Alternative Education – Creating a Microcosm for a Sustainable Society

B. Ramdas

A sustainable society does not fall from the sky nor does it just happen one fine morning. It has to be created through a long and arduous process. There are innumerable nuances and principles that are involved.

Where and how does one get these across to people? Where are the forums? I believe that the best place to begin this process of creation of such a society is in the classroom – with children. Here lies our future!

Just Change – People Before Profit

Many of us have struggled for and with the poor for over four decades now. We have fought human rights abuses, land alienation, untouchability, feudalism and violence against women.

We have mostly won major victories and changed the lives of the poor with whom we had worked.  But forty years down the line, most of us are faced with the stark fact that fighting poverty and fighting for the economic rights of our people is now virtually impossible, and moved beyond our control.

From easily identified local exploitative individuals, the forces causing poverty have moved to new, distant, complex structures way beyond the reach of communities. The blame is now conveniently laid on catch phrases such as market forces, globalisation, liberalization. But the question still remains as to how one deals with these faceless forces? Writes Stan Thekaekara

Chennai Skyline

Urbanisation, deforestation and climate change

The puncturing of the ozone layer, rampant deforestation, developmental projects, drying up of river bodies, and pollution of the atmosphere are destroying the capacity of human kind to survive on this planet. Motorized vehicles guzzling petrol and diesel emit volumes of carbon dioxide into the air. They have no foliage sinks to absorb the noxious fumes. Renuga Kasi goes on to emphasize that even refrigerators and air conditioners spewing fluorocarbons into the environment stifle our ability to survive. She goes on to say that of the nine planets in the solar system, only earth has the capacity to sustain life. It is incumbent on us to reverse this trend of deceleration; recapture our equilibrium which is being lost due to the destructive actions of mankind.

ICRISAT

Case study of ‘local’ agriculture being destroyed by the market

Until about forty years ago, innumerable varieties of millets were grown extensively in Antharsathe, a town in HD Kote taluk. Market forces, says Siddhartha, have now determined the cultivation of cash crops like Bt cotton and sugarcane. They are supplanting traditional farming practices, which had a repository of knowledge concerning soil regeneration, fertility, storing and exchange of seeds.

The public distribution system is now the institutionalized storage facility for wheat and rice. The seeds the government distributes for millets are considered by many farmers to be suspect.

In the context of climate change, thousands of farmers are bucking the trend and reverting to organic farming and cultivation of crops that are more in sync with local conditions.

Photo by Latha Nagarajan

Moving towards the local and the regional

The concept of Swadeshi, as stated by Gandhi, is that self-sufficiency in food at the local and regional levels can ensure food sovereignty.

Siddhartha explains that the cultivation of millets, practicing mixed cropping and making use of the public distribution system’s warehouses can consolidate sustainability. Furthermore, trading of surpluses between villages and towns can enhance the economic viability of the rural community. Efforts to improve livelihoods by utilizing compost and traditional crops would also ensure stability.

Photo by awaterma (Flickr)

Distorted government policies will lead to eventual food shortages

Siddhartha of Pipal Tree explains how globalization, in its wake, has brought a distorted distribution system with local retail outlets storing products that have crossed great distances and blurred transnational boundaries. The carbon footprint that it leaves behind is decreasing our ability to live as a human species.

Before globalization, unpolished rice and vegetables were grown locally without chemical fertilisers and genetic modification. Market fundamentalism and financial strength by multinational corporations are holding sway and destroying a whole way of live that was fundamental to the traditional ethos. A wholesome way of life is gradually being annihilated by mega-agribusiness.