In regions of the world such as India which has about 300 days of sun during a year the system might work quite well but in Scandinavia for example this kind of off-grid solar system would have a hard time to supply all the energy needed for an average household.

Solitude on the other hand with it´s nature oriented values has the potential to on the one hand solve one of the world’s biggest issues, the future shortage of food, while the amount of labor needed would affect the prioritizes in other areas. As permaculture is the most efficient food production approach to maximize food output with minimal material resource input it is without the help of technology extremely efficient. The only real drawback would be the amount of time needed to create and take care of a permaculture farm. This would result in less time to spend on other activities.

When the issue of digital versus analogue values are put this way it really only comes down to what we want to do with our time in relation to how sustainable we want to be. To be able to do many things, and become faster, better and bigger, we need technology to help us to become more time efficient but as the examples above tells us, technological advancement can never be as sustainable as for example permaculture techniques.

By André Larsson, Linnaeus University

What does Participation Mean within our Organizations?

In the past few weeks we have been talking more about the Social Science and Communications theory of Participatory Communication as a way NGOs and aid organizations go into countries to promote a project. In looking at the 2009 World Bank’s “Participatory Communication Guide” by Thomas Tufte and Paolo Mefalopulos[i], we see that the notion of “Participation” in communication is something fairly novel in social sciences (including Communication, Political Science, Anthropology, etc.). What this phenomenon is trending toward is for an organization to go into the field with the goal of getting the local community to participate and gain a stake in the proposed project. This is contrary to the “old school” approach that it was “the white man’s burden” to simply bulldoze his way into a country without listening or enlisting help from the locals who knew the area the best.

In the articles “Communication, Power, and Counter-power in the Network Society[ii]” and “The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks, and Global Governance[iii],” by Manuel Castells and in the article “Civil Society and Public Relations: Not So Civil After All[iv]” by Mohan Dutta-Bergman, we see that social communication is supposed to serve as a type of public sphere where people can become engaged. The skills-based approach to civil society argues that public relations scholars and practitioners could contribute their skills in the creation of media systems and NGOs that would serve as the conduit of civil society by encouraging participation and dialog among citizens.[v] The problem with this definition of the public sphere is that it is very individualistic and there are problems with actual communication and other cultural barriers.

Now that we have been working within our chosen organizations for almost a week many of us have experienced Participant Observation and Participant Communication. The organization that my team and I are working with is the Auroville Institute for Applied Technology (AIAT). This is a vocational school that works with both free government-sponsored and fee-based courses. It serves only the rural youth from the surrounding villages. AIAT asked us to come in and assess the school. I have focused on entrance counseling, recruitment/capacity building, and student retention

I have completed interviews with a combination of paying and government sponsored students (all anonymously), interviews with two instructors, the entrance counseling staff (Anbu and Ravichandran), the Assistant (Lavayna), and the Principal (Mr. Levkamand). The most remarkable interview I had was with 20 year old male student in the First Year Electronics program. I start each interview by introducing myself a little and always end by asking if the student has any questions. This student was the only one who asked questions about me. He asked me how I felt in India and if I liked it. He asked if I found India different from my country and from France. We also talked about how the Indian and US culture were different because they are very family oriented whereas in the US many families live far apart. We chatted further about brothers/sisters, what movies and actors we like, etc. One of the last questions he asked me was about my research. He was interested to know what results I had come to and what would I change in the school and in the culture.

How would you respond? I explained to him that I found many similarities among India, France, Sweden, and the USA. Many of the same issues are recurrent no matter where you are in the world. I explained that I would provide feedback on his school and would leave it up to the school management to decide what would work within the context of their culture and their school mission. I was simply trying to sit and listen and shed light on the suspected issues. We ended the interview by us both putting our hands together and head bobbing, “Nandri.” (Thank you) He added (in English) [sic], “Thank you for respect.” This meant a lot to me.

As we move forward in our projects, but more so when we embark into the world in our future careers, most of us will be able to come across a situation where when it’s all over we will reflect back on the role of Participatory Communication and what it means to us and the people with who are working.

By Karin Johnson, AUP

[i] Tufte, Thomas, and Paolo Mefalopulos. World Bank World Bank Working Paper – Participatory Communication: A Practical Guide. Rep. no. 170. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2009. Print.

