Thursday, April 30, 2009

A lesson in environmental law

Frontline, a documentary series that discusses current affairs, recently did a brilliant documentary called Poisoned Waters (you can see it in full here), which outlines the U.S's long and difficult fight against pollution. It outlines what pushed the Clean Water Act (a landmark anti-pollution act) that forced polluters to become more responsible, the establishment of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency - essentially our pollution control board), and much more.

If you want a history of environmental law in the United States, then DEFINITELY watch it.

But probably most importantly, people from the developing world NEED to watch it too, because this tough regulation on polluters in the US is what started the push to outsource these pollutants and polluting industries onto emerging and third world economies. Also, the developing world has the chance to step up and not make the mistakes, we in the first world have already made.

I think that's the key. Developing and emerging economies are at a point of bypassing, surpassing, and innovating beyond the first world to be EVEN better. Rather than complain about what they don't have, they should take the chance to challenge themselves to learn from our mistakes and do it even better.

Here is a sneak peek:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blog Spotlight: Unemployability

With unemployment on the rise around the world, this is probably soon going to be the most subscribed blog (or atleast it will speak to a lot of people). Its funny, pretty interesting, and very appropriate for this time. And makes light of an otherwise depressing situation.

Here's a sample post:

Yesterday in New York, around 40 laid off professionals competed in the Unemployment Olympics.

A Fax Machine Toss, Race Towards Unemployment and Pin the Blame on the Boss were just a few of the featured events.

The jobless got a chance - not just to get off the couch and out of the house for the first time since they were let go - but to meet their local, equally underemployed counterparts and potentially network.

They also got to put their frustration to good use, channeling their rage into athletic prowess (or something resembling it).

Victorious Olympians won gift certificates from local bars and restaurants, who sponsored the event.

Between Laid Off Camp and yesterday’s festivities, joblessness has never been so much fun! These days, it’s called Funemployment for a reason.

News of the event reminded me of the original Games for the unemployed, the Hipster Olympics:

[hat tip Bob Sutton]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Roz Savage proves that age has no limits

One of the amazing things about my life at the moment is that my work allows me (almost requires me) to meet some of the best, most inspiring people in the world. This will continue probably until the end of the year, when my contract ends. But while it lasts, I will enjoy every bit of this.

I came across Roz Savage in the same way. Roz is a slight, 40-something woman, from the UK who once lived the perfect life - an Oxford graduate, complete with high-flying corporate consulting job, perfect house, handsome husband, perfect car, and a dog - to today being absolutely penniless and homeless, living on a 23 foot rowboat. Yet, she says, she's the happiest she has ever been.

Roz realized after 11 years of running the corporate life that she wasn't happy. A passionate environmentalist, Roz practically woke up one day and decided to row across the Atlantic to raise awareness about the environment; she was the 6th woman to row solo across the Atlantic. If you want to get a taste of what that is like, look here:

Having successfully completed that, Roz is now rowing solo across the Pacific. You can follow her blog and get updates on where she is and what she is upto. Should she succeed, she will be the first woman ever to have done that.

What struck me most about Roz is the deep humility and awareness with which she has approached her work. When I spoke to her, I was immediately moved by her unassuming nature. She didn't make much of her achievements, actually downplaying them significantly. A nerd who came into athletics very late in her life (in college), Roz insists that she wasn't in anything close to the physical shape she needed to get into when the idea first came into her head. But she was committed and driven, and she stuck with the training. That was the key. She insists that she is like everyone else and wants to serve as an example to other young girls and women that anything is possible.

"Living on a 23 foot row boat for days on end, puts you face-to-face with the grim realities of what you really need to survive... You become exceedingly aware of your input and output," says Savage. It was from that type of living that came the realization of needing to live consciously, of understanding the consequences of our actions.

There was something about Roz that touched me deeply...something about her genuine earnestness, and the depth of her heart. Rock on Roz-y! :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Damned Rain

In Gabricha Paus ("The Damned Rain") above, Satish Manwar and Prashant Pethe show the stress on farmers in India; below, the farmer's mother and wife discuss how to raise the spirits of their depressed husband.

