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We Don’t Have a Planet B—TEDxMAHE 2020

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues that humanity is facing at the moment. On 25 October 2020, TEDx MAHE organised a TED talk with the theme, Countdown—We can change the climate change, to spread awareness about this issue looming over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. Attended by students from various colleges, this mega-event saw experienced individuals put forth their perspectives on the topic of climate change.

Alexander Verbeek, Dutch environmentalist and World Fellow at Yale University, was the first speaker at the event. He presented his views on the topic by making analogies to the popular fairy tale—Little Red Riding Hood. He believes that all of humanity is like the girl in the story—choosing to live in denial about the real state of affairs. According to him, the Earth is a speck of sand in the vast Universe, and we humans fail to recognize and accept things that are beyond our imagination. Perceiving risk as it is, preparing for this predicted risk, and implementing safety measures at the right time are plausible solutions to this ever-growing problem. He also stressed the various impacts of climate change, including military and geopolitical changes, population migration, and great stress on every country’s economy. “Climate change is a predicted disaster in slow motion“, said Mr Verbeek, rightly concluding his speech by urging people, states, and countries to coordinate themselves better, and stand with each other, to brave this disaster together.

Mr Verbeek’s thought-provoking TED talk was followed by Dr Derrick Ian Joshua, Assistant Director of Environmental Sustainability in the Department of General Sevices, MAHE, presenting his ideas of a sustainable world. “The best way to bring about a change is to lead others by setting an example,” remarked Dr Derrek as he explained the need and importance for appropriate planning, risk assessment, and innovative methods to apply his ideas to the student town of Manipal. He stressed upon striking the right balance between economic advantages and environmental impacts when implementing projects like waste management or water management plants. He also shared his experiences of being a part of projects implemented while keeping the idea of a sustainable environment in mind, including, but not limited to, waste management projects, electric vehicles inside the campus in colleges, and energy-efficient lighting solutions. Dr Derrick firmly believes that environmental sustainability is a journey that we have just begun and have a long way to go.

The third speaker for the day was Mr Keshav Gupta, founder of The Dais. He talked about the climate crisis which the world is facing and how people, as individuals, can act on it. His talk was divided into three parts in which he urged everyone to use their heart, head, and hands in working for the environment. According to him, the right knowledge is critical for the right action. One of the key things to do is to develop this knowledge. Before knowing how to act, there is a need to understand it completely. The second part focussed on putting one’s heart into the work. He gave a couple of anecdotes about his work in various parts of India and the challenges that he faced. Finally, when it comes to their hands, people should understand themselves first. Their skills should be used in the direction of countering climate change. If local solutions are done well, global solutions can be implemented well. He concluded his inspirational speech with a quote—“Change begins with you; initiative begins with you.

This was followed by a light-hearted session, Social Spaces, in which the attendees interacted with each other. The participants were split into groups and took part in crosswords, quizzes, and other mini-games. It was a rejuvenating session where everyone got to enjoy themselves.

Mr George Kostakios, the co-founder of FOGGS from Brussels, Belgium, was the next speaker for the day. He advocated an upgrade to the current way of living and mindset of humans—Homo Sapiens 2.0—to advance humankind while also maintaining harmony with nature. He stressed upon the urgency of climate change and on how each individual can help reverse the biggest crisis of today’s age by simply changing our mindset and staying true to our values. He has worked with the UN on international affairs, supporting the negotiations that resulted in the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2016. He further spoke about major issues like the exploitation of natural resources, growing inequality, and the flawed worldview of profit and its justifications. He reminded us about how it is our actions that make all the difference in the world. Small changes like using public transport, switching to a plant-based diet as opposed to meat, and using renewable energy can go a long way in tackling global warming. Concluding his speech, he asked the young generation to rival the current reality and help to change the narrative for future generations.

The fifth speaker, Chau Duncan, is the COO of Earthbanc, which is an investment platform that coordinates climate-positive projects all over the world. She began her talk by highlighting the alarming statistics about climate change all over the world like the devastating floods in Karnataka. She talked about how adopting zero budget natural farming is the way ahead in agriculture to maintain an ecological balance and ensure a high-quality yield of crops at lower prices. In this type of farming, the cost of growing and harvesting is zero, and biological pesticides like earthworms and cow dung are used instead of chemical substances. She explained how Australia witnessed great economic progress in the 2000s, but at the cost of devastating nature. It also experienced the worst dust storm in decades in 2009. Adding a convincing example to her talk, she continued to talk about the erratic weather in the western ghats of Karnataka. She insisted that the only way to curb this worldwide menace is to start working with the farmers by incentivising pro-sustainability projects through innovation in technology and climate finance so that production and environment protection can go on symbiotically. As a former Vietnamese refugee, she believes the global stage is her home and works for a regenerative future.

The final speaker at the event was Rakshit Naidu, a final year undergraduate at MIT Manipal, pursuing his Bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering. He also works as a research engineer at OpenMinded. His research work is inclined towards machine learning and cryptography. Breaking the stereotype, he found out a creative way to relate machine learning and climate change. He talked about the correlation between federated learning and climate change. He emphasised the significance of both individual and collective efforts. He talked about developing technologies that can help in climate change mitigation through grid optimisations, shared mobility, tracking carbon footprints, and data retrieval. “Will people from developing countries care enough about data privacy to require Federated Analytics? If you have only just got reliable access to the internet, would you need data privacy?”, remarked Rakshit as he concluded his speech with an open-ended question to ponder upon.

The event concluded with a panel discussion where all the speakers of the day discussed the perspectives put forward in the talks as they concluded on several premises. The attendees appreciated the talks given as they could see the problems in a different light and analyse it better.

Featured Image Credits: TEDx MAHE