[ii] Castells, Manuel. “Communication, Power, and Counter-power in the Network Society.” International Journal of Communication 1 (2007): 238-66. Print.

[iii] Castells, Manuel. “The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks, and Global Governance.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616.1 (2008): 78-93. Print.

[iv] Dutta-Bergman, Mohan J. “Civil Society and Public Relations: Not So Civil After All.” Journal of Public Relations Research 17.3 (2005): 267-89. Print.

[v] Dutta-Bergman, Mohan J. “Civil Society and Public Relations: Not So Civil After All.” Journal of Public Relations Research 17.3 (2005): 268.

Let’s get to work!

Janine Schaefer, AUP

After New Year’s Day, we met with the organization/s that each one of us chose to work for. Filip, a student from the Swedish university, and I, both chose to work for the Social Awareness for Liberation Trust (SALT). SALT is a childrens’ home for homeless or “unwanted” children, founded by Reverend Melquie in 1991.

Before even meeting up with Melquie we had our first encounter of intercultural differences in communication. The reverend was on “Indian time” – he made us wait for 2 and a half hours before he picked us up from Auroville. However, his hospitality towards us made it hard to be mad: Melquie had prepared delicious lunch for us before he told us about his story and the history behind SALT.

Melquie grew up in a very poor family, the so called “untouchables” or Dalits. In India, the untouchables represent the lowest class people that nobody respects or even accepts near to them. For instance, if an untouchable person came into one’s house, everything the Dalit touched would have to be cleaned and disinfected after they would leave. Melquie however received help from neighbors and friends, which helped him to eventually become reverend of a protestant church.

Soon, he quit work and decided to never put a foot into a church in India again. Melquie told us that churches don’t allow untouchables and other poor people to enter into a church. Catholics and Protestants are usually higher income people in India that don’t want to “see” low class people inside the church. This hypocritical and disrespectful thinking of church goers led reverend Melquie to dedicate his life to the Dalits. Since 1991 he ensures that abandoned and neglected children in the Villupuram district are provided an education, safe environment and a nurturing home. All of the 24 boys that currently live at SALT come from untouchable families that remarried and didn’t want the children of the previous marriage anymore or that didn’t have the finances to feed them. Melquie looks for children that are on the streets and offers them a home at SALT.

Melquie told us that also rape and gender inequality are common issues in his country. Just recently we heard about the Singaporean girl in New Delhi all over the news, which was just one of many incidences that happen daily in India. The issue of gender inequality in India is due to the fact that boys are usually preferred over girls, as boys carry on the family name and don’t require expensive dowries (money, goods and estate that a woman brings to a marriage). Indians that can afford ultrasounds during pregnancy often even decide to abort female fetuses. Also, India’s most recent national records show increasing reports of crimes against women. These include rape, abduction, dowry death (women murdered or committing suicide when their dowries go unpaid), molestation and trafficking, with cruelty by husbands and relatives accounting for a large proportion of offences. This may also relate to the problem of alcohol addiction among Indian men that we heard about during almost every meeting we had with the local organizations.

Also, in the North of India, honor killings are a common threat to women, as a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion. In contrast, honor killings are rare to non-existent here, in the South.

By Janine

Global Feminism

Global feminism, or the third wave of feminism, is demonstrated in various situations that we have encountered in and around Auroville.  As described by Shweta Singh in Sage’s Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World, “while global feminism concurs with mainstream feminism that universal rights for women are desirable, global feminists also fear and dispute typologies that use cultural practices as a way of creating a hierarchy of values, and consequently the societies and people within them. Thus, global feminism argues for cultural relativism as an appropriate strategy to approach universalism.”


This characteristic of global feminism is inextricably tied to a participatory model, because it aims not to impart an all-encompassing truth from a western viewpoint, instead seeking to treat each cultural and social situation as unique and in need of its own contextual approach. While it may be extremely difficult for a traditional “hardcore” feminist to come to terms with this concept because it necessarily compromises ideas that are held as essential tenets of feminism, global feminism seems to have more potential to succeed in many contexts where traditional feminism involves too many radical changes that do not take into account the starting point of the culture involved.


