Tag Archives: Subhash Sule

The Warli tribals of Maharashtra: a progressive culture to be emulated – 2

In ‘Celebrating People’s Knowledge, Winin Pereira and co-author Subhash Sule, quote Gandhi’s words: “Every man must be his own scientist and every village a science academy” Anyone has the right – and everyone needs to exercise the right – to be a “scientist” or “technologist”, to question the origin of phenomena, to develop new theories and technologies or to modify old ones”.

Synthetic fertilisers

In the rice paddies

Warli farmers tried out synthetic fertilisers but soon abandoned them They said that the fertilisers damaged the soil and that larger amounts were required each year. In consequence, they use very little, and then not every year.

Careful use of material resources 

Adivasis see no value in the possession of an increasing quantity of material products or in a lifestyle that stresses comfort even at the cost of the environment and justice. Those possessing more wealth than others are expected to distribute their excess among the rest of their community.The awareness of their interdependence on other forms of life makes their approach to solutions eco-friendly; resources are used with restraint, pollution is minimised. Basically this is an acknowledgement of their awareness of the need to be frugal and sparing in their use of materials and resources which are necessary for their survival. 

Traditional technologies

The development of traditional technologies is limited to those which do not produce unemployment or pollute the environment. There is no unnecessary processing of raw materials; the minimum quantity is used and in processing there is no waste, or if there are remnants unused for the basic need, they are used for other essential purposes. A few of the examples given:

  • Wood resistant to termites, such as teak, is used for house construction, thus eliminating the need to use dangerous pesticides.
  • Timber resistant to the attacks of teredos (shipworms) is used for constructing boats, avoiding the need for coating the wood with highly poisonous chemicals like tributyltin, with the boat also having a longer life.
  • The use of banana leaves as dinner plates, making washing up unnecessary and the ‘plates’ themselves serving as food for cows, which in turn produce milk.
  • Where banana plants do not grow, plates made of dry leaves of several other trees [ banyan or breadfruit] or even wooden cups and plates have been used.

Medicinal research 

These isolated groups use a range of plants for medicinal and other purposes, having done a lot of research over time. Over 9500 wild plant species have been recorded as used by bhagats (right) and other tribals for various requirements, of which over 7500 are used for medicinal purposes. In the case of herbal medicines, cures will only be researched for the specific diseases which occur in the traditional scientist’s habitat. S/he cannot test out herbs without patients who need treatment. The scientist is most likely to use the plants growing locally. Only if these fail will s/he look further afield. This could explain the different species used even by neighbouring communities for the same disease.

Information about medicine used by Gujarati tribes living in the Satlasana forests is recorded here: https://www.rroij.com/open-access/folk-herbal-medicines-used-by-the-tribalsinsatlasana-forest-area-mehsana-district-gujarat-india.php?aid=33919

Most of the activity in this study was carried out by adivasis who conduct research while carrying on their normal occupations, in their fields and homes, mainly using locally available resources. The researchers do not require formal recognition for their work and are happy to see the use of their shared inventions without expectations of any rewards for their efforts. The free dissemination of knowledge is an essential characteristic of the traditional system.

 

 

 

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Solar energy in the 90s – 1:

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carter road mangroves

In 1998, Energy & Lifestyles – a paper by Winin Pereira and Subhash Sule – was written in the Centre for Holistic Studies in Carter Road, Bandra, overlooking the mangroves that they and others worked so hard to save. Some extracts follow.

The sun delivers enough energy to the Earth in one year to meet mankind’s current consumption some 10,000 times over. The problem has always been how to trap and make use of this solar power.

The achievements of India in the field of renewable energy seem remarkable. Over 400,000 solar photovoltaic systems (producing about 28 MW) have so far been installed for commercial applications, home and street lighting, water pumping and rural telecommunication systems in remote areas. About 400,000 square metres of solar collector area have been installed, for domestic, commercial and industrial water heating. Nearly half a million box-type solar cookers are also in use.[Nishad, 1997] About 925 MW capacity of wind power is installed.[TERI Newswire, 1997]

In spite of all this, by the year 2012, only some 10% of the total installed power generating capacity in the country is likely to be based on renewables. [Nishad, 1997]

Winin Pereira3(Ed:World Energy Outlook 2012: Global Energy Trends (IEA, page 218), however, estimates renewables’ share of total generation in India by 2012 at 14%. Pereira, an accomplished physicist, also highlighted the polluting and energy intensive nature of solar PV technology in a way that few care to dwell on even today. He predicted that, over time, these adverse factors will gradually be addressed and minimised – see Mulvaney 2005 onwards: Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, author of ‘Towards a just and sustainable solar industry’: Hazardous Materials Used In Silicon PV Cell Production, which also touches on measures which are reducing energy use in the production process.)

In the fabrication of PV cells large amounts of energy are required for producing the basic very high purity silicon and for every further stage of PV cell manufacture. Because of the need for other non-renewable resources for the manufacture of voltage converters, their voltage inverters (DC to AC), and other infrastructure, they would add to an already resource-depleted and over-polluted world. [Pereira, 1992, p 22] It is quite possible that the total fossil energy consumed in the fabrication, installation and maintenance of the PV cells, as well as that of the required storage systems, will be high compared to their output during their limited lifetime.

While PV systems do not emit CO2 and other gaseous pollutants, the efficient types use cadmium sulphide and other chemicals as dopants of silicon, in their manufacture. Because these chemicals are highly toxic and persist in the environment for centuries, disposal of used cells could become a major environmental problem. However, the most promising cells in terms of low cost, mass production, and relatively high efficiency are those being manufactured using silicon, either crystalline or amorphous. These materials make the cells less expensive and environmentally safer than the heavy metal cells. [Pimentel et al., 1994] The PV industry uses the ‘below-specification’ silicon of the waste of the semiconductor industry to lower costs but this source is getting exhausted. If a dedicated manufacturing concern is now set up, a huge quantity of fossil fuels will need to be used and costs will rise.

Some of the latest materials being worked on in thin film cells – selenium, cadmium and titanium dioxide are highly toxic. At present the industry uses some very strong acids to chemically etch the surface of the solar cell to improve light entrapment. These materials, and their recycling, have to be handled carefully.

There is a proposal to build a huge PV installation in the Rajasthan desert. This could have unpredictable effects on the local microclimate. It would deprive large areas of sunlight, which could have disastrous effects on plant photosynthesis, causing a large loss of biomass, reducing the fodder and fuel production of the region. [De, 1997].

rajasthan solar projects mapped

The discredited Enron corporation, in partnership with Amoco, withdrew from its 50-MW solar PV project at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, but many others proceeded – see the interactive map.

Next: Solar energy – 2: almost twenty years later

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