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"Unraveling the Wicked Problem: A Call to Conscious Action"

As I sit at "The Chocolate Room" cafe in Hi-Tech City, Hyderabad, I'm deciding what to have for lunch. Nearby, a couple is celebrating their anniversary, while most others are busy on their phones, taking selfies. After some thought, I opted for a sandwich and a cappuccino, I'm struck by the urge to write. Writing blogs has become my new passion. Writing has been a part of my life since childhood, providing me with a sense of freedom to express myself. Our minds are always buzzing with thoughts, but many get lost in the chaos of daily life. Writing helps me capture these thoughts and explore them further. It's like uncovering hidden treasures in my mind. It's a way to spark new ideas and express myself fully.

Here I am, enjoying my sandwich and a cappuccino, while also finding joy in writing. In my new blog, I plan to delve into the often-overlooked issue of "climate change". While it's a topic widely discussed, I wonder how many truly understand what it entails and what actions are being taken to address it. I recently asked my students about 'climate change'. The majority believe it will only become a serious issue after 2030 when Earth's temperature exceeds 1.5°C. However, a few recognized the urgency of the situation and felt that the government must take action. This brings up concerns about our educational system, particularly with school & college students. Are we providing them with sufficient education on this critical issue?

sign that says 'there is no planet B' - carried by students in a protest march

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Last week, I received an invitation to speak at a university about SDGs and sustainability to a group of engineering students. What I observed was quite disheartening. A large portion seemed disengaged—half were nodding off, 30% were immersed in their phones, and only a handful showed genuine interest. As a teacher, you can tell when your audience is engaged or not. It's frustrating because these students have probably heard similar talks numerous times already. They're mostly focused on when they'll get a placement or what's next in their careers. I don't blame them for their lack of interest, but it left me feeling sad :(. I wonder why the university invited me if they weren't interested in what I had to say. Teaching is my passion, but it's disheartening when students aren't engaged & do not understand the gravity.

Dr. Sudipti Arora taking a session at Rajasthan International Centre, Jaipur, December, 2023

In today's world, where students are mostly concerned about their future jobs, it's hard to expect them to prioritize the planet. They are more focused on immediate concerns. Even my friends & family, who see how conscious I am about mindful consumption and sustainability, still indulge in extravagance and excess. I often hear people questioning why we should change our habits. Some blame the government for not doing enough, while others argue that it's not our responsibility. Some blame industrialists, while others point fingers at government servants for neglecting their responsibilities. People say it's someone else's job, not theirs. They question why we should compromise our lifestyle & luxuries. For instance, celebrating birthdays using balloons and extravagant decorations, or dining out and ordering excessive dishes without considering waste. Shopping has become a form of therapy for many. It makes me wonder what we are doing to instill a sense of responsibility and awareness about the environmental impact of our actions.


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Since last year, I've been delving deeper into climate change, and I've come to understand that carbon emissions are the main culprit. The more I learned, the more I realized how interconnected our actions are. Whether it's writing this blog, using our mobile phones, traveling, shopping, or any daily activity, carbon is emitted, and it's a significant problem. What's concerning is that carbon remains in the atmosphere for 300 years, thus resulting in global warming & hence climate change. This realization highlights the irony of the situation and underscores the importance of addressing these issues comprehensively. This complexity is made more challenging by our need for growth as a developing nation. We can't just stop everything, as every aspect of growth requires emitting carbon. So, this problem is even trickier than we think. We could call it a wicked problem. Thanks to Mr. Ajitabh Sharma Sir for introducing the term "wicked problem" to describe this complex issue.


Mr. Ajitabh Sharma (IAS) elucidates the concept of the "Wicked Problem" at GDTech 2024, Jaipur, Feb 2024.

Some of my friends believe that climate change isn't our concern, likening it to a neighbor's problem—something distant and unrelated. It's akin to when your neighbor faces a power outage, and you don't; you might assume it's not your issue. However, the truth is, tomorrow it could become your problem as well.

