Guitar strings, candle waste, broken bangles…
These are the things, among many other, that environmental activist Claire Rao has currently listed out as her top priorities that need urgent sorting-out and has been doing everything possible to make sure they reach proper recycling destinations. This has to happen before she herself lands in France, her home country, after over a decade of life lived here in Bangalore within what she calls, “our ecological limits”.
Actually, for someone who cherishes her ever-so-light existence on this beautiful little speck of matter called Earth, “home country” is not a concept that makes a wee bit of sense, really. Such individuals treat this pale blue dot like a self-sustaining spaceship, get aboard and enjoy the voyage as it lay adrift in the incredibly vast cosmic arena. They live responsibly and not treat themselves like some privileged guests invited to a never-ending party of willful pillage and plunder.
Claire Rao is an Earth Citizen, people! And here’s how she brings meaning to that indelible identity by letting her carefully crafted list of environmental responsibilities flow like the lyrics of a love song as she cycles around in Malleswaram and beyond “creating less impact on the environment in all our daily activities”.
Her foremost priority is to reduce waste generation and this very awareness finds its focal points in many spheres as she directs all her energies to find meaningful ways to reuse or recycle the things she buys for a living. “Any citizens’ initiative to reduce the burden of waste to be handled, however, small, might seem like a drop in the ocean but it can go a long way,” says Claire.
Here goes a list of her commitments, lived to the fullest every day.
She composts all the organic matter generated in her house and has prevented it from reaching the landfills for many years now. Quite often, she takes her anti-landfill crusade beyond the threshold which may include sweeping and scooping up pongemia (honge in Kannada) flowers and leaves from the roads while on early morning workouts and composts the same.
Disposables are a strict no-no. To bar the entry of plastic, thermocol, styrofoam and other such unholy things into her living space, she carries steel/reusable containers to grocery stores for a refill.
Being part of We Care for Malleswaram, a group of passionate eco-activists, she organises workshops on waste segregation, composting and organic gardening. As a Swachagraha volunteer, she encourages people to take to home composting and organic terrace gardening to reduce the burden on landfills and save the soil from microbial load depletion.
As part of the Green the Red campaign, she is right there wherever promotion of sustainable menstruation hits the green spot with menstrual cups and cloth pads. She participates in Tula promotion campaigns, an organic cotton clothing line. She has been organising garage sales of reusable items in Malleswaram.
Any news on tree-felling immediately drags her conscience to the roads holding placards against this heinous crime inflicted on all living beings. For her, water-saving is a lifetime commitment that doesn’t wait for a scorching summer to trigger reminders to go on a saving mode.
She is also an indispensable part of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative led by Navadarshanam that acts as an interface between organic farmers and consumers and ensures weekly supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for the latter at a few locations in the City, especially Malleswaram.
If this is what she does at a local level with her absolutely non-local consciousness, take a look at what she does along with her equally committed ‘mad bunch’ of eco-warriors when she travels across the country. Click here to read in her own words on how to travel zero-waste: Being human could be being zero-waste. Also check out her book ‘Trashonomics’, co-authored with activist Archana Prasad Kashyap, which is targeted at “educating middle-school children with the support of EVS or science teachers in 3-5 sessions”.
Change is not superficial
Most often, I think about why destruction comes easy to us and not sensible change. Perhaps it’s because not all of us engage our intrinsic values to find their way out through our everyday human activities as Claire does. Simply put, we do not make it our overwhelming priority, something that undercuts all other mundane concerns. Our elementary accord with Earth often starts and ends with some superficial changes we make for ourselves and our families. That’s how our failure to truly comprehend the fundamental tenets of existence continues to dominate our ever-shrinking philosophical bandwidth. We do not make full use of the power of our conscience to make sustainable choices. And by failing to do so, we remain divorced to one basic fact of life: Superficial changes can never bring about a serious and lasting change.
From what I have seen at close quarters and observed from a distance over the years, Claire is one of the most consummate earthlings to have come closest to establishing a beautiful “Live-Like-A-Bird” philosophy for herself and has been living by it. It goes beyond the limits of nationality and language and culture and people and skin colour.
But still, to have her around here in our own Bangalore had its own charm which will be missed when she leaves this place in two days for a small village near Montpellier in the south of France. “I will continue my journey of sustainable living… Lots to do there, too,” she adds.
“The profoundest distances are never geographical”. Claire’s undying spirit will continue to thrive here through the initiatives she has nurtured and participated in. This ship will sail. No matter what the tide could bring tomorrow.
Thank you and goodbye, Claire! You will be missed.