- Green Drinks at Bombay Connect Thurs. Feb. 4 at 7:30 pm
- Mumbai Press Club Fri. Feb. 5 at 4:00 pm (journalists only)
- Kala Ghoda Arts Festival Eco-Arts panel Sat. Feb. 6 at 6:45 pm, where I’m excited to explore the power of the arts in enacting ecological change. With Ravi Agarwal, Sonia Mehra Chawla and Arati Kumar-Rao.
In which I report for Vice magazine from New Delhi, which the WHO determined to be the most polluted big city on the planet. It sure feels like it.
New Delhi is choking on its own air.
On January 1, India’s capital made an attempt to address its status as the world’s most polluted big city, according to the World Health Organization, by implementing a temporary “odd-even scheme” for automobile use. Private vehicles could only be driven on days that matched their plate number or risk a $30 fine. There were loads of exemptions, including the two-wheelers that dominate the roads, hybrids, and cars driven by VIPs or women (with no men in the vehicle). There were jokes about “men riding in the dickey” — the trunk — of cars and more serious conversations about immediately buying a second car to get around the restrictions. But after the 15-day plan came to end, overall sentiment was high as researchers rushed to declare it a success or failure.
Baba Kharak Singh Marg
Another Delhi event coming up on Monday, when I’ll be speaking at Apne Aap‘s Feminism Beyond Boundaries series. I’ll be focusing on the fifth element in my book, in which I traveled to Bihar to explore population growth along with reproductive and sexual health training for teens. One girl transformed her life when she slipped a note into her father’s pocket….
Join me Monday, January 25, 2016 at the Oxford Bookstore Connaught Place (81, N Block, Connaught Place), 4:00 pm, to hear more.
Check out the Facebook event page here.
An excerpt from Elemental India / A River Runs Again, featured in The Caravan.
The vultures are gone, but the livestock carcasses they once consumed by the millions remain. Many are collected and deposited at carcass dumps like the one called Jorbeer on the outskirts of Bikaner, where dogs run wild amid an endless supply of food.
As I travelled around India, I kept hearing about aggressive dogs. Soon after I arrived in Bikaner, someone told me about two local girls, eight or nine years old, who were attacked by dogs at night, while they were sleeping. They were such easy prey. “They were hurt so badly, but not killed,” the man told me.
“The police came and took the dogs away, but I was so astonished…how can there be dogs like this?”
Join me, Delhiites! I’ve landed in India for the release of Elemental India: The Natural World in a Time of Crisis and Opportunity, and hope you’ll join me at one of the upcoming events. This is the official book launch, Tuesday, January 19th (tomorrow!) at The American Center at 6:00 pm. I’ll be in conversation with the wonderful Aseem Shrivastava, co-author of Churning the Earth.We’ll be touching upon faith in a seed, vanishing vultures, rivers reborn, choking air, population pressures, and the eternal question of hope. And there’ll be refreshments. Co-hosted by The American Center, HarperCollins India, USIEF (Fulbright) and Caravan magazine. Do come! Details here.
Update: Here’s a podcast of our conversation:
More events in the works for Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai over the next month. Find all details for confirmed events here.
Many people have asked me, after presentations or via email, What can I do? Stories should be sparks and the listeners/readers, tinder. The last thing I want is for you to set A River Runs Again/Elemental India down and walk away wiping your hands clean. So, if you’re so inspired….
Here are some of the organizations I focused on in the book as well as others whose efforts I’ve come across in my research. No organization is perfect. I write and explore the efforts, successful and struggling both. So don’t consider this list an endorsement, necessarily, but an excellent starting point for you to make your own explorations and decide to become a member, send a donation, get involved, or simply learn more. [Read more…]
Working on a reported book has had three distinct phases. The on-the-ground reporting, a time of movement and questions, cameras slinging and notebooks filling. Then there was the isolation chamber of writing, dissecting the notebooks and photos, diving into research, writing, writing, re-writing, re-writing.
And now I’m in the third stage — of heading out into the world to talk about what I found. Can 1.3 billion people in India live sustainably? Can the planet? What’s working? What’s not? What can everyone learn, within India and around the world, from the successful models and the cautionary tales?
In case you weren’t able to make it to any of the events on my book tour, here are a few archived recordings of some of the presentations.
In New York City, I sat down with acclaimed author and good friend Suketu Mehta at my alma mater, New York University, for an evening hosted by the Literary Reportage concentration of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute:
At the World Affairs Council of Northern California, I had great conversation with Linda Calhoun, Executive Producer at Career Girls. Before the talk, I met with World Affairs student ambassadors and fielded some of the toughest questions I heard on tour. (Providing great hope for the future!)
Here’s another video from the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, where I’m in conversation WWC’s Meaghan Parker, American journalist Lisa Palmer, (who’s working on her book Feeding a Hot Hungry Planet: Agriculture, Climate Change, and Population) and Indian journalist Priyali Sur:
I was honored to join a long legacy of presenters at the University of Virginia’s Medical Center Hour, (though it was tough to figure out how to follow up a professional skateboarder!). The audio is a little tricky, but nice shots of photographs I’ve been showing along the way. The event was produced by the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities in partnership with Historical Collections of the Health Sciences Library.
And also in New York City, I spoke with Steven Weiss of The Jewish Channel’s Up Close:
Last year, at the Boston University Narrative Arc conference (one of my favorite of these journo gatherings), Jeff Sharlet, Neil Shea & Darcy Courteu sat on a stage in front of a not-so-large audience, talking about an Instagram revolution. They were not looking to share food porn, nor adorable pictures of themselves or their offspring or their feline companions. They were journalists who observe their world, and whose work can sometimes take them to distant worlds (whether Iraq in midday or a New England Dunkin Donuts at 3 am), and they watch with a close eye. They listen with a close ear. But what to do with these stories, how to share the stories of the lives, loves, losses they encountered? Answer: iPhone camera. Visceral quick writing. Way more characters than Twitter allows. All the stuff that doesn’t fit into the story you were sent to get. I was inspired, but not quite to action. Til now. Happy to jump onto Jeff & Neil’s platform and with the help of editor Paul Reyes over at Virginia Quarterly Review (one of my favorite publications: solid, serious and sumptuous all), kick off #VQRTrueStory.
My week takes you to the cotton fields of Punjab, her hand upon mine. Buries your nose in live soil and let’s you feel the heat of a wood fire, the smoke in your lungs. It sets you at the feet of a girl in Bihar, who is reaching, reaching up.
Talking about A River Runs Again on Berkeley’s KPFA. Listen here: Uprising with Sonali