Let me ask you something, how do you feel when you have a fever? Usually, you feel terrible and don't feel like doing anything. You might take a paracetamol as soon as your body temperature rises by just one degree. Similarly, when Earth's temperature has already increased by 1.1°C, is there a "paracetamol" for Earth? Shouldn't we be taking action, just like we would for our health?


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Now, consider a scenario where a loved one close to you is diagnosed with cancer. It's a grave and life-threatening situation, prompting you to set aside everything else to ensure they receive the essential treatment. When cancer becomes an emergency for the family, all other concerns fade into the background. When a family member is hospitalized, everything else takes a backseat as their care becomes the top priority. In the same vein, if Earth is confronting a comparable emergency with climate change, why aren't we taking urgent, immediate, and decisive action? Shouldn't we prioritize action to address the climate crisis just as we would prioritize caring for a loved one in a health emergency?


Source & Credits: Illustration images from

Imagine if I told you that tomorrow there would be no schools for your children, no playgrounds, and no outings to malls or restaurants—everything shut down, and you have to stay inside, doing everything together. How would you feel? This is the same situation we're creating for them with climate change. The world could virtually shut down due to polluted air, extreme temperatures, floods, or forest fires—similar to the lockdowns we've experienced with COVID-19. We've seen firsthand how challenging it is to be confined at home. If we continue on this path, there may soon be nowhere safe to go, compelling us to stay indoors to protect ourselves from environmental hazards. Don't you think it's a serious issue now, and we should do something about it?


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Source & Credits: Illustration images from www.

If you believe the government should reduce fossil fuel usage, switch to solar energy, and implement stricter policies on industrialization, that's essential and much needed. However, we don't have to wait for them to act. While they may come up with solutions, it's crucial to understand that it's our problem too, and we must take action. Governments may be working on solutions, but we can't solely rely on them. Each of us MUST TAKE measures that can have a significant impact. Do you understand the difference between "should" and "must"? When I say we should do something, it's optional, but when I say we must do it, it's urgent—that's the urgency we're facing now.

I've heard people ask, "If we've burned crackers before and nothing happened, why should we stop our kids from burning them?" They argue that it's all in good fun and that children would miss out otherwise. But really, would they miss out on anything if they didn't burn crackers in their lifetime?


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The other day, a friend called me after watching my Instagram videos where I was advocating for reducing single plastic usage. She excitedly shared, "I've replaced all my plastic jars with new glass ones, just like you suggested!" However, upon hearing this, I couldn't help but feel a sense of dismay and introspection. I questioned myself, "What might I be missing?" People don't always get the message right, so I'm putting all my efforts into saying this again: Please stop buying anything in the name of sustainability. Replacing a toothbrush with bamboo isn't the solution if you're just going to discard it every month. We need to shift our mindset from overconsumption to mindful consumption.

The simple solution lies in "fostering consciousness". By being mindful of our consumption patterns, we have the power to reduce demand, consequently lowering emissions. I'm not proposing major upheavals; just a straightforward idea—minimize & avoid wherever possible. Reduce travel, keep shopping in check, steer clear of balloons and single-use plastics, cut down on electricity usage, and stop food waste, to name a few. If avoiding something entirely isn't doable, aim to minimize how much you use it. It's a simple concept. Let's call this approach "Trim & Streamline."

For instance, instead of ironing clothes every day, consider skipping that step every Monday. Such small adjustments can collectively make a significant impact because when millions of people adopt similar practices, the cumulative effect is substantial. So, let's reflect on this WAH (Wrinkles ache hai) campaign, and consider the potential of our actions in shaping a more sustainable future [Adopted from #WAH Campaign" by Energy Swaraj foundation,].

