2013 LOHAS KEYNOTE: The Sustainability Race: China, USA, Millennials

Earlier this summer, in June, I had the opportunity to give a keynote at LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability), the country’s largest sustainability conference in Boulder, CO. Here is the talk.


Catalyzing the Sustainability Revolution TEDxEMWS

This past february, I had the pleasure of speaking at my first TED event, TEDxEMWS in Mumbai, India. I spoke on “Catalyzing the Sustainability Revolution.” The talk was only recently released, and here it is!

 

Cheers,

Prashanth


Huffington Post: Why the Millennial Generation Needs to Redefine Sustainability

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post: Why the Millennial Generation Needs to Redefine Sustainability. 

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Achieving sustainability as a state of existence should be our number-one global priority. In fact, unsustainability is a product of what the world perceives to be the most pressing issues of our time. Conflict, resource scarcity, industrial takeover, economic disparity, and government partisanship represent only few global predicaments that have created an unsustainable world. Despite the true multidimensional nature of sustainability, modern society has fallen into the impractical habit of equating “sustainability” with “environmental stability,”two terms that are not, by any means, interchangeable. This ideological blasphemy has become an omnipresent pestilence so toxic that it has broken even the strongest pillars of sustainability. The U.N recently pinpointed seven necessary questions that need to be answered in order for the world to be sustainable during the much-anticipated and very disappointing RIO + 20 summit in Brazil. As expected, nearly all of these questions are centered on eradicating environmental malpractice:

  • “How can we provide access to clean energy for everyone, and make sure that the energy we produce doesn’t contribute to climate change?”
  • “How can we make sure that our oceans are healthy and that marine life is not threatened by pollution and climate change?”
  • “How can we build better transportation systems that allow us all to get where we want to go, without causing too much congestion and pollution?”

Even the most valued high school essay-writing resource, the Apple Dictionary, makes this false association, defining sustainable as, “Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding the depletion of natural resources.”

I challenge this misconception; this jaded view of sustainability. In contrast, I define sustainability as “a global state of existence of minimal conflict, environmental stability, just and open minded societies, and overall good governance, that operates in close-looped cycles, maintaining and improving upon itself simultaneously.” This definition is a more cohesive and holistic representation of sustainability. This is an aspiration, an objective — it’s a dream that I have for the millennial generation and the future generations that claim its inheritance. Despite my relentless commitment to sustainability, I regretfully admit that I have unwillingly adopted this dream out of necessity, not desire.

The millennial generation has inherited a world of discord, environmental instability, destitution, economic disparity, intolerance, corruption and resource depletion. But, despite this disheartening truth, I don’t believe our placement in history to be unfortunate, but rather a force of circumstance. In this climactic era of international connectivity and collaboration, the millennial generation has the unique capability to call upon each of its members and unite against unsustainability; a power yielded by no previous generations. However, before we confront perhaps the largest crisis to date, it is imperative that we leave behind this societal dogma and redefine sustainability, recognizing its multi-dimensional nature. Then, and only then, can millennials in all sectors, regions of the world, fields of study and areas of passion unite in the journey towards sustainability and the fight for our future. This will no doubt be an uphill battle, but we cannot stand idly by and watch the slow-motion implosion of our world. We indeed have the power to bring this impending doom that we face to an abrupt halt.

In the words of the President Obama, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

I plan to explore sustainability in future months through a series of seven in depth installments, of which this is the first.

Always,

Prashanth


Just Wanted to Share …

Peace Perspectives recently came out with an article regarding the much debated Gaza Bombings that took place in late 2012. In this article, I was especially touched by the perspective piece written by one of our correspondents in Gaza. The writer has a first hand account of the bombings. His mindset of hope, resilience and forgiveness inspired me, thus, I found it appropriate to share this piece with you all.

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As a Palestinian living in Gaza, I have had a first hand account of the events that unfolded earlier here, in Gaza. As the IDF executed bombings, killing, and unjustified animalistic acts of violence, the International community became increasingly aware and conscious of the situation. I think it’s important the people realize the severity of the issue, and understand all perspectives of this even. During the IDF attacks, my initial reactions were those of sadness, disappointment, and confusion. I watched as innocent people such as children, women and elders were murdered. As a peace activist, I struggled to comprehend the current reality and the old sentiments of hatred that it triggered. How could I accept that my Israeli peers, that I had grown to love, would sooner or later become IDF soldiers, responsible for the next bombing or mass killing? I grappled with these confusing and conflicting feelings for a long time.

