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Track, engage, inspire – Revolutionary Social Media April 23, 2012

Posted by British Council India in Climate Change.
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Information is power, said Robin Morgan. And this power is gaining more and more momentum online or in the ‘new media’ sphere. It engages and empowers millions of internet users. Internetworldstats.com pitches the figure at 2267 million users worldwide.

The mediums are many- blogs, video blogs, youtube, social networking sites, online petition campaigns. This medium is fast gaining recognition for lobbying for environmental action. We all are familiar with the power of the ‘share’ and ‘like’ button, thanks to a certain Zuckerberg.

The COP meets for past few years had a number of civil society observers and independent bloggers. There were a lot of independent videos and documentaries produced. There are now official ‘tracking teams’ at such summits, each responsibly and dedicatedly reporting back to their home countries from these international forums. Though traditional media continue to report at the forefront of such events, but the dynamism and the connectedness of the online media is unmatched. Especially among the youth, it continues to be the top most source of their daily news dose.

Off late, I have realized the power of the audio-visual media to tell inspiring stories and the power of sites like Reddit, Digg, Stumble upon and of course Facebook to spread this work around.

I participated in a two month online film-making course by noted environmental film-maker Nitin Das, organised by the British Council for select climate champions from India. Short documentaries were prepared by all participants and we have been circulating this work through a group called ‘Circle of good’ on Facebook and other social media tools. It was formed with the objective of creating a platform to find an audience for our creative work (mostly of environmental and climate change advocacy category). This viral experiment is on-going and we hope to take our stories to a wide audience using social media.

I chose to make my documentary on the subject of solar energy called ‘Solar Sangh’ which tracks an initiative of two young postgraduate students trying to spread solar energy technology to the masses. In India, the target audience for solar technology is associated with villages and the rural poor. We miss out on the urban poor that form a sizable segment in our cities.

There are many such stories waiting to be told. In the coming times, youth will play a major role in taking mitigation and adaptation actions for climate change. And social media will humbly be the medium of their messages. ‘Medium is the message’ coined by Marshall McLuhan holds a new meaning.

Rozita Singh is British Council’s International Climate Champion.
If you are an environmental filmmaker (professional or amateur) or are simply interested in watching environmental films, you too can join the Circle of Good group on Facebook.

Films for the Future April 2, 2012

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What does the future hold? A question that is relevant for each of one of us. Not just as individuals, but also as a society. Our world is undergoing a period of rapid change and a lot of this development is happening at the cost of the environment.  But the positive aspect of this development is that it is connecting the world together. Helping us share knowledge, ideas and solutions.

In a world of digital media and social networks, films on environment are a very important tool to sow the seeds of awareness and inspire a large number of people

To build on this idea, we carried out a very interesting project. We worked with a small group of dedicated young people from the British Council Climate Champions network and trained them in the art of filmmaking over a period of 2 months.

Given below is a selection of some of the films that were made by the climate champions.

    • Film by Ayush  (Save Electricity) – “Through this film I have thematically tried to bridge the gap between our daily-practices and their indirect but definite impact on the environment” says Aayush.
    • Film by Dinesh (Car Pooling) – “Cars, cars everywhere; not a hint of movement’, this was the thought in Dinesh’s mind when he made this film.
    • Film by Tanya (Plastic Bottle Reuse) – Tanya feels that “waste pickers in Pune have always been doing work that is beneficial for the environment, but have never really received their due. This film is to showcase their contribution to effective waste management.”

About the facilitator: Nitin Das runs a production house that focuses on producing socially relevant films: www.filmkaar.com. For the past 2 years he has been working on a project that uses films and stories from around the world to create awareness about the environment: http://www.elfproject.org

For more information on the British Council Climate Champions project visit this link.