Last week, I ventured over to the Indian Film Festival, taking place in Los Angeles. I have been hunting for Indian independent film anywhere and it is SO hard finding any...ironically, more so in India!

(On a separate note, I'm embarrassed to say that the piracy rates are awful in the US. The Indian merchants locally are just unethical bastards...they will make money at any cost. Quite often they shamelessly make money on pirated versions of DVD's, renting out bad quality stuff that they illegally download and charge you an arm-and-a-leg for!! I don't think I mind so much with the big masala flicks...I hate it when they do it to small, struggling independent producers...)

So it was a pleasant surprise to come across some genuinely good and well-intentioned filmmakers at the Festival. The films have been sold out, indicating a demand for such type of films in the US, but it made it very hard for me to see anything. And I can't seem to figure out where I can find this collection of material again.

The one movie I saw, was brilliant. Unfortunately, I can't embed the trailer. But go read/watch it here:; You can also get the main website here:

The film discusses the heavy subject of farmer's lives in India. Vidarbha District (also where the director/screenwriter is from) has the highest rate of farmer suicides in the country. A helpless Satish Manwar stood by and watched this happen, until he decided to make a movie about their life. In a month, Manwar, who hails from that district had the script written down. For four years, he searched for a producer before finally coming across amateur filmmaker Prashanth Pethe. Pethe is a Merchant Navy officer, who works large cargo ships in order to finance his movie projects. This is Pethe's second film; he has done a wonderful job.

If you get a chance, definitely watch the film!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Links I liked

1. A BRILLIANT article on how to use social marketing effectively for non-profits (/NGOs).

2. The normally space-geek blog, the LaunchPad took the time to take it back to the basics and talk about the magic-makers and the joys of being creative-minded.

3. Oil Rigs have a second life as luxury hotels. I thought this was a super innovative idea, though the environmental footprint/impact does need to be thought through!

4. A proven easy way to save money; apparently it works.

5. The art of being a good neighbor, a beautiful story about community in action.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The X PRIZE for Healthcare

Turns out that even insurance companies are frustrated with the healthcare system in the US. Wellpoint, one of the largest insurance companies in the US, has sponsored an X PRIZE to improve the current healthcare.

The Healthcare X PRIZE, as it is called, has just opened up calls for review of its initial prize design. If you are interested or vested in the American healthcare system, definitely check it out here. Also, I've had a look at their blog a bit, which I would highly recommend.

Surprisingly, inspite of the multitude of text, the concept is relatively easy to follow. Personally, I don't know that much about the healthcare system, but I do know that it is flawed. Yet, looking at the way the prize is designed, its HARD for me to give any sort of input. I once got into a discussion with Dr Vijay Goel, who is the spearheading the Healthcare X PRIZE, and came out feeling even stupider and more ignorant. I feel like I know even less about the flaws of the healthcare system. So I don't know how much I can contribute to this discussion.

Essentially, if I can direct any educated people towards this cause, I'll be better off in the long run. I, like many Americans, need better get on it folks!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Friendship, healthcare, and a gym

Find a friend, says the NY Times, and your wellness factor increases!

The American healthcare system sucks. Not because the doctors or quality of healthcare sucks; but because of insurance issues. You can't get decent care in this country without buying into the insurance system. Ironically, frustration, rather than being about the medical system, is about measly insurance companies who couldn't cure a patient even if their life depended on it.

Because I'm an independent consultant, I'm responsible for my own health insurance (most Americans get their insurance through their employers). And because its so expensive and so hard to decide what type of health insurance to get, I've been living without health insurance for several years now. But the tables are turning (as they always do).

I'm getting out-of-shape, and everyone is scaring me about terrible calamities to come. So I went to several gyms yesterday and found out that insured people have lower monthly fees, which really pushed me to start hunting for an insurance policy. I am having SO much difficulty picking something. Every one of my friends then gives me an opinion about which one to pick and they are all different, further confusing me.

