Changing Ego-Systems to save Eco-Systems

ATCA Briefings

London, UK - 26 June 2007, 08:56 GMT - We are grateful to Anouradha Bakshi, Founder Director, Project WHY, based in New Delhi, India, for "Changing Ego-Systems to save Eco-Systems"; Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman, Anglo-American, and Member, Tomorrow's Global Company, Inquiry Team, based in London, UK, for "Need for Legislative Frameworks to Guide Markets"; and Anouradha Bakshi 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: Changing Ego-Systems to save Eco-Systems

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 Founder 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: Changing Ego-Systems to save Eco-Systems

Sir Mark's response to the points raised in "Where is the Empathy? Short Term Capitalism and Long Term Environmental Damage" are extremely pertinent. The ideal situation would undoubtedly be that all concerned partners get together and come up with workable solutions.

However this is not simple and to borrow Don Rittner's words "Trying to save ecosystems has more to do with changing egosystems." In emerging markets like India, buying a big car or washing one's hair with a well advertised product is a matter of proving that you have 'arrived'!

It would be far too ambitious to believe that this generation would give up what they have got after a long struggle. The urban slum dwellers arrogate themselves certain rights when they finally come to cities. Unfortunately most of these rights are harmful to the environment.

Last week we held a day long workshop on global warming with our secondary children. While I was preparing for it I browsed many global warming sites to look for the what can we do sections and found that most -- if not all -- suggestions given were irrelevant to the urban poor.

If one looks at the site one realises that most of the suggestions are irrelevant to the urban poor.

1. Learn about it -- start with this Web site and see the References.

Most of the urban poor are barely literate.

2. Sell the SUV and choose cleaner, more efficient vehicles. Reduce your driving: one gallon of gas burned creates 20 pounds of CO2. Fuel up on ethanol and biodiesel.

They do not have cars.

3. Use efficient appliances, replace light bulbs with low-voltage compact fluorescents. Check your home insulation. Buy renewable energy, like wind and solar, from your power company.

When you live or actually survive in poorly designed shacks there is not much you can do and low voltage bulbs cost 10 times more!

4. Companies -- the one you work for and the ones you buy from -- can save lots of money and reduce global warming by taking similar steps toward energy efficiency.

Even if the slum dweller works in a company, s/he is the invisible voiceless person. Many times s/he is not even a permanent employee

5. Shop smart: Look for products made from recycled materials, created with renewable energy, and which help you save money and reduce pollution.

This again is not possible as the cheapest is often the least eco-friendly

7. Use your vote and influence as a citizen to elect responsive leaders; help them organize the neighbourhood and town for energy efficiency.

Though slum dwellers vote, the votes are often controlled by politicians who rule the roost.

8. Suburban sprawl makes for lots of global warming pollution; plan for walkable communities, lots of trees, open spaces, and public transportation in and between cities.

Again not possible.

9. Build new homes and buildings for efficiency and solar power.

Not possible. In urban slums even basics are not provided for. Most of them are illegal and people live in the terror of seeing them razed.

10. Support sustainable farming and forestry, including new crops to make into ethanol and other biofuels.


11. Let the corporations who make our cars, fuels, goods and power know you want their products to be as ecological as possible.

Not applicable.

12. At all government levels, develop an efficient energy policy, moving away from fossil fuels.

Not applicable.

13. Export new energy technology that uses renewable energy sources to the rest of the world.

Not applicable.

14. ....and start doing these things today.

On another website for children these are the suggestions:

There are some very simple things that everyone can do to help stop global warming:

· Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Use fluorescent bulbs in your room.

· Turn off your computer or the TV when you're not using it. Unplug chargers when not in use.

· Wait until you have a lot of clothes to wash before using the washing machine. Don't use the machine for one item just because it's your favourite shirt.

· Take shorter showers. Heating water uses energy.

· Close the blinds on a hot day if the sun is shining in. Dress lightly instead of turning up the air conditioning. Or use a fan.

· Dress warmly when it's cold, instead of turning up the heat.

· Offer to help your parents keep the air filters on your AC and furnace clean.

· Walk short distances instead of asking for a ride in a car.

· Plant a tree.

· Learn more about global warming so you can talk to people about it.

Here again the suggestions are not relevant to a slum child. One has to review them in the light of their reality. We are in the midst of preparing the to do list with the staff and kids based on the way people live in urban slums. The main idea is to see how each one can do his or her bit. Easily said...

We then gave ourselves the task of drawing up a list of things they could do and are in the process of doing so.

Here are a few of the ideas that were discussed and accepted at the workshop in terms of offering advice to the urban poor:


Aims at each one of us thinking of one other use before throwing something. It could be cutting up a plastic bottle and planting something in it, or using it as a container..
Cutting up newspapers into newskins, or napkins that you can hang in places and use for wiping a coffee stain on a table and so on... The idea is to get each one of us to stop and think before throwing.


We also plan to start collecting the plastic and pouches strewn all over the streets as people tend to throw them. These normally choke the rain water drains and are often the reason for flooding. Though we are a country that recycles things, often much that can be recycled does not reach the right place. By collecting the plastic around our many centres we hope to be able to clean up the environment and also ensure that it reaches the right place.


Most homes have TVs hence we plan to teach children not to leave TVs in the sleep mode. Many people have cell phones and often leave the charger plugged in. That is another point we need to address as in slums often people pay a fixed rate for electricity and hence leave many things plugged in.


Water is a scarce commodity but is often wasted. Many community taps are often dripping or even left open. Children will be taught to motivate people not to leave taps on and also to see that leaking taps are repaired.


We had launched a water project last year but we had to slow it down, as we did not have enough funds for the filters.


Children will be taught to plant seeds in containers and pots.


There is proliferation of motorbikes in slums as these are now available on credit. Kids are seen zipping around senselessly. We plan to raise awareness about carbon emissions using this as an example.

These are the starting points and of course we have to keep in mind the psyche of the urban poor and his egosystem and then try and bring about a change.

It is truly about egosystems as when a couple of years back we suggested that we could buy a product in large packing and dole it out to individuals in their own receptacle(s), the idea was derided and found unacceptable. I realised later that our suggestion could not compete with the lure of the publicity package. Maybe if the idea came via the TV screen and through a celebrity then it would become do-able!

Societies like ours need to go through a period where new found dreams are fulfilled. Our duty would be to make that period as short as possible by raising awareness on the one hand and finding a temporary solution on the other: hence our idea of a green pouch that would be made mandatory till people themselves understood the dangers.

It is maybe an onerous and long drawn way but keeping in mind the alarming reality, it is one we should perhaps look at.

Best 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.

Intelligence Unit | mi2g | tel +44 (0) 20 7712 1782 fax +44 (0) 20 7712 1501 | internet www.mi2g.net
mi2g: Winner of the Queen's Award for Enterprise in the category of Innovation

mi2g is at the leading edge of building secure on-line banking, broking and trading architectures. The principal applications of its technology are: 1. D2-Banking; 2. Digital Risk Management; and 3. Bespoke Security Architecture. For more information about mi2g, please visit: www.mi2g.net

Renowned worldwide for the ATCA Briefings. Subscribe now.
Home - Profile - Values - People - Careers - Partners - Contact Us
D2 Banking - Bespoke Security Architecture - Digital Risk Management - Tools

Intelligence Briefings - Brochures - Case Studies -
SIPS Methodology FAQ (pdf)
Keynote Speeches - Articles - News Feeds - Glossary (pdf)
Terms and Conditions - Privacy Policy