Rain Water Harvesting = Water for all February 3, 2012

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Day 2 of the camp began with an extremely positive insight into how an arid saline wasteland could be transformed into a vast green campus with 15 lakes. This impossible task had been achieved at the Aravali Institute of Management by its inspiring Director Mr. Varun Arya, an alumnus of IIT and IIM. “This change that was effected within 6 years involved a lot of political and societal struggle”, said Mr. Arya as he explained about how they had used the traditional water harvesting system of Jodhpur. “Through this system we could fill up 6 lakes during a single rainfall”, he added. The process involved setting up saline resistant plantations, removing the existing English Babool (a plant which causes infertility of soil) apart from rain water harvesting. The lecture inspires that anything is possible with the right passion and compassion.

Mrs. Kanupriya, Project Director at Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF)was the second speaker of the day and she explained the work done by her organization and how water is an integral part of the culture of Marwar region of Rajasthan. JBF works with over 300 villages in rural Rajasthan to revive traditional rain water harvesting structures to achieve water security. Two documentaries; ‘Rain for Change’ and ‘Water for All’ were screened on the same. It was incredible to know how access to a reliable supply of water had brought tremendous socio-economic improvements in people’s life including sanitation and increased enrolment of girls in schools.

In the afternoon we visited a village Shivnagar in Pali district, Jodhpur where a resource management plan and water harvesting system had been implemented by JBF.  A group from the community greeted us with a Tikka, jaggery and big smiles. We were given a tour of the Talab, where rainwater had been collected via the catchment area, with details of the structure and how the salinity of the water decreases during the summer. When we arrived at the village, the children were the first to run up, curious to know who had arrived.

Interestingly, the village had a lady Sarpanch who had been empowered through the support of the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation to an extent that she also helps the development process through a number of other villages. We also saw the social map of the village drawn on a wall as part of the PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) exercise conducted earlier. This marked the houses which had toilets, the houses below the poverty line and other resources in the village such as the community centre.

At the end of the day we were mesmerized by the idea that- An area with just 200mm of rainfall can have access to clean water all year round just by reviving the traditional systems of water harvesting.

Digu Aruchamy, Prajitha T (International Climate Champions India) and Jessica McQuade, International Climate Champion UK

The Cancun Agreement December 22, 2010

Posted by agastyamuthanna in Climate Change.
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My final blog post is going to a quick take on the outcome of the negotiations. On balance I think the negotiations were a success. However this is a very relative measure that is more a result of the abysmal failure of the Copenhagen round of negotiations and the feeling I had during the initial week of the conference that the entire process was on the edge of collapse.
Not taking away form the conference’s agreement I shall quickly go over what it included.
The central part of the agreement included points in the Copenhagen accord (that was never an official UNFCCC output as it was not accepted by “consensus” of all countries). One of these key carry-overs was the pledge of 100 billion US$ per year from developed to developing countries by 2020. This part of the text gives both sides something to hold onto. Developing countries like the entire money (The idea of money flowing into their coffers is always a good thing). The deal mentions that the money will be “mobilized” which hints at the us eof private setor capital as well (which developed countries like). The agreement mentions the creation of a fund through which some of the money will flow, this fund however will be independent at some level form the COP. This is a situation which gives something to all the stakeholders.
Another key part of the deal was an agreement on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). This includes extensive safeguards to make sure that indigenous forest dwellers are treated fairly. This was one of the major requests of the non-governmental stakeholders at of the process.
The final two parts of the agreement deal with technology transfer (which is extremely important for all developing countries especially India) and a new framework to deal with adaptation (another point that is very beneficial for Developing countries who are in many cases already facing the consequences of climate change). All these paper promises need to be implemented in the real world. Which is another astronomical difficulty – there is going to be a lot of load shifting between developed countries.
The Cancún agreement missed out some important topics. Moves towards a deal on shipping and aircraft fuels, unpopular with oil producers, fell out of the text. They took with them—quite unfairly—worthy proposals in nearby paragraphs for new work on agriculture, a greenhouse-gas emitter on a par with deforestation.
The big countries got the specific things that they were after. China wanted not to be blamed for a failure, as it was after Copenhagen. America wanted pledges made in that summit’s accord to be recognised, plus progress on verification.
So that is my analysis of what happened, and while this deal is alright from an environmental perspective the key is it si Amazing form a UNFCCC perspective. The agreement has kept the UNFCCC process alive and kicking, while walking on an extremely narrow tight-line between developed and developing countries. It is a massive achievement in raw diplomacy.