In the midst of this, I read three different articles in the same issue of the NY Times, all relating to healthcare: this one about a family struggling to keep their son free of cancer, and this one about friendship being good insurance.

I'm lost and frustrated, have high gym rates, run the risk of taking my wonderful family into financial bankruptcy; but I have friends and hopefully that will keep me alive and well. Maybe I should take my friends to the gym, and we really will be alive and well to an exponential degree! :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TED starts its search for TEDIndia Fellows

TED is searching for 100 innovative world-changing world citizens to be a part of its TEDIndia Conference. Read more about the Fellows program here.

You all know that I was a TED2009 Fellow in Long Beach and how wonderful the experience was. So I encourage everyone to apply. If you'd rather nominate someone, please email their name and email address to fellows AT ted DOT com.

The TEDIndia Fellows program is a part of the larger TED Fellows Program, a new international fellowship program designed to nurture great ideas and help them spread around the world. This year, organizers will select 100 promising individuals from around the world to attend the very first TEDIndia Conference. At the end of the year, organizers will select 20 individuals from a pool of the TED, TEDGlobal, and TEDIndia Fellows to participate in an extended three-year Senior Fellowship, bringing them to six consecutive conferences. The principal goal of the program is to empower the Fellows to effectively communicate their work to the world.

Benefits of the Fellowship include conference admission, round-trip transportation, housing and all meals. Fellows will also participate in a two-day pre-conference with the opportunity to present a short talk for consideration for, elite skills-building courses taught by world experts, social opportunities and surprise extras.

The TEDIndia Fellows program will have international representation with a distinctly South Asian majority, with approximately 75% of the Fellows representing the South Asian region, and 25% representing other regions of the world. South Asia is defined as including the countries of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. For the global pool, applications will also be sought from the other five target regions: Africa, Asia/Pacific, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Middle East, with consideration to the applicants from other countries.

The program seeks remarkable thinkers and doers who have shown unusual accomplishment, exceptional courage, moral imagination and the potential to increase positive change in their respective fields. The program focuses on innovators in technology, entertainment, design, science, film, art, music, entrepreneurship and the NGO community, among other pursuits. Applicants are generally between 21-40 years of age, though anyone over 18 and over 40 may apply. They must also be fluent in English; though moderate fluency will be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cool job studying water footprints

I don't usually post jobs here, but I thought this one was super cool. If I didn't have a contract already, I probably would have jumped on this. The idea of a "water footprint" is fascinating to me. Its essentially studying the overall water consumption of a process from cradle to cradle (or to grave, depending on your system of thinking); and then figuring out how and where you can cut down on water consumption.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is seeking a senior water specialist/hydrologist to support IFC in the design and supervision of water footprinting pilots. The IFC ( is the private sector investment arm of the World Bank Group. In 2008, IFC became a founding partner of the Water Footprint Network

IFC now wishes to undertake Water Footprint pilots with selected IFC corporate agribusiness and mining clients in developing countries, initially focusing on India and Africa. The expert would be offered a part-time consultancy assignment with IFC, initially for up to 50 days, spread over 12 months. There is a strong likelihood of additional consulting work becoming available through the Water Footprint Network.

The announcement is posted at

Deadline for applications: April 27.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rafe Esquith: Teaching hero

Someone I met recently told me about Rafe Esquith, teacher extraordinaire, who has been teaching 5th graders in the Los Angeles inner city schools for almost 25 years. A little research showed me what an extraordinary teacher he is. See this video (also embedded below)

Look at a write-up on Rafe here and his young crew of the Hobart Shakespeareans here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Links I liked

1. What's really good and green in food... a GREAT guide that I've started using for food.

2. A refreshing look at the new MBAs, who actually have a conscience and believe in changing the world in the right way.

3. Is venture funding really the best way to get funding for your startup?? Maybe there's a better system.

4. Recycling bins from around the world.

5. How two friends built a $100M company for household cleaning products.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Preston Merchant's look at the Indian Diaspora

Thanks to a friend (aka Chickpea), I was turned onto Preston Merchant's brilliant coverage of the South Asian diaspora through a photography lens. You can view some samples of his work on his website. Unfortunately, they are very well protected, so I can't link to a lot of them...

