Solve Ninja Vinith & Varshini at Unilever Bangalore’s World Water Day Conference
They lay buried under their books studying hard for their exams like any other teenager in the country. When we called, however, Solve Ninjas Varshini Swamy and Vinith Ramesh jumped at the opportunity to be speakers at Hindustan Unilever’s World Water Day conference held at the Unilever R&D headquarters in Bangalore. Their innovations and campaigning has changed the behavior of people in their schools and communities and saved over 2 million liters of water. As they stood up to address policy-makers and researchers in an auditorium in Unilever’s R&D campus, some of whom have been thinking about water conservation for as long as Varshini and Vinith have been alive, what they said left the esteemed audiences spellbound.
In a time when climate change is more threatening to the entire human race than ever and policy-makers, scientists and politicians are scrambling to speak of environmental conservation in policies, large forest ranges, and big-energy, Varshini and Vinith showed us all the power of solving small and denting big.
The environmental conservation discourse as it happens today in our country and in fact, around the world is problematic in three ways.
One, they are exclusive. People from less privileged walks of life are the people most suffering from the effects of climate change today, they are the ones that go thirsty first when the water runs out. The youngest generation that will live to see the world tomorrow and wasn’t alive to see a world not destroyed by climate change, is going to be hit the most when the earth crumbles because of the mistakes generations preceding them made. And yet, neither people from all kinds of communities and socio-economic classes, nor young children are involved in the conversations about solutions to environmental crises. Experts, elites, and adults alone get to access data about the problem, think of solutions and implement them.
Two, they are entirely undemocratic. A democracy does not thrive because of policies made by politicians behind closed and bolted doors, in A/C rooms. It thrives because of people that vote, citizens that participate and take civic action to build a country that is made of the people, for the people, by the people. How will our environment thrive when we only talk about it behind closed doors?
Three, they are grander than they need to be. We don’t really understand the power of the small, the mundane and the every-day. An exhaustive study of the sources of the climate change crisis and possible solutions led Project Drawdown, a global group of researchers to publish the 100 most comprehensive and effective ways to tackle the issue. Comprising of innovations, technology and behavioral changes we would have to adapt, the list doesn’t only talk about afforestation or inconceivable energy-source switches. The majority of the list is to do with our daily behaviors; the cars we drive, the taps and A/Cs we use. To bring the deepest, most meaningful change we all need to begin small.
Like Vinith convinced his neighbors to fit DIY water-measuring systems in the water tanks of their homes and not let tanks overflow; and had each house save enough water to enrich five villages for one whole week, each day. Like Varshini and her friends campaigned around her school and set up DIY installations, like Push Tap optimizations and Smart-Water meters, that nudged the entire community to use water more judiciously. “The adults broke some of the installations”, she piped while giggling, “but we continued to fix them and fix the problem somehow.”
Isn’t that the task we’ve left to the future generation now — to fix what is broken?
Solve Ninjas are the future citizens of this country and they are the most activated citizens now; bringing the deepest, most meaningful change across India. They come from all kinds of communities and they are not afraid to begin solving.
“I have always been passionate about doing, but Reap Benefit taught me to simply start doing.”, Vinith says, a young man wiser-than-he-knows; another Solve Ninja proving to us all that the younger generation is indeed saving the world.
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