I was visiting London while the British Isles were having their typically limited experience with summer. My then colleague and I had gone for a business meeting, and were returning by Tube, or the London underground railway. Being the afternoon rush hour, the trains were packed to capacity.
My colleague didn’t say much on the journey, but I noticed her look of dismay. As we emerged from the tube station, she finally spoke: “Gosh, it’s another world down there, isn’t it? I didn’t know people smell so much!”
The warm and sweaty summer would surely have added to the experience, but as Londoners know well, the tube is the best mode of transport to get around quickly and inexpensively in that metropolis. It was only then that I realised my liberal, bleeding-heart colleague was not a regular user of public transport. She either uses taxis or drives around in her own Volvo car. She doesn’t normally commute with the Great Unwashed…
Yet, the same snooty ex-colleague speaks and writes so passionately on the virtues of public transport and mass transit systems as a means to better manage urban challenges in the developing world. Listening to her, one could hardly imagine her disdain for using public transport in her own city.
Practise what you preach. That’s a simple yet profound piece of advice for everyone promoting public interest causes in development, conservation or anything else. Or, as Mahatma Gandhi put it: you must be the change you wish to see in the world.
The series features outstanding efforts in education for sustainable development (ESD) in South and Southeast Asia. It goes in search of answers to these key questions:
• What can ordinary people do for our planet, now under siege from multiple environmental crises?
• How can we change attitudes and lifestyles to consume less and generate less waste?
Here’s the synopsis of the India story:
For people in Dindigul in India’s Tamil Nadu state, waste isn’t really a problem – it’s just a resource in the wrong place. School children and housewives have been at the forefront in collecting household and market waste to turn them into compost. They have not only cleaned up the streets, but also persuaded people to grow organic food. As the word spreads, more towns and villages are emulating this example set by CLEAN India project and Gandhigram Trust.
Watch Saving the Planet: Living the Change