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At a time when the world seems to be spinning into an abyss in terms of health and economic downgrades, it is essential for all good people to come together and envision a better future for the next generation and the world itself

There is a wonderful Patek Philippe watch advertisement which talks about the fact that we never truly own the watch, you just preserve it for the next generation. We humans have something much more precious than a watch, the Planet Earth. And we sadly seem to be doing everything possible to destroy it. If we continue to pay no heed to sustainability, our grandchildren will inherit a planet that is practically unlivable.

One stark data point that underlines this disaster is the fact that from the pre-industrialization era to now, global warming has seen average temperatures on the planet rise by over a degree Celsius and if we don’t pay heed, we may reach an awful 2° C level or two degrees warming by 2050. Al Gore in his “An Inconvenient Truth” video had demonstrated the perils of this level of warming all too graphically. What can we do about our constant green house gas emissions, carbon footprint enlargement and uncaring dumping of plastics in the ocean and methane in the atmosphere and what steps can be taken to save our planet?

Speaking at the “Sustainability in Asia” panel at the recent Global Summit of the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network in Singapore (held virtually of course with global speakers and participants!), I mentioned the very far-sighted article written by Isaac Asimov in 1941 where he spoke of Space Solar Panels that would be used to concentrate solar energy and send it to earth providing a real alternative source of non-polluting energy for the planet. And what a great source that could be with the sun expected to radiate energy for at least the next five billion years! Geo-thermal, Wind, Ocean and other renewable forms of energy have all joined the consideration set in the last decade and more and should be pursued with more collaborative vigor.

Many other initiatives can also be adopted to further the cause of sustainability. Decarbonizing power and fuel, carbon capture and sequestration, industry adaptation of technologies and processes to eliminate or substantially reduce methane emissions and halting deforestation are imperatives. Having grown up in the Chota Nagpur Plateau of Jharkhand where temperatures in Ranch would rarely cross the mid-thirties in the sixties and seventies and seeing it now with the mercury soaring to early forties in summer, one can appreciate the cost of a landmass equal to one Greece being deforested every year and the number of bald patches that show up every time one sees a video of the Amazon forests these days.

“It is essential for all good people to come together and envision a better future for the next generation”

Speaking on the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) panel, Esther An, the Chief Sustainability Officer of CDL Singapore spoke about the amazing work this major building corporation is doing by developing green building projects and educating residents about low carbon ways of living and working. And Rob Kaplan, Founder and CEO of Circulate Capital presented innovative ideas they are funding for the removal of ocean waste, something that even Amruta Fadnavis, wife of the former Maharashtra CM and movie personality, Juhi Chawla have been pursuing with passion and commitment. Corporate and investor commitment to these causes will go a long way in working with Governments for the cause of climate change and sustainability and need to become mainstream models of collaboration in the years to come.

The one good outcome of the prolonged lockdown and never- ending opportunities to stare at screens rather than colleagues has been the ability to share knowledge at a pace never imagined before. For nine weeks, I have been averaging ten sessions per week where I speak or moderate and another half a dozen sessions where I show up to sip at the fountain of knowledge on new topics. In this process, not only has the width and depth of knowledge been expanded, I have personally had the opportunity to delve into areas where I would never have ventured into because the ability to shut off a screen after a few minutes if the topic or speaker drags. Many of us who are doing this are truly living out the promise Yuval Noah Harari extracted in his book ‘Homo Deus’ that every human must consciously acquire new knowledge and skills every dozen years or so because no career would remain constant given the huge sweep of automation and AI.

The joy of AVPN is that it enables philanthropists from all parts of the world to experience this width and depth to whatever extent they choose. Converting adversity into opportunity, AVPN Chair Naina Batra and her global team got over seven thousand delegates to their virtual summit, with superb sessions curated with care across five days. At Social Venture Partners India, we managed to do a similar engagement with our partners, NGOs, corporate supporters and philanthropists, engaging the best in Zoom conversations with thought leaders over a nine-week period and providing rich food for thought for intelligent people in our network.

At a time when the world seems to be spinning into an abyss in terms of health and economic downgrades, it is essential for all good people to come together and envision a better future – for the next generation and the world itself. Vision with Action at this critical juncture can truly change the world!