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Earth Day: Are we doing enough for Mother Earth?

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Earth

 

By Harshmeet Singh

Albeit most people in the developing world came to know about the ‘Earth Day’ just a few years back, it goes back to 1970 in the US when it was first proposed by Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator. Observed all around the world now, this annual event witnesses several programs aimed at raising awareness about the ill effects of pollution on our planet’s environment. The events range from International multilateral meetings and outdoor activities to fun quizzes and pledge taking ceremonies.

Earth Day aims at diverting the attention of the common public towards grave environmental issues such as depleting fossils, rising temperatures and pollution, so that they can force their national leaders to take note of the problem. Till date, numerous conferences have been held to chalk out a definite plan regarding reduction in carbon footprints at a nationwide level (since carbon emission has one of the most detrimental impacts on the environment). But with no nation willing to let go off an inch, a final and concrete consensus is still far from reality.

Much like other international agreements, the consultations on agreement regarding green house gas emission have divided the countries into two groups, viz. Developed and Developing Nations. While the developed nations have been calling the shots in most international agreements, the developing nations have, in unison, taken a strong stand against them on this particular issue.

Collective but differentiated responsibility                                               

While every nation agrees to the need for reduction in green house gas emission, there is disagreement on the individual responsibilities of the nations. The common perception is that since the developed nations such as the USA and UK have been emitting such gases for several decades, they had the biggest hand in bringing about global warming, while the developed nations, such as India and Brazil, have just kicked off their emissions recently. Therefore, the ‘reduction target’ for each nation can’t be the same.

This has created two different sects of nations, with the developed ones vouching for an equal responsibility whereas the developing ones supporting ‘differentiated’ responsibility. Agreeing to the demands of the Developing world, the Kyoto protocol fixes separate responsibilities for the countries to cut their green house gas emission.

Kyoto Protocol

After the Earth Day went global in 1990, there was a surge among the countries to lead the battle against green house gas emission which led to the formation of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. It was during the third meeting of the UNFCCC that Kyoto protocol came into existence. Signed in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol required the developed nations to cut down their emission of green house gases by nearly 5.2% by the year 2012.

According to the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in 2005, the developed nations were handed out a compulsory binding target for the reduction in emission (for instance, 7% for USA). Additionally, these countries were also required to provide technology and financial support to the developing nations to help them cut down on their emission. The developing countries, on the other hand, had no binding targets for emission cut, but were just ‘encouraged’ to follow suit.

This protocol gives specific ‘carbon emission’ units to the countries as their annual quota for emission, known as ‘Kyoto units’. 1 unit is equivalent to 1 ton of carbon dioxide. If a country exceeds its Kyoto unit emission, it can compensate for it by buying units from other countries, which may have some unused units left from their quota. This is known as ‘Carbon trading’. Another method to compensate for overshooting the quota is to finance a clean energy project (say solar power project) in another country which may result in reduction of green house gas emission in that country, equivalent to the overshot units.

USA not a part of the Kyoto protocol 

The USA refused to ratify the protocol, citing that it would have a negative impact on its economy. The US that it would put its industries in a disadvantage against China and India (which have no emission cut targets due to ‘developing’ nations tag) and termed the protocol as ‘flawed’. Significantly, even if the US President personally favours the protocol, the powerful Industrialist lobby in the US would ensure that the protocol is never ratified.

Additionally, with China currently being the largest annual emitter of green house gases, the US won’t want China to get a free hand at running its industries while the US strives to adhere to the mandatory cuts.

Canada quits

Canada became the first country to back out from the protocol in 2011, quoting that since the two biggest emitters (USA and China) aren’t covered by the treaty, it won’t be effective. While the USA refused to ratify the agreement, China, being a developing nation, has no legal obligation to cut its emissions.

Copenhagen Accord

The UNFCCC met at Copenhagen in 2009, where the US, India, China and other nations ‘voluntarily’ pledged to reduce their emission in the coming years. With no legal obligation attached to this accord, it gave the countries some breathing space to think about their next move while giving them the luxury of saying that they have already pledged to bring about the change.

During this meeting, the countries also decided to launch a Green Climate Fund (GCF). Scheduled to start operating from 2013, this fund was supposed to be financed by the developed countries with $100 billion by 2020. The money in this fund would be used to frame policies, support programs and other activities related to climate change in the developing nations (which also include India and China!) But with an increasing number of nations opting out of the Kyoto protocol’s extension and no clarity on the fund contribution from the nations, the GCF is turning out to be a failure.

India’s stand

India is a firm supporter of the Kyoto protocol and its principle of ‘collective but differentiated responsibility’. While India isn’t shying away from any legally binding agreement, it doesn’t want the developed nations to dictate the terms and favour their industries at the cost of life on earth.

Our increasing efforts to turn towards solar and wind energy are testimony to the fact that we are committed towards reducing our carbon footprints. Due to our large population, the per capita carbon foot print for India is much lower than the developed nations. Furthermore, we have pledged to reduce our ‘emission intensity of GDP’ by close to 25% by the year 2020.

