Mr. Anantha(m): Well I've been a vegetarian all my life. I love vegetarian food. And I see no reason why the world can't be vegetarian. And I also see quite clearly that if the world were to be vegetarian, it would do the planet a lot of good.
HOST: Welcome, sensitive viewers, to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Greenpeace International, a global organization dedicated to protecting the air, water, and sky has offices in over 40 countries spanning Europe, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas.
The group's primary goals are to halt climate change, safeguard our oceans and forests, rid the world of toxic chemicals and stop the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture.
This week we'll travel to Bangalore, India to meet the charismatic, vegetarian Guruswamy Ananthapadmanabhan, or Ananth for short, who since 2008 has been program director for Greenpeace International. Mr. Ananth is an electrical engineer by training, and also founder and former executive director of Greenpeace India.
Mr. Anantha(m): It's my responsibility to make sure that all the offices of Greenpeace across the world work together in a strategically coordinated manner to achieve the best results for the environment, for the goals we set out. So that's broadly my job.
HOST: Our Supreme Master Television correspondent spoke with Mr. Ananth about Greenpeace International's activities, including its work in India. We'll begin by learning about some of the notable achievements of this caring organization.
Mr. Anantha(m): You know, Most refrigerators in the world, at one time, used to have ozone-depleting substances in them. Today, all of them are ozone-free. Several, companies today also make refrigerators that are ozone- friendly, but not climate-friendly. They've replaced the CFC's (chlorofluorocarbons) with HFC's (hydrochlorofluorocarbons).
Twenty years ago Greenpeace developed something called "Green Freeze," a refrigerant that is both climate and ozone-friendly. And we're very happy to say that today, except for one or two companies, most of the companies in the world produce Green Freeze.
That's one of the big changes that we've made. The Antarctic protected area, that's a contribution that came from Greenpeace. Stopping ocean dumping basically, that's another big thing that Greenpeace did.
In the last three years, there's been a moratorium on expansion of soya cultivation in the Amazon, again something that Greenpeace did. We got a declaration that palm oil from unsustainable sources would not be bought by the big companies, again a contribution of Greenpeace.
Here in India we basically have brought in several (pieces of) legislations to deal with toxic wastes. Our aim in India here, top aim, would be the government moves away from coal as the backbone of the energy economy.
Supreme Master TV(f): Please tell us about your “Save Our Sea” project.
Mr. Anantha(m): Outside of climate change, the biggest threat that is facing our planet is the destruction of our seas. The seas are being destroyed at an amazing rate, including by climate change, but also by fishing, by industrial fishing, by dumping effluence. The sea is on the verge of collapse.
All experts will tell you that. If you had an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on the oceans, which unfortunately we don't have, maybe we should, then we would hear quite clearly that the oceans are on the brink of a catastrophe. So what we would like is 40% of the world's oceans to be declared marine-protected areas. The real big problem with the oceans is that they're commons.
Most of them don't have any governance associated with them. They belong to nobody. Do you know what happens to something that belongs to nobody? Everybody feels the right to plunder it, which is really what's happening to our oceans. So our big challenge is to get 40% of the world's oceans declared marine-protected areas, and then subsequently, to make sure that they're policed, that there's actually a goverancet system that takes care of the oceans. That's what we really need to do.
HOST: Given the fact that the survival of humankind is at stake, it's no surprise that mitigating climate change is at the top of Greenpeace International's agenda. In India, the annual monsoon or rainy season is critical to sustaining the nation's water supply. A recent University of Liverpool, UK study found that India's monsoon patterns are fundamentally changing due to global warming, resulting in increasingly severe droughts and flooding in certain parts of the country.
Mr. Anantha(m): The simple fact is a very large number of Indians still depend upon nature for their survival. In the end, all our farmers depend upon nature, because they only grow the food; it's nature that actually produces it. They cannot do without water, they cannot do without soil. And in India, agriculture, which is the backbone of the economy, which is the basis for most livelihoods, depends critically on the monsoon.
And the monsoon is a very capricious creature, I mean it's a very delicate system. It's part of the climate system; it's part of the system that keeps the globe going. See, (if) you disturb the monsoon, you'll have catastrophe in India. That's what climate change threatens to do.
Now if you disturb the monsoon but you did not have people depending on rainfall for their agriculture, for their livelihood, that's okay. Then the monsoon coming two weeks afterwards or two weeks before or one year having more rain, another having less rain, more than likely we can live with that, but not in India. So many people depend on agriculture, so many people depend on farming for their livelihood, makes India extremely vulnerable to climate change.