Me at Cancun December 22, 2010

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I’m going to start this blog post with a summary of the people I have met, the events I have attended and what I have done. I shall start with the superficial. Over the last week I have met several “cool, famous” people. These have almost by definition been extremely short conversation. The first two people I met were The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC secretariat, Christiana Figueres, and the President of the 16th Conference of the Parties (this one) Patricia Espinosa. This was at the initial party thrown by the Mexican Governemnt to, and was nothing more than an introduction and a quick photo.
On Wednesday, I happened to sit down for lunch at a table right next Dr Rajendra Pachauri. We had a quick chat about an uncle of mine he knows and what events he was going to be at COP16. The last was a meeting with Lord Stern, the author of the Stern report.
This meeting was set up by the British Council, and was a mind blowing experience. Six champions got to sit with lord Stern for over an hour discussing the current situation of the negotiations as well as our projects. Lord stern is the rare celebrity who is extremely grounded, well travelled and sparkling with intelligence. He gave all of us extremely relevant feedback about our projects and on many occasions whipped out old business cards he had collected, of people that he had met and who could have a direct impact on helping our projects.
The British Council also set up a virtual skype meeting with Champions from around the world. Champions from over 20 countries participated, and me and Ding (the Chinese champion) filled everyone in on what was happening and discussed International policy with the Champions for an hour.
My attitude to this entire COP was two-fold on one hand I wanted to help the Govt. delegation a s much a I possibly could, which I did consistently, on the other hand I wanted to use this as a 2 week Crash course on climate policy. I have always read a lot about climate policy, and tried to keep abreast with the latest policy proposals. At this COP with all the side events (events organized by different governments , research institutes and NGO’s) which literally had the who’s-who of climate policy speaking I had an opportunity to consilidate everything I knew and learn a lot more.
I sat in on events ranging from the role of the UN in climate negotiations to presentations of the most recent research papers on the Carbon Budget (the Idea that each country has a specific amount it is allowed to emit, which it should not exceed) . This was an amazing learning experience for me. The interesting part is that every single side event is available for free video streaming of the UNFCCC website (http://unfccc.int/) .

Regarding my work with the Indian Delegation, over the Summer I interned at the office of the minister at the with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India. As a result I knew a lot of people coming with the Indian delegation this year, and managed to get myself a role in the delegation, helping out in anyway I could. This was a very interesting experience and through this I got to meet several extremely interesting Indians. I met several young and enthusiastic Indian PhD and Masters students and older and extremely passionate scientists.

The Debate December 5, 2010

Posted by agastyamuthanna in Climate Change.
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We were welcomed to the official meeting at Cancun with a party thrown by the Mexican Govt. on Monday night. The atmosphere was amazing. Last year the equivalents event organised by the Govt. of Denmark was full of Diplomats sipping Champagne slowly for 30 minutes before politely excusing themselves. The Mexican event  was a real party. Men on brought invited us in to a a beautiful open air venue which opened to the gulf of Mexico. The food was prepared by Mexico’s most famous Chef, and the bar served unlimited drinks of every imaginable sort. Most country delegations were present, as were the President of this years Conference as well as the head of the UNFCCC secretariat. The music was outstanding and everyone was relaxed.

It was difficult for me to be anything but optimistic. The negotiations on the first day had been relatively upbeat, and I was excited. Unlike COP15 I came into the process expecting absolutely nothing, since all the negotiators I had spoken to this time around have emphasised the focus on smaller scale technical matters this time around. It was a good night. Infact I have a picture somewhere (which I will certainly try and put up) of me with my arms around the two most important peole at the conference – the president and the head of the Secretariat! Which is no mean task given the approximately 1000 people there.

