Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My encounter with Rajendra Pachauri

Today was special. I attended the International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific and was very surprised to find Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri as keynote speaker at the first plenary session on Green Economy for Sustainable Development. 

The surprise went exponential when I read a separate leaflet from the official program inviting to an interactive session which was a close dialogue with Dr. Pachauri. I thought the room would be packed but easily made my way to the front row in a room that seated 50 but was not even half full. 

After a few questions from young researchers of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), the floor was open to the public and I raised my hand. I told Dr. Pachauri how he gave me the ethical motivation to become vegetarian four years ago. I also made my case about sustainability: human behavior is binary in its consequences on nature, meaning that it can either degrade or regenerate the environment. No human action has zero impact. Which means that, if we want to aspire for sustainability after all the environmental degradation that has occurred for centuries, we should be shifting the paradigm towards more intentional ecosystemic regeneration. In that way, someday we will achieve the hailed sustainability that we preach. Otherwise, trying to simply reduce our negative impact will never really succeed at it. 

His response was on the unofficial side. He joked about me not telling journalists that I became a vegetarian following his advice, which was given in 2008 under a great deal of controversy (suggesting humans could mitigate our carbon emissions significantly by going vegetarian). He then explained how he went from being a meat-eater to a fish-and-seafood eater, and for a while now has been full vegetarian. Unfortunately, he did not refer to the other more technical question. 

Dr. Pachauri is the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most important scientific institution researching the conflict, being the main source of information for energy and environment policymakers worldwide. He and his institute shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007 "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change," according to the Nobel Prize Committee in Oslo. 

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