The word, “Israeli” has always carried a negative connotation with me. I always imagine a soldier, holding a gun and glaring at me, waiting for an excuse to pull the trigger. But I realized, after meeting and bonding with my Israeli peers, that I have fallen into a conflict-perpetuated stigma that has claimed too many. After seeing, and bonding with the “other side”, I was exposed to the true reality of my close-minded and unrealistic views, which complicated the conflict even more for me. Although things became more complicated, I was discovering a new perspective, and therefore gaining a more holistic view of the conflict. There are good people on the other side. I have tried changing the mindsets of the people around me through words and discussion. But, this is difficult when Israelis, the very friends that I am defending, bomb Gaza, giving the people here, yet another reason to hate them. Unfortunately, the type of people that wish for peace, freedom, and resolution are a great minority in Israel. They represent a small white dot in a big black paper. We have become blinded by hatred and violence. Every child’s dream is gaining his freedom, not playing or having fun. We have fallen into an unhealthy tradition of fighting. Some fight for peace, but others just fight for … fighting. No matter how many peace negotiations take place, none of them will work. This is not just a fight of politics; it is a fight of two nations, two countries. It doesn’t matter how or why these nations are fighting, it is an immortal conflict between two sides. As much as I want peace to dominate the world, I think our case is a hopeless one. The latest aggression on Gaza highlighted the barbarianism of the IDF. The attack was unprovoked and unwarranted. There was no direct reasoning for what happened. The strikes were used by Netanyahu (Israeli Prime Minister) to gain more votes in the upcoming election. Though we should have fought back sometime, the only defenses that we, the people of Gaza, had were our prayers and hopes for a ceasefire. I realize that perhaps the only thing these two sides have in common is the unnecessary loss of innocent people. I know from my Israeli peers on the other side that we all hope for peace, despite the immortal nature of this conflict. Personally, I believe that the conflict may get better or become worse, but will always remain. Our future is in our hands. We are here, writing for “Peace Perspectives”, trying to change our ways of war peacefully. We are spreading our message of peace and hate of war. I stand here, with my high hope that peace will be achieved. I realize that this will not be easy, but I am prepared to persevere through anything and fight for peace.”

Cheers,

Prashanth


Lovin’ Life

So this past week has been pretty great.

1) Obama won — 4 more years

2) Peace Perspectives has a second article underway

3) Unheard Voices is on its way to joining the Plastic Awareness Coalition

4) I saw Skrillex live

5) The U.S.A is finally seeing the sense in legalizing recreational Marijuana

I wish every week could be this amazing. I’ve been cooking up some new project ideas this week as well.

All the while, keeping in mind my life moto.

As always,

Prashanth Ramakrishna


“Peace Perspectives”

The media has its own agenda. The media holds and indirectly encourages bias. The media is a problem.

It perpetuatess conflicts, sustains lies, and can be extremely harmful, considering that the it controls and filters what people hear and don’t hear. Large media corporations arguably have the most influence on the world. However, this influence can be extremely negative when political and national allegiances are not ignored. The public hears what the media wants them to hear. Israeli’s will not hear about the misdeeds of their government. Like wise, Palestinians will be ignorant to the wrongs their country has committed. We see this repeatedly, especially in regions of conflict: the Indo-Af-Pak conflict, the various U.S – foreign conflicts, the Thai-Burmese conflict, and countless others. We cannot afford to let our media distort and omit information to accommodate bias.

However, people don’t realize that their buying into a bias that isn’t necessarily their own. I certainly didn’t, until I attended Seeds of Peace Intl. Camp. So, in my eyes, the only way that we can inform the public, free of bias and prejudice, is by reinventing journalism. If we realize that the truth is different through every lens. News should be reporting every perspective regarding an issue. This would allow the reader to think for themselves rather than have a multination media corporations sway them.

After learning the large scale and long term effects of having news sources that operate in this fashion, I realized that this is an issue that can not be ignored. So, using Unheard Voices as a base, “Peace Perspectives” an e-magazine will be published that pioneers this new journalistic approach. I have assembled a group of roughly 30 “Seeds” or graduates of seeds of peace to report for this publication. “Peace Perspectives” will report on conflict-related issues.

