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‘Science Is Like A Genie’, Ubiquitous Is Just Too Mild

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By Varun Shrivats:

Usually, one would associate the word ‘ubiquitous’ with its frequent role as a tool for chiseling out a hyperbole. To illustrate this, consider a simple situation, wherein a town is facing the wrath of malaria. People of the town would not be reluctant in saying that malaria is ubiquitous. Neither would the Plasmodium Vivaxes of some other, in saying that vaccination is ubiquitous.

Still, if there is one context where we can use the aforementioned word in a statement without making it a hyperbole, it is that which concerns science. Science is like the air we breathe. The ‘Ubiquitous’ used to describe air would be the one appropriate for science.

Science is merely not an option in life. It is the way of thinking, and more importantly, the way of implementing the thoughts that the thinking gives birth to. No one is a complete illiterate in science. The hobo on the street who cannot add 5 and 5 will have enough science in him to make him realize the comfort of rubbing his hands during the cold nights.

The successful manifestations of science are too many and too varied. We can look at the stylish frame of our spectacles and let ourselves feel awed, or we could look at the infinite features of an iPhone. With science comes its companion, and a very important one at that, the technology. It is a way of implementing an idea. We could talk to another person using technology that employs phones, or we could do so using a technology that employs computer microphones, internet, and webcams.

The importance of science and technology cannot be explained by a mere play with words. Everything that we do is because of the thoughts that arise due to one, and every equipment/gadget that we use constitutes the result of the other.

All successful civilizations till date have rested on the shoulders of science and technology, and all such future civilizations can be expected to follow suit. A society’s progress depends more than anything on the rational thinking of its people, and the science and technology at their disposal.

But, as they say, the cat does not come without the litter box. With science, there have been far too many litter boxes. Because whenever there’s a breakthrough in science, the people behind it always look to cash in on the breakthrough, rather than analyze whether this breakthrough carries any baggage along with it.

Simple is the case of the air-conditioners. Obviously, it would have been a Herculean task, successfully manufacturing the A.Cs, but the invention would have been an even better one had the manufacturers paused to think of any environmental issues that might be caused because of this.

Let us now take a look at the toll taken on the environment because of A.C.s. There has been a sharp increase in the sales of air conditioning systems in recent years due to global warming which has lead to the debate whether air conditioners are harming our environment or not. The continually increasing use of cooling systems in homes and offices is leading to consumption of large amounts of electricity and as a result, the planet is being further polluted.

Basing his research on the data released by the U.S government, Stan Cox from the Land Institute in Kansas has revealed that more than 1500 kg of carbon dioxide is emitted each year from air conditioning the average US home.

The impact of this is much worse during the night. In the past, outdoor air used to cool at night in most areas, providing people with a chance to recover from the heat of the day and get a good night sleep. These days, the air cools significantly less at night which is one reason why heat stress is affecting more and more people, says Stan Cox.

While air conditioning is not the only cause of global warming, it is one of the factors that have led to the worsening of the situation. There is an agreement among the experts at present that new housing plans need to take into account climate change when houses are being designed.

A.C.s are not the only perpetrators of environmental problems, because many objects like deodorants, refrigerators, would quite easily fit in this category.

I’m not suggesting that we completely do away with A.C.s or perfumes. Because the habitant of earth who’s been the reason for many of the earth’s problems is also the one who’ll come up with a solution for it. We put our hearts in danger due to smoking and neglecting exercises. Yet, we always try coming up with new and ingenious methods of reducing this danger.

Now is as good a time as any to quote an article that recently found its place in yahoo.com. “A tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, could monitor the heart round the clock and save lives. The chip has been designed to pick up the early warning signs of heart failure. The chip works by measuring the heart’s function – including blood pressure – up to 200 times a second. When a doctor places a hand-held receiver next to the patient’s ribcage, the tiny sensor instantly transmits its findings, reports the Daily Mail. The problem with current techniques is that they provide only a brief snapshot of what’s going on in the heart, rather than measuring its performance over days or weeks, which can be a more accurate indicator. If problems can be detected early, it is possible to reduce the damage and improve heart function with drugs and surgery. The chip can be left in place for several months – it is inserted via a tiny tube fed into the heart.”

The previous paragraph was placed in the hope that it would serve as an innuendo to the fact that we, the humans, are beings of enormous capabilities. If we have enough intelligence to design and come up with a device as complex as Air conditioner, then we can surely come up with a new technology that counters its bad effects. Coming to support this point is the following paragraph:

To help avoid the harmful effects of electrical air conditioning, there are ways of achieving air conditioning that don’t use energy at all. This includes the use of geothermal pumps in which the coolness of the ground is used as a battery. These kinds of pumps make use of the heat from the ground to warm the house during the winter and then in summer time, the pump sends heat from the building into the ground. These geothermal pumps serve two functions with minimal energy consumption and without causing harm to the environment.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Science is like a Genie. Its complete and judicious usage rests solely on its user and master i.e. on us, the humans. If a little extra effort is put before and into the designing of a new technology to minimize environmental problems, we could very well be looking at a really bright and pollutant free future.

Image courtesy: http://www.yorkfestivals.com/metadot/index.pl?iid=2749&isa=Category

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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