Saving Earth, One Tale at a Time

Saving Earth, One Tale at a Time

National Geographic and Artistes’ collective Kommune bring together stories that champion sustainable living in different corners of the country

Living Room event , national geographic, kommune, indian express talk
Roshan Abbas (extreme left), with the storytellers Tess Joseph, Divya Ravichandran, Kriti Tula, Pooja Arun Kumar, Ditty and Sankalp Sharma (Express Photo by Manoj)

By Tanushree Ghosh

When Roshan Abbas moved to Dubai about 15 years ago, his son looked out of the apartment window and asked for the sound of chirping birds his Mumbai home offered. The TV, radio, and theatre personality rounded off his anecdote with Javed Akhtar’s verse: Udhti imaaraton se mera ghar bhi dhak gaya, kuchh log mere hisse ka suraj bhi kha gaye, at the recent Living Room event at Farzi Cafe, Gurugram, curated by National Geographic and the Mumbai-based artistes’collective, Kommune. Founded in 2015, by Abbas, VJ-turned-anchor Gaurav Kapoor and indie musician Ankur Tewari, Kommune is a digital platform for live/performative storytelling.

The evening saw young changemakers tell their stories. Architect Ditty (Aditi Veena), who works with mud, sang songs. Kommune director Tess Joseph, aka Khaleesi, who’s also the casting director for The Namesake, Lion, Life of Pi, and Aladdin, and the India producer of Girl Rising, narrated how on a film shoot, in a village in a Naxal area on the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border, she saw dried vegetables being turned into utensils, and names of trees taught through songs, and how they felt poor despite pockets full of money when Adivasi children bartered local produce for ice-lollies.

Bengaluru-based Sankalp Sharma’s friends’ snide remarks, “throw something else at him, not water, our hero is trying to conserve that”, couldn’t deter his crusade — with NGOs Climate Reality and Walk for Water — to make water accessible, so that “women don’t have to walk the length of the equator”. Last year, Sharma, 17, was part of the Obama Foundation Town Hall in Delhi, and represented India at the UN Youth Assembly Conference.

A Doodlage design, made from upcycled fabric

The Environmental Performance Index 2018 finds India to be the fourth worst among 180 countries at handling environmental issues. “We have been working towards providing a platform for local stories around Earth Day. Our partnership with Kommune invited various changemakers to speak about their experiences,” says Swati Mohan, business head, National Geographic and Fox Networks Group India.

Mumbai-based Divya Ravichandran used slam poetry to say how she couldn’t breathe with the constructions around, and after the Deonar landfill caught fire. This drove her to segregate and compost trash at home, and start Skrap in 2017. “Last year, the NH7 Weekender, with over 40,000 people, was held at Meghalaya and Pune,” says Ravichandran, 32, “The former was in the hills, with no recycling centre, composting facility, or waste pickers. We had to work with the locals two days prior and sensitise them on waste segregation. While in Pune, we turned flex banners into polyfuel. About seven tonnes of trash was collected and we saved 80 per cent of it from going to the landfills.”

Textile is one industry that disgorges waste by the dozen. Delhi designer Kriti Tula, 29, of the eco fashion label Doodlage, says, “We’re a $3 trillion global industry, from two fashion cycles – Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter we’re now producing 50 cycles under fast fashion. What the fashion brands won’t talk about is where is all of this going?” Sporting a shirt upcycled from scraps, Tula says, “We make fashionable clothes out of industrial scrap. Among 1.5 lakh units produced daily, at manufacturing hubs, export houses, around 2,000 pieces are rejects.”

The stories encouraged the audience to chip in too. A 40-something Gurugram-resident Pooja Arun Kumar, through her Facebook page Recycle E-waste Responsibly, strove to convince eight RWAs and authorised electronic-waste collectors Earth Sense Recycle Pvt. Ltd to work together. In their first year in 2014, they collected around 500 kg of e-waste. The latest Assocham Council on Climate Change and Environment findings estimate that NCR might generate 1,50,000 metric tonnes of e-waste per annum by 2020. Abbas says, “A small step can go a long way.”