Where is the Empathy?

ATCA Briefings

Short Term Capitalism and Long Term Environmental Damage

London, UK - 20 June 2007, 09:11 GMT - We are grateful to:

. Anouradha Bakshi, based in New Delhi, India, for "Where is the Empathy? Short Term Capitalism and Long Term Environmental Damage";

in response to the Launch of the International Inquiry Report - Tomorrow's Global Company - Challenges and Choices signed by senior figures from businesses and NGOs based in Europe, North America and Asia. These include: ABB, Alcan, Anglo American, Amnesty International Business Group, BP, Dr Reddy's, Ford, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Infosys, KPMG, Leaders' Quest, McKinsey, Standard Chartered, SUEZ, and SustainAbility. The international inquiry draws on their experience and on dialogues, workshops and interviews conducted across the world in countries including Australia, China, France, India, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States by Tomorrow's Company led by Mark Goyder.

intentBlog: Where is the Empathy? Short Term Capitalism

Dear ATCA Colleagues

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

Anouradha Goburdhun Bakshi is the Director of Project WHY in New Delhi, India. She is the descendent of an indentured labourer and an Indian freedom fighter's daughter, born in Prague, then Czechoslovakia, in 1952 and raised in numerous world capitals where her diplomat father was posted, including Prague, Beijing, Paris, Rabat, Saigon and Ankara. At 16 she returned to India, where she completed her studies and obtained a masters In French. She qualified for the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS) examination but preferred to follow a different path. Fluent in French she was Assistant professor in Jawaharlal Nehru university for a few years. After marriage in 1974 to a young aviation executive, she pursued a career as an interpreter and conference manager working for Indira Gandhi, Jacques Chirac, and many other world leaders. The loss of her parents and the last words of her father "Don't lose faith in India" made her question the validity of an almost perfect life in an India were things were wrong. After a period of retrospection and the realisation that many "WHYs" needed to be answered she decided to find some of the answers by setting up Project WHY in 1998. Anouradha was voted "Citizen One" by the India Today Group in 2005 and has received the Red and White Silver medal for Social Bravery. Anouradha is a member of The Philanthropia network and blogs on IntentBlog.

Project WHY came into being as an answer to a simple question: why do so many children drop out in India's capital city? It began with 20 children in 2000. Today over 500 children enjoy the education delivered to them by committed teachers, many of whom are the products of slums themselves. 'Success' as measured by examination results is also remarkable. It has also established strong ties with the community and is today engaged in a medley of programmes ranging from medical assistance to children in distress to community empowerment initiatives! Project WHY does not receive any institutional funding and is supported by a network of friends and well wishers. She writes:

Dear DK and Colleagues

Re: Where is the Empathy? Short Term Capitalism and Long Term Environmental Damage

When we met in New Delhi, I had talked about the onslaught of the plastic metallised pouch in slums and villages in India. these are mostly used by multinationals to access the huge market of the "poor." A simple study revealed that one home unit consumes an average of 10 such pouches and these are just thrown away thereby loading an already choked environment as they are far from being biodegradable. A simple legislation from governments directing multinationals to ensure green packaging would be a step in the right direction. This is a simple suggestion but it could go a long way to counter the colossal damage to the environment.

In the last seven years of working in an urban slum of India's capital city I have witnessed the onslaught of multinational marketing targeting the underprivileged through the plastic pouch often priced at 1 or 2 Indian Rupees (INR). It began with shampoos and detergents and grew insidiously to cover what one sees in any supermarket: shaving foams, hair conditioners, jams, ketchup, coffee, potato chips, instant noodles and more.

The urban poor live in abysmal conditions but in most of the houses one finds a TV set and hence the very products sold in pouches at every street corner shop find their way into their homes. The sophisticated marketing mechanisms utilise well designed TV ad campaigns often using movie and sports stars and fuelling dreams. People are quick to abandon old ways and embrace new ones as these are accessible at a tiny price, and hence each home uses over 10 such pouches a day.

The power of advertising and the irresistible lure of a colossal market are the two ingredients brewing a heady cocktail that supposedly has the power to thrill both ends of the spectrum -- the user and the provider. I am no specialist in any field and would in no way dare to propound any theory. I simply speak from observation and first hand experience.

One is not questioning the value of the products but in the light of the ATCA article on "Tomorrow's Global Company: Challenges and Choices" it would be a huge step in the right direction if governments directed multinationals to develop appropriate green packaging if they were to access these staggering markets in the least environmentally damaging way.

Warm regards



We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank you.

Best wishes

For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA)

ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies -- bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 100 countries: including several from the House of Lords, House of Commons, EU Parliament, US Congress & Senate, G10's Senior Government officials and over 1,500 CEOs from financial institutions, scientific corporates and voluntary organisations as well as over 750 Professors from academic centres of excellence worldwide.

The views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. Please do not forward or use the material circulated without permission and full attribution.

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