As I'm writing this blog, my coffee is over, but my thoughts are not. I'm still figuring out what actions I can take to address this problem. Should I stop going to places, stop traveling, or use laptops/emails? But these all emit carbon too. There must be a lot of questions in your mind too—everything creates emissions. But there has to be an approach where we can judge what's important, what's super important, and what's avoidable. I'm simply saying, avoid whatever you can, and I leave that choice to you.

The other day, we were heading out, and suddenly my little one exclaimed, "Oh my god, Mumma, look at that factory!" Intrigued, I asked what happened, and he pointed out the chimney smoke, saying, "The factory is polluting." I felt a sense of pride knowing I was nurturing such a conscious soul. Together, we refrain from burning crackers and engage in composting. It's this kind of mindful upbringing that we need to instill in future generations.


My friend, Ms. Neha Agarwal, composting with her family (A joyous family) :)

Every morning, when you open your eyes, you have two choices: one is to remain conscious and the other is to carry on with your routine. However, within this choice lies a world of opportunity. You can opt for conscious action, making small yet impactful decisions that contribute to sustainability. Whether it's choosing reusable over disposable, walking instead of driving or supporting eco-friendly products, each step you take is a stride towards a greener future. So, seize the day and embrace the power you hold to make a positive difference in the world.

As I close this blog, my efforts to inform you about all of this will continue, and I'm sure one day you'll understand the gravity of the situation. When I had Cancer, for a moment I thought my life was over. Similarly, our planet is facing a crisis of its own, yet we fail to address it with the urgency it demands. It's a matter of acknowledging the gravity of the situation and taking decisive action. Let's not wait until it's too late to act—let's act now before it's too late.

As I come to an end, it's important to acknowledge the person who inspired me to embark on this journey of mindful and sustainable living. I'd like to introduce you to a remarkable individual who has made an extraordinary commitment to our planet. This man left his family and career behind for 11 years, recognizing the urgent need to address our environmental challenges. His name is Professor Chetan Singh Solanki, a Professor at IIT Bombay, currently on an Energy Swaraj Yatra aboard a solar-powered bus. Inside this solar bus, Professor Solanki has created a self-sustaining environment complete with a room, office, library, garden, temple, drawing room, kitchen, and washroom—everything essential for a living. Despite the sacrifices he's made, when asked how he's doing, his response is always "I'm happy." His happiness and dedication serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of finding joy in simplicity.


Dr. Sudipti Arora, alongside Professor Chetan Singh Solanki at IIT Bombay, Jan 2023.


The Solar Bus embarking on the Energy Swaraj Yatra at Dr. B. Lal Institute of Biotechnology, Jaipur, Oct, 2023.

If he can undertake this incredible journey, why can't we? Let's emulate his example and adopt mindful consumption practices in every aspect of our lives. As he suggests, let's adhere to the AMG approach (Avoid, Minimize, Generate), or else we'll find ourselves exclaiming OMG (Oh my god). Together, we have the power to create a significant positive impact on our planet and the generations to come.

And now, let's listen to the voice of our planet:

"In a world where chaos seems to reign, Our planet cries out in silent pain.

Through storms and fires, it speaks to us loud, Begging for mercy from the relentless shroud.

Yet we turn a blind eye, lost in our race, ignoring the signs of Earth's weary face.

In the midst of our greed, we fail to see, The damage we cause, the misery we decree.

But amidst the darkness, a glimmer of hope, A chance to change, to break free from the rope.

With every step forward, with every mindful choice, We can heal the wounds, we can find our voice.

So let us rise up, with courage and might, And stand as guardians in Earth's darkest night.

For together we hold the power to mend, To create a future where all can transcend.

Let's pledge to be stewards of our planet, nurturing it with love, and remember that every action, no matter how small, has the power to make a difference. Let's strive to be more conscious of our choices and work together towards a sustainable future for ourselves and generations to come.

This blog is dedicated to two individuals: Prof. Chetan Singh Solanki and my son, Suyansh, as both have imparted the essence of sustainability to me. Once again, thank you for joining me on this journey of reflection and action and reading it till the end.

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