New mindsets, new approaches

I write this from a small hotel overlooking the Brindavan Gardens in Mysore, a place that has formed the backdrop of many song-and-dance sequences in the cinema of the 1960s and 70s. The Gardens continue to attract many visitors who come to stroll along the flower-lined pathways and watch the dancing fountains that sparked the imaginations of so many choreographers in Tamil and Telugu movies. The Krishna Raja Sagar Dam towers over the Garden, and represents a feat of hydraulic engineering capability in its time. Sir Visweswaraiya, the architect of this and other dams across the country, has been celebrated as the country’s “first engineer” and certainly, one must appreciate the vision that created those early infrastructure projects.

Walking across the bund and looking at the expanse of the Cauvery on one side and the massive chains that work the sluice gates on the other, one is struck by the scientific-technological imagination that could lead to such a structure. But at the same time, given our understanding of how such projects have done little to alleviate the poverty of already marginalized populations who had to give up lands and livelihoods to literally energise more privileged groups, one has to decry the lack of social imagination of the times. It’s so easy to be carried away by the promise of the moment, particularly when the promise is underwritten by science and technology. It’s so easy to look at the immediate gains and solutions to long-standing problems. It takes both a radical imagination and courage to instead stop and look at the underbelly of the promise, and see what it means in the long term. Who are the winners and losers here? How much do the losers lose? And what are we left with after a decade, two decades, of applying this new solution? This calls for a new mindset, a new way of approaching problems and evaluating their solutions. Sustainability is no longer just a fashionable buzzword that a few ecologists and economists have to deal with. It is something that has to become a part of the fabric of daily life, embedded in the decisions we make everyday about using water, power, food and land. It has to become a part of our thinking and learning and doing.

This issue of Teacher Plus, in collaboration with Wipro’s Earthian initiative, brings you a wide range of articles that look at various aspects of sustainability. As you might imagine, this is a very wide theme and touches practically every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat to the water we drink and bathe in and wash with, to the buses we take and the animals we share this planet with. It’s about air, water, energy, and everything that makes use of these and other resources. So clearly, we haven’t been able to do it all. There are significant gaps in our collection – the crucially important issue of water for instance, has not been addressed at length, nor have many other important issues related to health and well-being and sustainable development. But what we have put together is an impressive set of views and information from experts and practitioners that should begin a dialogue on sustainability. These articles may serve as interesting reading, as prompts to classroom discussion, as the basis of activity planning, or just as something to mull over individually or in groups in the staff room. And we trust you will find many other ways to engage with the issue using this as a starting point – do let us know what you think about this very important area and how you deal with it…as a teacher and as an individual.