Friday, 15 July 2011

HAVE YOUR SAY: DELHI SEMINAR ON INNOVATION, SUSTAINABILITY AND DEVELOPMENT

At last month's seminar on Innovation, Sustainability and Development at NISTADS, participants reflected on the state of innovation in various fields - in food and agriculture, health, ICTs, low carbon technology, and at grassroots level. This is an invitation to talk more about the issues.

For those who couldn't make it to the seminar, or need a reminder of what was said, here's a link to the programme with videos of all the presentations.

Leave a comment below with your views.

2 comments:

Ankush Gupta said...

The seminar was a very good exposure to diverse ideas on innovations. I feel the need for more discussion on questions of sustainability and development.

First I wanted to mention a few examples on the area of innovations. Prof. Anil Gupta in keynote talk mentioned that innovations need not be the evolution of a new technology, but can be the application of an existing technology in different area or in the same area with different forms. In this context, I recently came across from Britain, in which several women's group are talking about using cloth nappies for babies instead of disposable diapers. This is a very important and interesting case talking about innovations. Since these days the diapers are becoming so common, the idea of possibility of using cloth nappies and washing them to reuse is coming as a "new" "green" idea. It is definitely more sustainable than diapers, and also it is cheaper. It involves slightly more work on the part of parent, but the groups in UK also talk about different strategies you can use in collecting dirty nappies so that you can wash them together with your weekly laundary rather than washing every time you need to change the nappy.

Dr. Adrian Smith in his talk in the seminar mentioned about the introduction of local currency in some places in Britain which enhances local trade. On this note, I wanted to mention a similar case from the town of Ithaca in New York State (USA). I lived there for few years and has something called Ithaca Hours. This is a form of "barter system", in which you can earn Ithaca hours by providing some service (plumbing, carpentary, baby sitting ,tutoring, gardening) to any of the community member and use those ithaca hours to get any services that you need at some other time. In this system you do not earn any "monetary assets" which count toward tax etc, and lead to local exchange of services. This is an innovation which is by revisiting some of the older methods of trade, but bringing it out in a new social context.

About sustainability, I felt that we have a much stronger need to look at sustainability in our own lives. For past few years, since I started looking at it, I realized that how much I/we have gotten locked into highly unsustainable material-use pattern and before blaming the corporates for dragging us into consumerist society, we need to change our own lives. For example, in this seminar itself we used hundreds of water bottles which we threw away after single use. I actively monitor the amount of plastic bags that enter our house and my mother tries to cleanly dispose them by giving to some kabari or street vendors. But still some plastic bags find their way into the trash, mixed with other food and organic trash. Infact presently, we are also packaging our garbage into plastic bags, which is the most unsustainable method of disposing trash. So, we (researchers, academicians) need to start by identifying the issues of sustainability in our own lives before we can go on blaming government, corporates, academic institutions or other countries, because we, as human beings, have the capacity to chose what we use and what we don't use. It is in blaming others that we declare that we are puppets in their hands.

About the criterion for sustainability of technologies, I feel one of the questions to ask is "If this technology gets implemented, will it increase the sense of equilibrium and contentment in the society or further fuel the sense of inadequacy among people?". Because if something does not bring a sense of contentment, then the technology supports further exploitation of resources. The sense of equilibrium does not means being static. It means being highly dynamic in which the constant movement is happening while maintain the normal state of the system. This ideas also requires looking at the definitions of development. And how development and growth are related?

Thanks for reading it, and any comments and thought would be welcome.

Ankush

Ankush Gupta said...
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