Lessons on Environmental Sustainability from India

Lessons on Environmental Sustainability from India

Before my trip, I used the words environmentalism and sustainability interchangeably. Whenever possible, I tried to support the environment: I ate organic food, I bought eco-friendly products, I swore by reusable water bottles, I recycled religiously, I frequented the local farmer’s market, I shopped at thrift stores. I even became vegan. I thought I was doing it all right.

For the past three months, I’ve been studying in South India. While abroad, I’ve had an epiphany. I was doing it right, but I wasn’t doing it all right. My trip was the wake-up call I needed.

Environmental sustainability is not just about environmental conservation. It’s about people.

Lessons on environmental sustainability from India
Learning about environmental sustainability in India

Lessons on Environmental Sustainability from India

Environmental sustainability is not just about environmental conservation. It’s about people. In my ‘Appropriate Technology’ course, I read Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered, a book that made a striking impression upon me. British economist E.F. Schumacher explains the Western obsession with ‘gigantism’: how Western society is obsessed with the mass production of cheap goods. We’re attracted to gas-guzzling SUVs over town-appropriate cars; flat-screen televisions, luxury mansions, and the Trenta-sized Starbucks latte dazzle us. People all over the world are affected by our consumption habits.

While growing up, my father instructed me: ‘don’t take more than you need.’ I now see the importance of this.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to live in this paradigm. While growing up, my father instructed me: ‘don’t take more than you need.’ I now see the importance of this. Live by these ethos when you travel. Airlines remind us when we’re weighing our bags at check-in. I’ve been guilty of over-consumption in the past and that’s okay: it’s a learning process. I brought three kinds of sunscreen to India, and I haven’t ended up using any at all. I’m covered up enough in the heat not to need it. And I still don’t know it all. I continue to learn.

Lessons on Environmental Sustainability from India
A solar powered kitchen can feed a lot of people

I visited a Solar Kitchen in Auroville, Puducherry. On the roof, there’s a giant solar-bowl that powers the entire kitchen (it’s really hot up there!) The kitchen prepares about a thousand vegetarian meals a day. Half are sent out to schools within the community. It’s amazing that a simple sunny day can feed an entire town.

I’ve visited several organic farms in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. I’ve been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Michael Pollan touches on traditional and modern agricultural practices. Organic farming seems to be a buzzword. Theoretically, you could harvest organic crops anywhere, but in practice this isn’t always sustainable unless it’s biodynamic. Biodynamic farming requires a holistic approach to agriculture. In other words, you have to understand the land and climate you’re working with before you decide what you actually want to grow.

I’m ‘un-learning’ poor habits that don’t just harm the environment but the people that live within it.

I’ve interacted with local NGOs, especially as India recently experienced an NGO boom: there’s one NGO for every 600 people. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Pipal Tree, an organisation that runs a children’s college and organizes an annual conference called the February Dialogues. The organization also runs the Fireflies Intercultural Centre in Bangalore, the ashram I’ve been staying in this spring. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit Sadhana Forest, an inclusive community dedicated to environmental sustainability.

Lessons on environmental sustainability from India
Natural living in India

My semester abroad is almost over, but it’s still the beginning of something, as I’ve started a new journey of enlightenment. I’m ‘un-learning’ poor habits that don’t just harm the environment but the people that live within it. I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned abroad when I return home.

 

 

Lessons on Environmental Sustainability from India

About Danielle Corcione

Danielle CorcioneDanielle Corcione recently graduated with a degree in Literature and Communication Arts from Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey. During her last semester, she studied abroad in Bangalore, India.

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