And, and we're not talking about hundreds of people or thousands of people; we're literally talking about millions of people becoming vulnerable. So this is the sort of human tragedy that we are sitting on top of.
HOST: Mr. Ananth is well aware of how the planet is being tremendously harmed by meat consumption.
Mr. Anantha(m): If you were to destroy forests, grow soya on it, then breed cattle in a ranch, and slaughter the cattle and transport that slaughtered meat across the world, and sell it to McDonald's, that's a question of an ecological footprint. I think it's a very, very good idea for us to reduce our meat production.
Supreme Master TV(f): What do you think about adding a tax to meat?
Mr. Anantha(m): I think we should be taxing all the destructive products. We should be taxing petrol much more. We should be taxing meat much more. We should be taxing electricity that comes from coal, from non-renewal sources much more.
We should be taxing nuclear power much more. And yes, and we should be taxing cars much more. Let's be straight. There are number of ecologically destructive factors. And the simple fact is that most ecological cost is not part of what we pay. It's unfortunately external to it, it's as if the Earth pays the cost but we don't pay it, it doesn't pinch my purse. So, sure, in that respect I think it's a good idea to tax meat, but anything that has an ecological consequence must be taxed. We must pay the price of what we consume.
HOST: Genetically modified organisms or GMOs are living systems that have genes from other organisms inserted into their genomes through genetic engineering. Many stakeholders, including Greenpeace International, have sounded the alarm about the use of GMOs in agriculture because the consequences to the environment are largely unknown.
In India, where genetically modified cotton has been grown since the early 2000s, some farmers have complained of experiencing rashes due to contact with genetically modified cotton plants during the harvest season.
Mr. Anantha(m): We know that genetically engineered food crops are being considered in India. First there's the eggplant, which is currently under the approval process. There is also genetically modified rice that is a couple of years away.
Mr. Anantha(m): I think, first, it's wrong to play God. But of course, somebody pointed out all of science is a little bit like that. We appreciate that, we are not anti-science. But in agriculture, the playing of God goes one step further, because you're releasing those organisms into the environment.
They're not in a laboratory; they're going to the environment. They interact with other species. They interact with the ecosystem. So there are potentially irreversible effects. There're also health effects from consuming genetically modified crops. We don't need it. There's enough organic techniques and technologies available to produce food to feed the world.
HOST: Organic agriculture is kind to the Earth and does not rely on hazardous chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, which diminish the soil's richness and also injure local flora and fauna.
In addition, these toxic substances make their way into waterways, contaminating drinking water, and eventually enter the oceans to create massive “dead zones” where all the oxygen is depleted and thus virtually no marine life exists.
Mr. Anantha(m): The solution of course is sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture in the form, which sustains the land, the livelihoods that depends on it. Millions, literally hundreds of millions of people depend on agriculture for their daily living.
So an agricultural system that takes care of the land, takes care of the people, does not use chemicals, and is therefore good for the consumers, that's sustainable agriculture. There are of course a number of barriers to it. For example, one of the big barriers in India would be the government has a huge fertilizer subsidy. So almost 1/10 of the government expenditure goes into subsidizing fertilizers. Now if that money were taken and put into organic agriculture, we would have to see change. So this is the kind of thing that Greenpeace would campaign on. So that's what we will do for sustainable agriculture.
HOST: We close with some final thoughts from Mr. Ananth on what we can all do to save our Earth.
Mr. Anantha(m): It's time for urgent action, and action is at two levels as individual citizens, I should say, as consumers you can use the power of your purse to make decisions that are good for the planet. You all know what they are, they're fairly easy; buy energy efficient products, drive less, take public transportation, eat less meat, fly less, etc.
But most importantly don't just restrict yourself to the part of your purse; you also have your voice. It's the power of your purse combined with your voice raised in demand for the right things that'll actually bring change.
Mr. Anantha(m): We have to act together. And when I said together, I mean across countries, across societies, across genders, across all the various barriers that we have. It's simply quite obvious that we only have one planet and we've got to take care of it.
HOST: Our appreciation Guruswamy Ananthapadmanabhan and Greenpeace International for your diligent efforts to address some of the most vital environmental issues of our day. May you continue your spirited defense of our Earth for many years to come and beyond.
For more details on Greenpeace International, please visit www.Greenpeace.org