Each article will consist of:

  1. A background piece (written by a third party seed)
  2. An Interview of an educated civiliian from each respective country or region affected by the issue (all interviews conducted by seeds) — directly translated by seeds, unaltered, raw
  3. A perspective or opinion piece written by a seed from each respective country or region affected by the issue
  4. A compilation of quotes from government officials or highly regarded personel representing each affected group (Gathered by in-region seeds)
  5. When possible, we will  include an interview from a third party
  6. When possible, we will include an opinion piece written by a third party seed

People deserve to hear every perspective of the truth and then create their own ideas about the given situation. This type of news formate will not just give people access to a well rounded set of information that will allow them to form their own opinions.

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I am happy to announce the release of the first “Peace Perspectives” Article: The Sinai Shootings (Click on the link below to access the article)

“Peace Perspectives” : Sinai Shootings

Unfortunately, for now, the names of the writers and interviewees cannot be published for security purposes, however, they are on record.

P.S – A big shout out to all the seeds who worked on this. This is all you, guys. Job Well Done.

As Always,

Prashanth Ramakrishna


“America is not the greatest country in the world”

“America is not the greatest country in the world”. “The Newsroom”, a new hit television series, written by Aaron Sorkin made this statement in their opening scene. The show centers around news anchor, Will McAvoy, and his team as they attempt to create an informed American electorate by reporting fact-based news. This clip went viral immediately after being released and, as usual was accepted by the American public without question.

“The Newsroom” preaches media that reports the facts and all the opinions regarding an issue, yet the claims made in this opening scene were indeed not grounded in fact.

The setting for Will McAvoy’s assault on the United States reputation, is primed for dramatic effect. Will is a panelist at Northwestern University. To his right, is a liberal and on his left, sits a conservative. When he is forced out of neutrality and to give answer to the question “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” by the moderator, he cracks.

McAvoy starts by addressing the Democrat, “…if liberals are so fuckin’ smart then how come they lose so goddamn always?”.  As far as I’m concerned, liberals don’t “lose so goddamn always”, in fact fourteen American Presidents have been liberal, versus eighteen that have been conservative. That’s a 43.7 percent success rate, which by no means indicates that liberals, “…lose so goddamn always…”. Later, Sorkin writes that America is not the only country with freedom and lists countries proving this statement among which are Germany and the UK, “… we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom; the UK, France, Italy, Germany…” I agree, the U.S is not the only country that condones freedom, but this statement should be proven using legitimate facts. In only 2005 Brian Haw was arrested in the U.K for staging a solo, long-term protest against government policy regarding Iraq. Furthermore, German law condemns Holocaust Denial; last I checked, U.S law doesn’t permit the arrest of Neo-Nazis. These arguments may be valid, but just not using these facts.

McAvoy’s tirade culminates in the listing of US world rankings, mostly according the the CIA World Fact Book. One statistic he uses, “… a hundred and seventy eighth in infant mortality”, is simply wrong. The Fact Book ranks infant mortality backwards. The country with the worst mortality rate, Afghanistan, is first. The U.S, ranked 174th, actually has the 48th best infant mortality rate. Next, the issue of United States defense spending surfaces. Yes, the U.S has the largest defense budget in the world, however, Sorkin neglected to mention that the U.S defense spending is only five percent of the U.S annual budget. Can you really blame the U.S for their defense budget, especially taking into account 9/11, the Times Square Bombing, and various other terror attacks?

Lastly, McAvoy criticizes my generation by calling it the “…worst, period, generation, period, ever, period…”. And, just as there is, “absolutely no evidence to support the statement that the America is the greatest country in the world”, there is also no evidence supporting the statement that this generation is the worst ever. In fact, I might argue that the two generations preceding us, were the “worst, period, generations, period, ever, period”. They prioritized economy before environment, leading to a slew of consequences ranging from global warming to plastic pollution, they landed America in the largest debt ever seen, they were responsible, not only for the World War II, but also the Arab-Israeli and South East Asian Conflicts, they left this generation an overwhelming mess to clean up, and now have the audacity to call us the, “worst, period, generation, period, ever, period”.

I’m not agreeing that America is the greatest country in the world, however, I do believe that any argument, should be grounded in fact, especially one made on a program that preaches fact based reporting.


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