In my work with the organization that I chose to complete my practicum with, I have had the opportunity to observe global feminist ideas in practice.  When attending a meeting of the organization, which is run by western owners but employs and creates empowering livelihoods for many local Tamil women, a representative from the Tamil women brought up an idea that they wanted to propose for an upcoming inauguration ceremony for their new handicraft workshop.  She said that the women would like to wear matching saris (traditional Indian women’s dress) for the day. 


The western company owner told the women that he was fundamentally and philosophically against the idea of wearing uniforms, and also that the sari has deeper historical cultural implications that he did not agree with. He said that felt they would be able to display their unity in a different way. However, he made sure to emphasize that this was simply his opinion, and while he wanted to let them know his input as a leader in the group, he also did not want to impose his values, and that it was ultimately their choice whether they wanted to continue with their plan to wear matching saris or not.  This is a real-life embodiment of global feminism because while he had some progressive feministic ideas, he also has an understanding of the women and their culture after living here and working with them for so long.  Instead of a “my way or the highway” bulldozing of their idea, he offered a perspective for them to reflect on but ultimately left the choice up to them, showing a high level of respect and sensitivity to their situation.


In both theory and practice, global feminism seems to be the best approach to progressive societal change because it incorporates a dialogical model of communication, enhancing the buy-in for both sides and ensuring that all voices are heard and understood. Maintaining a feeling of worthiness creates confidence which will ultimately empower women much more effectively than a hardline imposition of liberal values.


By Jillsa Aringdale, AUP



The End of Men in India?

On Saturday, I go to Nadukuppam, 30 km from Auroville, where the Pitchandikulam Bio Resource Center (PBRC) runs a 600-student high school for grades 6 to 12. PBRC has developed an environmental education center with the “ultimate aim to restore biodiversity in the region through student participation.” As I am volunteering with Pitchandilkulam Forest, they thought it would be a good idea for me to see how they have brought this local village school from one with a 10% high school pass rate to one who now has over 70% of its senior body graduating.

Before we tour the school however we first meet with the local women’s self-help group. As soon as I step off the bus I meet Kavitha, who is at once a social worker and marketer of the women’s work. She believes that you cannot just teach people how to make things you need to also teach them how to sell. One of the first projects she shows me is the Spirulina project, also sponsored by Pitchandikulam. Spirulina is a natural algae with incredible nutritional components. According to holisitic website LifePositive, “Japanese scientists look towards Spirulina as the solution to the world’s hunger problem. NASA considers it an excellent, compact space food for astronauts. The WHO has called it one of the greatest super foods on earth.” For the village women in Nadukuppam, who are farming the algae in the large cement pools, they are trying to eradicate childhood malnutrition using the superfood.

After watching the women scoop out pails of the wet green algae, we head over to the community center, where we are greeted by the women’s self-help group, a circle of 20 women who come to discuss local problems and solutions. We have heard much of these women’s self-help groups but this is the first time I am meeting one. Some of the women participate in the Spirulina project, others make purses and jewelry to sell in local shops. They are all motivated to solve the ongoing issues that poverty presents in their lives.

We start the conversation by discussing the recent rapes in Delhi (which has been reported on worldwide) and a local one just two days before in Pondicherry where a minor girl was kidnapped from a bus and raped. This violence goes against so many of their culture’s traditions that the women are bewildered by what is happening to their community. As one women explains in Tamil, “We don’t understand why men are doing this to these young girls. Is it because they are going to school? Women used to be so protected, only staying in the home, but now they are working, they are going into the cities. Is this why they are being hurt?”

It is a good question, with implications that affect not just the Indian population. As Hanna Rosin writes in her 2012 book The End of Men[1], “For the first time in history, the global economy is becoming a place where women are finding more success than men.” Much like in America in the 1970s, overnight the traditional roles of man and woman in India have been replaced by a new paradigm. And though it is one many of us are hugely grateful for, there has been very little preparation or education around how it affected us as a culture – either American, Indian, German, or Phillipino. The world has changed with very little warning.

India is seeing the consequences of this shift, even when some of it is for the better. The women all express confusion over living between their traditions and that of the modern world. Together, we discuss not just the problems of India but problems that affect all societies: poverty, alcoholism, the destruction of traditional societies, even the widespread use of pornography due to the use of smartphones. The women are at first shy but as our group, made up of six Australians and myself, begin to talk about the issues in our own countries, the women become more open. The men are asked to leave the conversation when we begin discussing even more intimate issues: menstruation and sex education.