On to more serious news. The next day was a disaster. Japan stood up during the COP to say in very straight language (Which is extremely rare in conferences such as this one) that it would not sign any extension of the Kyoto Proposal until both the US and China agree to legally binding Carbon emission limits. I should not have been as surprised as I was – since they have hinting they would this for a while now, it was just the stark non-ambiguous language of the delegate that shocked me.  This leaves everyone in a bit of confusion. If the Kyoto protocol is not extended, the CDM mechanism that has brought billions of dollars to developing countries like India and China will be scrapped. If this happens it will be almost impossible to get developing countries to endorse a deal of any type.

Maybe this years conference will not be as successful as I believed in my slightly drunk state on Monday night. With Key countries like Canada and Australia furiously Backtracking on their already vague and unenforceable promises, and Japan promising not to do anything unless China and the US commit to legally enforceable Carbon emission reductions.

Is everything so black and white? Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, It probably will be near impossible to convince China to agree to legally binding emission reductions. Japans many domestic adaptation and mitigation actions have been forgotten, and Japans action is being used as scapegoate by countires like Canada and Australia, who are equally against a deal of any sort. This is a bleak statement. But is everything as bad as this seems? This is not the entire story.

For one thing there seems to be a deals on REDD (an international anti deforestation scheme) and a climate fund. These two vitally important points ,if agreed upon, could lead to a solid foundation for a more thorough deal at South Africa next year.

The Story from Cancun (COP 16) December 1, 2010

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Hi everyone, my name is Agastya Muthanna. I have been a British Council Climate Champ since 2008. I am in the penultimate year of my Economics degree at the University of Cambridge, and am representing the Indian British Council at the 16th annual United Nations organized meeting on climate change (COP16).

This is the second COP I have attended (the first was last year in Copenhagen) and I cant help but think that perhaps if the first one was here at sunny beautiful Cancun, and not cold and crowded Copenhagen we may have had a more concrete result. The weather is perfect, and the conference is extremely well organized.

On this first post I’d like to lay out hat I would like to see, from a policy perspective. My next post shall be more personal.

The Indian Environmental Minister Mr Ramesh summarised the topics he felt agreement are expected. These were, first, the establishment of a green fund that will collect and allocate Climate finance, second, an agreement on meeting adaptation needs. His third expectation is an endorsement of Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), and on transparency issue concerning measurement ,reporting and verification (MRV)

I’m going to end this post with a quick summary of what I would like to see: The global climate meetings in Mexico in late 2010 and South Africa in 2011 should put much more emphasis on the links between climate action and development. Climate change should never be used as a reason for condemning the world’s poor to continued poverty. But their road to riches should take the climate into account. The cities where ever more people will be living need to grow in ways that don’t exacerbate the problem; the farms where ever fewer people are having to produce ever more food must be far better supplied with know-how, improved crops and insurance against the adverse effects that are sure to come. Development needs to be climate-ready, even if it cannot be climate-proof.

Second, new thinking is needed on how to change the energy mix that the world uses. Making fossil-fuel energy more expensive has so far not delivered much by way of controlling emissions. The better way is to make clean, renewable energies cheaper. Research and development can be part of that solution. But so can a willingness by banks and donors to increase the market for such energy systems. Buying in bulk is a tried and tested way of bringing down prices.

Such assistance and subsidy have the attraction of a built-in cut-off. As soon as increased demand and improved technology make renewables cheaper than fossil alternatives, the desire to generate energy through the burning of coal and oil will seem perverse, and the transition to a future beyond fossil fuels will become irreversible.

Finally, I would like to see more emphasis on using public policy and funds to increase private finance. Private finance makes up the bulk of all investments in Green technology, and mitigation (the ratio of private to public investment is currently around 5:1). There has been virtually no discussion about innovative measure to increase private capital flows, which can increase dramatically if given the right incentives.