India has also pointed out towards USA’s reluctance in transferring ‘clean technology’ to the developed countries, as mentioned in the Kyoto protocol. But it seems that compelling USA isn’t an easy task even for a world body.

Would Earth Day help?

A number of nations have backtracked from their commitments of emission cut over the years. Japan, for instance, ended up increasing its emission by 3% (compared to the 1990 level), when it pledged to reduce its emission by 25% as compared to the 1990 levels. The other developed countries are also shying away from taking any concrete steps apart from preaching India and China on their carbon emissions. The recent US China agreement on carbon emission reduction is a welcome change. While the US pledged to cut its emissions by 26-28% (compared to 2005 levels) by the year 2025, China agreed to enhance its energy usage from ‘no emission sources’ by close to 20% by the year 2030 or earlier.

Observing Earth Day annually is a surely a welcome step. But individual efforts would find it hard to bring a major change unless the countries collectively decide to provide relief to the Mother Earth with some strong will.

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Canada Faces Sharpest Downturn in GDP Since 2009

Canadian economy sees worst quarterly performance since 2009

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Canada witnesses worst quarterly performance since 2009 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Pixabay

Canada’s national statistical agency said that the country’s economy saw the worst quarterly performance since 2009 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics Canada said on Friday that it came as the GDP suffered a big drop in March as restrictions against the spread of COVID-19 began rolling out during the month, reports Xinhua news agency.

The downturn in GDP, the sharpest since the first quarter of 2009, reflects measures rolled out in March to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, such as closures of school and non-essential businesses, border shutdowns and travel restrictions, as well as events earlier in the quarter, mainly the Ontario teachers’ strike and rail blockades in February.

The country’s GDP fell 7.2 per cent in March from February, the most severe month-on-month fall, while annualized growth for the first quarter decreased by 8.2 per cent, the largest since the depths of the Great Recession.

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The country’s GDP fell 7.2 per cent in March from February, the most severe month-on-month fall. Pixabay

Household spending was reduced by 2.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the steepest quarterly drop ever recorded.

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Spending reductions were influenced by substantial job losses, income uncertainty and limited opportunities to spend because of the mandatory closure of non-essential retail stores, restaurants and services, and restrictions on travel and tourism activities.

Real GDP plummeted by a record 11 per cent in April from March as most sections of the economy were shut down to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The March and April falls are likely to be the largest consecutive monthly declines on record, said the country’s statistics agency. (IANS)

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Back to the Soil With Organic Farming

Here's the story of various people who have returned back to their soil, organically

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Many professionals have returned back to their soil. PIxabay

By Sukant Deepak

A banker from Canada, a resort director, a top executive in a leading IT company and a senior corporate communications professional with a major hospital chain. Defying all stereotypes and preconceived notions of farmhands, an increasing number of highly qualified professionals from both genders are quitting their lucrative professions and getting back to the soil in Punjab full-time,making responsible farming their way of life.

Using social media including WhatsApp to spread the word, participating in pop-up organic farmers’ markets across the region and organising day-long farm tours, these new-age farmers, compost kit makers and teachers are ascertaining that those wanting pesticide-free food grains don’t have to look too hard.

Rahul Sharma’s wife would always laugh when on a typical IT sprint meeting call, he would be discussing his project at Flipkart, and a few hours later, talking about manure collection with a farmer.

This organic farmer who now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time, insists that the ongoing lockdown has made people aware about the importance of growing their own food, and that too pesticide-free. “But yes, if the government is serious about providing nutritional security, then it must ascertain economic benefits to farmers so they can go in for sustainable agriculture,” he stresses.

For someone who started doing organic farming in 2016, the thrill that comes with growing safe food for others is unparalled.”The fact that there is a patch of land which is now free of poison, where life thrives, and that I am contributing towards healthy soil.”

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Rahul Sharma now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time. Pixabay

Not regretting his switch from a corporate IT job, which never allowed him to pursue his passions like photography, Sharma has now decided to streamline production and ordering process. “I have now a set rotation of crops which provide nutrition to the soil, as well as work well in the consumer market. I am also working on an online platform to make it easier for my consumers to order grains and be in touch with me,” he adds. He also lectures and interacts with school and college students at his farm about the importance of sustainable agriculture/lifestyle.

Shivraj Bhullar, who has a four-acre farm in Manimajra and grows a variety of seasonal vegetables, leafy greens and fruits left his cushy banker job in Canada to start organic farming on his piece of land in 2014 post volunteering at different farms across India to learn the ropes. “The organic farming convention that was held in the region in 2015 brought a lot of people together. Since then, the movement has been growing with greater awareness amongst consumers in this part of the country,” he says. For someone who has always been interested in Yoga and nutrition, one of the major factors that keeps him excited is the community around the organic farming movement in Punjab. “Farmers go out of their way to help each other out. It’s been a humbling and continuous learning experience for me,” he adds.