As most women in rural India are not told anything about either topic until it happens to them, many of the women don’t know what to say. We are using two translators but even then the conversation is stilted until one of the Australians admits that when she first got her period she cried. When the women hear this they begin to open up, finally asking us how we feel right before we get our period. We end up going around the group, each sharing our experience about monthly menstruation, agreeing on the cramps and fatigue, and laughing about the bad moods.

We break for lunch, after which the Australians and I head over to the school to teach a brief English class. I watch the children, some of whom act so confident and self-assured, having already found their position on the top of the pecking order. And then there are the quiet ones. Most of these are the boys, who are greatly outnumbered in this class of 15 girls to 4 boys. The girls are taking over the world, that much is sure, but as the boys stand to the side, nervous and shy as the girls shout out all the answers, I worry about the boys’ futures.

We return to the women’s groups to see some of the jewelry they’re making (and to buy some as well), we are now all comfortably laughing and talking with each other, even if our translator has to help with the conversation. The women no longer stand shyly back as they show us the sewing machines they are using to stich handbags and the process by which they make the jewelry. They are the future leaders of India but as researcher Joti Sekhon reports regarding women’s self help groups: “Though effective change takes place over a long period of time, many traditional political and cultural attitudes and practices [have] been challenged, and a process of change [is] underway in these village.”[2] I can only hope that somehow we find a safe and solid place for our men throughout these changes.

By Kristen McGuiness, AUP

[1] Hanna Rosin, The End of Men, New York: Riverhead, September 2012.

[2] Joti Sekhon. Engendering Grassroots Democracy: Research, Training, and Networking for Women in Local Self-Governance in India, NWSA Journal, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Summer, 2006), pp. 101-122.


India India Aims to Keep Money for Poor Out of Others’ Pockets

Yesterday, during an outstanding talk by Dave at Evergreen (several people said it was the best of the entire experience here), we learned, among other things, about the problem of corruption in India and elsewhere, especially where locals were not receiving the money that was supposed to be coming to them from the government. Today, the New York Times talks about it in this article.

Planting the Future

By: Kathleen Buchholz, AUP Image

Every day in India we face new experiences and difficult cultural challenges.  We expect these and try to prepare ourselves as best as possible. Today brought a different kind of challenge though. Today, we planted trees. The cyclone last year destroyed sections of the forest, and while our group only planted four trees today, I would like to think we made an albeit small dent in reforestation, in capturing some of our carbon footprint and maybe even changing our own thinking on global climate change. We visited Evergreen Forest this morning, where along with getting our hands dirty, and tasting some homemade chai tea on a work break, we learned about the trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and the carbon crediting system.

In a nutshell, biodiversity conservation creates a sustainable environment by re-introducing different species of trees that are native and can therefore thrive best in a given region while carbon crediting is a system of buying the right to emit carbon dioxide by paying someone else to plant trees.  If you want to optimize the biodiversity of the forest then you don’t necessarily cram as many trees as possible into the space as you would if you used the carbon crediting system.   Carbon credits are part of the Kyoto Protocols ‘flexible mechanisms’. The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change sets binding obligations on industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  It has been largely unsuccessful but at the very least it demonstrates hope that conversations about climate change are happening worldwide. But even if biodiversity conservation is the goal, carbon crediting pays for the forest.  As with many elements of development, there is catch-22 built into the system. Do we do what pays or what is ultimately better?

For India the change in temperature means rising sea levels, increased cyclonic activity and precipitation patterns and while the jury is still out, one can’t help but connect last year’s cyclone with the climate change. The effect of our trees today is minimal. The one act we did today may not change the world but if that tree can offset even a little of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every day then maybe we are moving in a more sustainable direction.

As we move into the final week of our communications projects in India, we can begin to see how everything in development must be connected in order to be sustainable. The tree we plant for fun on a Saturday morning is actually going to grow into a tool to help the environment, pollution, and creating a scene that would not have existed otherwise. It may be small but maybe with a few more trees we can grow a sustainable future.