Blocks of GREEN June 28, 2010

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My project, ‘Blocks of Green’, which talks about the energy efficiency and water conservation in the green buildings in Kolkata, was selected for the UKEFF right after I got the National Film Award for one of my documentary films. When I started working on film, many of my film school friends and well-wishers were surprised and amused seeing me make a film on buildings. Some of them started calling me a ‘corporate filmmaker’.

But I am glad that I got the opportunity to do this film. I thank the British Council and the British High Commission for their unique initiative, the UKEFF.

Having worked as an independent documentary filmmaker for the past four years and having pitched my projects in India and abroad, I know how difficult it would have been to find funding for the film I made. My film was not telling the story of any protagonist but that of buildings. It was not made to entertain but for a cause, one that concerns all of us, but we do little about.

Today, we are more aware of the environmental concerns. But I believe this awareness needs to be spread far and wide and taken to the very grassroots level of the society, to the masses, to the common man in the small towns and villages. And best way to do it is through the audio-visual medium. The UKEFF did just that.

The UKEFF, through its team of experts, not only helped us make the most effective film but also helped the films reach far and wide through the telecast on National Geographic channel and the following presentations and screenings in different part of the country. I was glad to present my film to packed audiences in Kolkata and Kochi.

The response at both the places made me feel happy to have made my small contribution to the green cause. I was overwhelmed to see the stimulating audience interactions in Kolkata following the film screening. The positive energy that I witnessed in the audience in Kochi, to do something in their own city and make a difference, was a special feeling. Their eagerness to go green in their very own environment showed me the positive impact of the UKEFF films. I hope the British Council organizes many more screenings in many more cities and towns in the coming days, and would be happy to part of the same.

I eagerly look forward to the DVD release of the UKEFF 2010 films. I wish to screen the films in as many schools and societies I can and keep spreading the green message.

‘Blocks of Green’, telling the story of the buildings, has been a challenging film for me. The challenge was in talking about buildings yet keep it interesting. I thank the people who helped me live up to the challenge- the experts from UKEFF, with special mention to Mr. Mike Pandey, for their guidance, and my professional and experienced crew members, Supriyo Dutta, cameraman; Sukanta Majumdar, Sound Recordist; Tamal Chakraborty, Editor, all of whom are my friends from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. I also thank Mr. Biswajit Thakur, my guide on green buildings, and Sumanta Ghosh, the graphics artist for the film. I am also thankful to Mr. S. P. Gon Chaudhuri, Managing Director, West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Ltd.; Mr. S. Bhattacharya, Director In Charge, West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency; Mr. Harsh Neotia, CMD, Ambuja Realty, for their support.

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Bishnu Dev Halder

Wheeling in Change June 24, 2010

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June 5th – World Environment Day – 6 am – I was sitting in an airport lounge sipping coffee. The irony of that moment didn’t escape me. My film idea had been chosen for the UKEFF 2010 on the theme of climate change mitigation and here I was adding more credits to my carbon footprint.

I guess this thought wouldn’t even have struck me a few years ago – but now I live in a world where every action has serious consequences for our planets future…I live in Bangalore and in the last 5 years, the city seems to have become warmer – no more warm clothes, no more aunties knitting sweaters, air conditioners sticking out like tumours from every window – yes the city has changed. I used to gripe about it till I met a small and steadily group of positive minded people – who really do believe that their actions can make a difference in this huge world that we live in.

My film ‘Wheeling in Change’ was inspired by the traffic in Bangalore – something that is so common to every resident of this city that it is the best conversational ice breaker. And when I realised that as the number of private vehicles were increasing and the number of trees were decreasing in this ‘garden’ city – I decided to explore this theme; see if it has a bearing on climate change and if so, what we could do about it.