Planning to take his farm to the next level by installing a drip irrigation system and rain water harvesting for water conservation, Bhullar is all set to buy more animals so as to decrease his dependence on outside sources for manure.

Coordinator of the Chandigarh Farmers’ Market, Seema Jolly, who owns a five-acre farm in village Karoran in Punjab and grows vegetables,fruit, grains, oilseeds and pulses wants her farm to be a school for organic/natural farming, yoga and Ayurveda in the near future. One of the directors of the Baikunth Resorts Pvt Ltd, Jolly started organic farming in 2011 and there has been no looking back since then. “There is a certain joy in knowing that what you supply is not harming the consumer in any way,” she says. Instrumental in organising trips for school children to different farmers across Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, Jolly also helps small organic farmers with logistics and selling their produce. “The organic farmers market initiative, in July 2015 was a landmark in bringing relief to the marketing problems of organic farmers and encouraging more farmers to turn organic. Frankly, what is needed is small markets like these in all districts. It may take time, but people are bound to tilt towards organic if there is easy availability.”

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There are many people who own farms including Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms. Pixabay

Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms — one if Ropar and another in Fathegrah Sahib, the latter being part of permaculture food forest in ‘Sanjhi Mitti Food Forest Community’, has been involved in organic farmer for more than 10 years now. Talking about the roadblocks when it comes to shifting to organic, he feels, that the government’s policy of 100 per cent wheat paddy procurement has to change. “Farmers, who used to be entrepreneurs and solutions finders are now behaving like robots.Nothing is going to change unless policy makers get out of whole process.”

Besides holding regular workshops on permaculture which is attended by people from around the country, Dhaliwal, who is working on a forest therapy centre, adds, ” Our Eco library at the farm where anyone can read or borrow books on related subjects is quite a hit with both children and adults.”

Chandigarh-based Jyoti Arora, who supplies odour-free composters in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh to houses, hotels, institutions, municipalities, and engages with Swachh Bharat teams of different municipalities, says, “I also do a lot of lecture demonstrations to sensitise people and encourage people to go green. In fact, my farming is a by product of the compost generated from my domestic waste in which the produce comes solely out of the compost.”

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Everything changed for Diksha Suri, a former corporate communications head with a major hospital chain when she spent time at Auroville in 2004. “Being there and learning from experts started a journey of a more conscious approach towards the living greens and browns. I attended formal workshops and started experimenting an organic way of living,” says Suri, who, along with a friend set up Chandigarh’s first Nature Club in 2012.

From organising organic farm visits, forest walks and fossil sites for children and their parents, Suri says that she has been able to make hundreds of children conscious about what they eat. “A lot of them are now at ease with composting, growing vegetables, identifying birds, and more than anything, being in sync with nature. We now regularly hold talks and workshops on organic farming, composting, waste management, across schools, colleges and corporate offices in the region.”

Chandigarh-based Rishi Miranshah, who has made the nine-part docu-series ‘The Story of Food – A No Fresh Carbon Footprint’ which is available to watch online on Films for Action website and YouTube says, “Considering what chemicals have been doing to our food and the need to switch to organic, it was important for me to make this documentary which is an investigation, tracing the trail of devastations bringing us to the point where we are today. Food being the thread that connects us to life; and the way we obtain our food being that connects us to a way of life, the movie begins by examining our agri-culture, our very relationship with the land.” (IANS)

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Facebook Unveils New Features For Users in US, Canada To Transfer Images Directly To Google Photos

The Data Transfer Project (DTP) is an open-source initiative to create new tools that "enable people to freely move their information across the web"

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The feature is part of Data Transfer Project signed last year by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to simplify data transfers between their platforms. VOA

Facebook has introduced a new feature for its users in the US and Canada to transfer their images and videos directly to Google Photos.

The feature is part of Data Transfer Project signed last year by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to simplify data transfers between their platforms, following the introduction of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the European Union (EU) in May.

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To access the tool, users need to go to the Facebook settings in Facebook Information.
On the desktop log into your Facebook account and tap on the arrow on the upper right corner to access your settings.

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Facebook has introduced a new feature for its users in the US and Canada to transfer their images and videos directly to Google Photos. Pixabay

Then tap on the ‘Your Facebook Information’ menu on the left and select ‘Transfer a Copy of Your Photos or Videos.’ Among the destinations, Google Photos is currently the only option Now log into your Google account and confirm the transfer.

“The process on mobile is very similar: tap on the hamburger menu, go to Settings, and then scroll down to the ‘Your Facebook Information’ section. Tap on ‘Transfer a Copy of Your Photos of Videos’ and then follow the rest of the steps,” reports Engadget.

ALSO READ: Global Smartphone Market Witnesses Substantial Decline Due To Coronavirus Pandemic

The Data Transfer Project (DTP) is an open-source initiative to create new tools that “enable people to freely move their information across the web.” (IANS)