Also read his amazing blog, that chronicles his travels while putting his book together.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What is the real story behind Slumdog Millionaire??

There's been a lot of hating of Slumdog Millionaire in India (except that they did enjoy the world's attention when it won several Academy Awards!). A lot of people have asked me if the issues outlined really are true.

So here, watch/read/listen to this. You make up your own mind.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Is the radio dying??

The oft heard, but rarely seen stars of NPR. (photo credit: FastCompany)

I think some technologies won't ever go obsolete. The radio is one of them. Even with iPods, CDs and every other kind of listening technology, people in the developed world seem to cling to the radio just as much as people in the developing world.

As a kid and even as an adult traveling through some remote regions of the world, the radio was and continues to be the center of most people's lives. Music, news, and shows continue to provide the soundtrack to most people's lives. Often "in the field," the radio is my one lifeline out of the space I happen to be in at that point. It connects me to the rest of the world. Listening to the BBC news gives me a level of comfort that I can't quite describe to anyone.

This is why I was pleased to read this piece in FastCompany about NPR's (National Public Radio - by far, the best radio station in the United States and one of the best in the world) ability to redefine itself and charge forward with high quality programming, in the face of stiff competition and the financial difficulties resulting from the economic crisis.

As Americans continue to find themselves stuck in the irritation of a long morning or evening commute between their work and homes, many continue to seek sanity in NPR's excellent programs.

One of my favorite shows continues to be This I Believe that gets input from over 90 countries from around the world. The program focuses on a fundamental lesson that a person has learned in their life. Check out the free podcasts and programs. I am sure you will also be hooked.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Links I liked

1. These guys are fast becoming my favorite environmental show hosts.

2. Finally even Harvard agrees that water scarcity means business scarcity (duh!)

3. A vegetarian diet can mitigate climate change-related issues by 70%!!

4. China goes to Africa, in pictures!

5. Sustainability, comic style.

Friday, April 3, 2009

100 Best Blogs for Those Who Want to Change the World

Best has a great list of 100 Best Blogs for World Changers. You wouldn't believe it, but Tworque is on there...nicely sandwiched between Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin. Who would've thought!!

I should have some champagne and celebrate! :-)

What Africans think about Aid-III

Following on the heels of Andrew Mwenda's talk, and Jen Brea's excellent article, I wanted to post this last talk by George Ayittey , who had set the tone for the conference in the first place. I would highly recommend browsing through the entire collection of excellent TEDAfrica talks here, and look at Ngozi talks for example. Be prepared to open your mind:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What Africans think about Aid-II

Freelance Journalist Jennifer Brea's article has caused quite a stir (photo credit)

Almost two years later, an article written by a young freelance journalist (now graduate student at Harvard) about African development and aid, is still making the rounds. Jennifer Brea was a Fellow at the TEDAfrica conference in 2007, when she happened to witness an exchange between fiery African Journalist Andrew Mwenda (whose talk I blogged about yesterday) and the West's passionate Africa advocate, Bono from U2. You can watch the  talk that Mwenda gave here (I believe the exchange between the two has been edited out, but from eyewitness accounts, it was quite an exchange!). 

Mwenda's talk resonated with many of the youth at the Conference who were tired of the extremely pathetic westernized view of African development. An inspired and incised Brea, put her thoughts down on paper. Probably not surprisingly, it became the most talked about article post TEDAfrica, and to date is still being circulated. Its how I came across it as well; a month ago, a friend of mine forwarded it to me and it got me thinking as well. 

So it begins...make sure you read the rest here. I promise you, its worth it! BTW, here is Brea's response to all the "brouhaha" that the article caused. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Africans think of Aid-I

I was listening to the following talk by respected African journalist Andrew Mwenda, and was floored. People who subscribe to the aid model are going to increasingly hear from voices like his and need to figure out a more effective means of philanthropy. Watch it: