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Lokvani Talks To Aarathi Rao

Nirmala Garimella

Aarati Rao is the Co-Founder of Ebase Kodagu, a sustainable non profit venture that serves as a hub to empower children to become guardians of their natural heritage in Karnataka. She has a Masters from the Harvard School of Education and has been involved in various educational initiatives. I met her recently in Cambridge and she talked about her unique experience at the expedition.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

 Being an Army officer’s daughter, I have had the opportunity of traveling across India extensively, meeting diverse people and immersing in rich cultures. Having lived in eighteen out of the twenty-eight states and studied at 7 different schools, adapting to ambiguous situations is second nature to me. After my dad retired as a Colonel, we settled in Hyderabad, India. I continue to travel the world for my studies, work and exploration.

 You have had varied experiences but could you tell us about the Antartica expedition. How did it come about?

 Enamored with John Hardy’s concept of the Green School in Bali, I participated in a Fellowship at the Third pole Education Base, where I was running a completely solar-powered, internet-enabled learning space for the rural children of Himalayas, developing a curriculum on sustainability. Each day I interacted with 500 young minds, a diverse mix of hostelers, monks, nuns and blind kids, which instilled my belief in an inclusive education. An active environmentalist since childhood and through my classroom projects, I was selected on the International Antarctica Expedition 2016 as a Climate Change Ambassador from India. Understanding the ground realities of Climate Change and witnessing melting glaciers in the last known wilderness on earth, Antarctica has had a profound impact on me. And thus, E-base Kodagu was born. On my return from the Expedition, a fellow teammate and I set up the 5th E-base in the world, first set up in Antarctica by our mentor Sir Robert Swan. E-base Kodagu is an open and creative learning space for the tribal children of the Nagarhole National Park, India to learn about environmental conservation and drive change through activism and ownership of local issues and to me is a physical manifestation of my dream and core values.

 What did you have to do to prepare for it?

 We had to be medically fit, present a full medical fitness record, have a 100 thousand dollar insurance coverage for travel and do cardio for 3 months leading up to the expedition. 

 How was the experience? share your daily schedule what was it like?

 Something we were told often on the expedition was: “All the knowledge in the world won’t give you the emotional impact that Antarctica will” and that was perhaps the reason this climate change expedition was happening in Antarctica and not New York or Paris. We had a jam-packed schedule running between shore landings, leadership training, eco-friendly startup pitch sessions, lessons on zoology, history, astrology and vast areas of polar earth sciences. It pushed you way outside your comfort zone to make you reach your potential by putting you in your zone of proximal development. It pushed you to overcome your fears with a plunge into the polar water and intellectually challenged your beliefs to make you hold on to only those most resolute and worthy. If you were not in a session or maneuvering a glacial crevasse on land you were engaged in brilliant conversations with extraordinary people on the ship from a NASA scientist to a lawyer from Yale all engaging in a dialogue to explore tangible solutions for tackling global climate change while building lifelong friendships.  

 That's my Antarctica Experience in a Nutshell. Feel Free to pick up excerpts from my Blog if you please which has a day by day account of Antarctica: https://aaratiinantarcticablog.wordpress.com/

 Finally what should we all do to help in helping the environment?

 “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It” – Robert Swan. 

We are all responsible for saving our planet and most of us know exactly what to do to save it. It is stuff we've been learning about since school. What we lack is a sense of urgency. The biggest issue for us is there exists a cognitive dissonance between the kind of life we want to lead vs the kind of lives we are leading. Antarctica, the poles, polar bears floating on melting icebergs and the drought in Africa is all so far removed from our everyday-lives that doing our bit for the planet is anything but a priority. 

 You don't have to change your life drastically. Take a vow to make a small contribution to the environment every day- a 1% change- and do it consistently every day. If all of us did so- that will be a significant contribution for humanity, I assure you.  

 Choose 1 out of my top 5 you can start with- 

1. Reduce your meat consumption/give up eating meat altogether because animal raring produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transport industry put together

 2. Turn to renewables and alternate sources of energy everywhere possible.

 3. Be a part of the sharing economy- carpool, rideshare, thrift shops and wardrobe swap 

4. Reduce and segregate your waste. 

5. Take shorter showers!  and get your kids involved in the conversation about climate change because "we do not inherit our planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children".  

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