And that’s when I met my films heroes – Mayank, Lavanya, Vipul and Das – people who have been steadily making the right choices as citizens and environmentalists – and whose lifestyle choices were influencing a larger circle…simply by cycling, taking public buses or carpooling EVERYDAY to work or otherwise – between the last 10- 3 years!!!

And yes! Some of them own cars – some of them refuse to buy one – and they all work corporate jobs!

Through them I realised that there are proactive individuals in the government too – the Commissioner for Transport and Road Safety is an avid cyclist doing all he can to promote cycling in Bangalore; a police force that actively encourages car pooling and the introduction of a bus day once a month.

A good film, I believe can’t inspire an audience till the film maker feels inspired too – and yes! I have been inspired – within my family there are changes – my husband cycles to work and I take my daughter to school by bus and walk back instead of taking an auto…

Of course none of this would have been possible without the UKEFF and the British Council who have been very supportive through our shoots, our feedback sessions and finally in enabling the films to reach a wide audience. It was really thrilling to show our films in cities all over India – from what I hear to packed audiences in every city that had screenings…in Bangalore, the discussions on the films went on long after the venue closed – so much so I missed the telecast on National Geographic and am eagerly awaiting a repeat! It’s so rare that a funding body takes this kind of effort to showcase the films too…and I’m really grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone involved with this project.

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Nina Subramani

Drop by Drop June 23, 2010

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“Prayer has been made to mother earth that she blesses us with the knowledge required to exploit the treasures of nature but without disturbing the environmental balance” – Atharva Veda

Unfortunately, human progress so far has been at the cost of environmental imbalance and we have before us an enormous task of making up for it. So where does one start if we are to make a difference?
I got my start thanks to the UKEFF 2010 project. Its theme of finding environmental solutions for urban areas seemed a credible and do-able idea. How that idea would be executed came to me after a month’s ruminations (at an unlikely hour of 4 am in the morning, while watching the past UKEFF films on you tube) just 5 days before the submission deadline. I convinced Ira Prem of the IICE (I owe this film to her) to give me an Immediate appointment, and working at breakneck speed managed to courier my folder just in the nick of time.

I am glad I did that because it’s been a great journey all through the making of this film. Right from the first presentation to the Jury (The first time in my life that I was giving a PPT presentation in front of an audience) Right up to the last day when the film was launched on Nat Geo on the 5th of June 2010.
All the people I met while working on the film (many of whom could not be featured in the film due to time constraints) walked the extra mile to help me. Specifically, I would like to specially mention the experts in my film Dr. Ajit Gokhale & Ms. Roshni Udyavar.

One of the residential societies where I was shooting has installed Rain Water Harvesting & Water Recycling Systems (though not facing any kind of water cuts or water problems) just because it is the need of the hour. Everyone I met feels the government must make it compulsory & it should be a punishable offence not to have Rain Water Harvesting & Water Recycling System at one’s residence.

The focus of the film was to convince people who are staying in old buildings – which were built when Climate change was not a big issue, which were not built with green parameters – to take steps to make their buildings go green.

Following Mahatma Gandhi’s maxim “Be the change you want to see”, I have initiated the process of setting up a Wind Generator System in my residential complex (we already have a Water Recycling System). However, it is just not me; I have noticed positive feedback from others too.
During the dinner that followed the launch on 4th June, A lady came up to me and said their complex too depends on water tankers and after hearing one of the protagonist in my film, she too will try and convince people from her locality to do Rain Water Harvesting .

While editing the film, there was this businessman from Bhopal who had come to meet me and he saw the part where one of my residents talks about getting subsidy & claiming depreciation by investing in a Wind Generator System. He immediately called up his Chartered Accountant in connection with the depreciation bit and he is now fixing a Wind Generator System in his bungalow.
Indeed the film is serving its purpose…..
Time to take this idea further….. ?
Suggestions welcome….. !!!

Post by – © Jitendra Adappa

Jitendra Adappa