An Engineering Student is Doing All He Can …
Nov 28, 2009
School of Engineering, Amritapuri
“Green grass, blue skies … mountains, valleys on our sweet planet earth …,” goes the hauntingly beautiful song that begins Linkesh’s presentation. Linkesh is speaking at the opening ceremony of the ACM-ICPC Asia Regionals at Amritapuri. Attended by the best students from across Asia, this year’s contest was the Green ICPC.
Final year B Tech student of mechanical engineering, Linkesh Diwan was asked to make a presentation, in his capacity as a youth delegate to the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in early December.
Linkesh began his talk by crediting his sister with the song. “She loved this earth,” he said, very simply. From that poignant beginning, he went on to a narrative about the history of the conference and the conditions that made it so important. “Everything and everyone on this Mother Earth depends upon and serves the next,” he emphasized. “There is no product that cannot be used by some form of life.”
Linkesh explained the role of the ocean gyres, giant swirling areas where several currents meet. “These are the digestive systems of the earth, where all matter that is washed off the continents is digested and broken down into micronutrients. These form the feeding ground of the first critical links in the food chain on which all of the rest of life depends.”
Then Linkesh’s tone got more serious. “I want to show you just one of our human products that is of no use to other life forms.” He pulled out a discarded plastic wrapper as the presentation on the screen showed a continent-sized vortex of swirling plastic garbage being washed into the ocean from all the continents, yet remaining virtually invisible to those who produced that garbage.
“Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” read the title on the slide. “The Pacific Gyre is twice as large as the continental USA, and growing,” Linkesh explained. “Plastic is estimated to last about 500 years. And look at this wrapper. What else can it be used for?” The presentation switched to the first demand Linkesh’s youth delegation is taking to the United Nations — a moratorium on the production and disposal of plastic.
After explaining several other demands, including an immediate halt to deforestation and initiation of re-forestation, a moratorium on air pollution one day a week and development based on necessity and ecology, not greed and profit, Linkesh focused on education. “Only education can enable us to live with the consequences of the past and teach us how to avoid similar crises in the future,” he noted.
“The root of this crisis is really an ethical crisis. We need to face this problem united, as youth. We are responsible. Our actions have been part of the problem. Let us learn to make our actions part of the solution. Our education system must teach us how to clean up, how to take responsibility for our actions, and how to care for and revere Mother Earth and each other.”
Linkesh invited the young and brilliant engineers from all over Asia to join in searching for answers to some hard questions. “How can we make picking up trash cool? How can we make ethics cool? Would a science guided by ethics ever invent the atom bomb and endosulphan?” He asked them to take immediate action by joining millions world-wide in signing the United National Seal the Deal petition.*
And the response to his presentation? Afterwards, during the tea break and in the canteen, contestants were looking at their plastic cups through new eyes and discussing what they might do about the problem, suggesting that the seeds Linkesh planted may indeed bear some fruit soon. So that posterity may continue to enjoy the “green grass, blue skies … mountains, valleys on our sweet planet earth …”
* The petition is from the people of the world urging their political leaders to establish a climate agreement in Copenhagen that is “definitive, equitable and effective,” setting binding targets to cut greenhouse gases by 2020.