Bridge India

The Bigger Picture

Project Development intern Antonia Dietsche shares her thoughts and impressions. The German national just arrived to India for her first time on a DAAD scholarship.

Vandana Shiva’s Soil not Oil has been around for a while. The book was first published in 2008. The physicist and philanthropist calls for a fundamental shift; a shift from the non-sustainable paradigm of over-consumption (“like kids in a supermarket”) to a sustainable lifestyle.

She is not a lone voice. The call of the activist has finally reached the mainstream. In an interview published on Bosch’s website Chandran Nair, equally, calls for the renunciation of relentless consumption.

Both agree that Asia should not unquestioningly replicate the consumption patterns of rich industrialized countries.

Move around New Delhi (nota bene: not in a chauffeur-driven car) with the fresh eye of a newbie and things like clean air and water pop up in nightly dreams. One starts to consider Shiva’s and Nair’s contribution. 

Where the icon of modern civilization is a car with a lone person in it (as Cambridge’s David J.C. MacKay puts it ironically ), New Delhi is to become very civilized. Superhighways divide districts by hundreds of meters. The infrastructure is supposed to be high speed, made for cars, without any consideration for pedestrians. Take for instance that lady in the sari. Try to cross a six lane city highway with an almost meter-high divider in the center. Crazy, pleasurable thrill guaranteed. It feels like equestrian cross-country or parkour.

Delhiites seem to have got used to their living conditions. Except that medical statistics indicate that the city’s air pollution and the high levels of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) cause various illnesses such as asthma. Financial burden in sight.

Smog is a neologism coined for the London air around 1900 (if we are to trust that great grass-roots platform Wikipedia). It is composed of smoke and fog. When in New Delhi, smog inevitably comes to your mind. Why make the same mistakes?

Longing for clean air and water, amazed by the successful export of the Formula 1 nonsense, I believe that as a collective we should shift gears to another modus operandi.

A change in paradigm requires bold thinking. This one is about setting the right priorities and renewable energy is part of the solution. Entrepreneurs and decision makers in the public and private sector, with access to multiple information sources, can embrace or reject hard truths. It’s a question of intellectual honesty (to put it with Nair). Live in denial or in clear sight of the bigger picture.

As Shiva paraphrases Einstein: one cannot solve a problem using the mindset that created it. It takes boldness to break free from fossilized imagination and to invest in truly sustainable lifestyle.

Think of what you can do. Install those solar panels, have energy efficient applications, reduce and recycle waste. Make people walk and use public transport (this includes effective shuttles to/from metro stations, sidewalks and pedestrian over- and underpasses, so called “last mile walkability”).

To act and think in the long term, i.e. to make sustainable decisions can be a value-added experience in any professional and emotional life. Moreover, sustainable decisions have the benefit of attracting many stakeholders.


Author : Antonia Dietsche

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