Positive Impact Movement interview - sustainable travel in India
This article explains how we ended up starting our sustainable travel company - BeAnimal.
How did you come to do what you do? What’s your personal background story?
I've been interested in sustainability and design ever since I was a kid. My early childhood was spent in the UK and I went to preschool in Australia. Even though I can hardly remember these years of my life, I think they had a huge impact on me. When I was 6 years old, I started school in India. It was a huge jump from the Australian school system as the other kids in school had already learnt how to read and write in two languages as well as perform simple arithmetic. One of my friends parents from Australia had signed me up for a three-year subscription of this really cool magazine called 'Scientifica' which arrived on our doorstep every two months. It was filled with tons of information about the natural world and this helped shape the way I think.
During my school years I spent a lot if time reading, writing stories and playing outdoors. The school I attended is in the heart of Bangalore city and all my friends lived close by. It was a wonderful time to be living there as the city wasn't quite as polluted or crowded as it is now. We would spend the holidays outside riding bikes, playing cricket and swimming. After high school, I went on to study environmental science.
The college I studied at was one of the two colleges in the country to offer environmental science as a bachelor's course. I expected the level to be fairly high but little did I know that I was in for a huge disappointment. The course material and teaching methodology was as antiquated as the the professors themselves. It seemed like education was killing the passion I once had for the subject. In a way, it was good because I spent those years training and racing for ultra-endurance events with a road cycling team in my city.
After completing the course, I needed a break from this line of studies and India itself. A number of my classmates went to work for industries as environmental clearance officers who's job was primarily to satisfy bureaucratic requirements and allow dumping of toxic waste in lakes and rivers. I was utterly fed up with the way things functioned in the country and I needed to find a way out. An older cousin of mine had recently been accepted to a masters programme in Sweden and this kindled my interest in moving to Europe. I had always had a huge love for architecture and sustainble design and I decided to apply to a few colleges in Denmark. I had heard a lot of news about Denmark's progessive policies surrounding environmental legislation and transportation. A friend's dad helped me raise the money for my first year's tuition and a few months later, I found myself sitting in a classroom in Horsens, Denmark attending an engineering course in architectural technology and construction management. Denmark was definitely the right place for me and I met so many of my closest friends there.
I had been managing my life pretty independently from the time I was seventeen so travelling to a new country wasn't that challenging for me. It was still a huge learning experience and it's one I'm truly grateful for. In my first year, I won the Danish innovation award for a solar cooker and water purifier that I had been developing from my college days in India. This is perhaps one of the reasons that I received a full scholarship for the remainder of my education as well as a grant for food and board. I travelled around Europe quite a bit during this time and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. During my last year in college I met my girlfriend Vanessa at the Roskilde music festival in Denmark. I had no idea at the time that we would together set up a sustainable travel community little over two years from then. The original plan was to settle down in Germany and work at an architecture firm there. A few months later (and much to the disapproval of our parents) we re-evaluated our choices and we both moved to India in the beginning of 2017. This is when our travels began. Ever since then we've been constantly on the go - embracing a life of nomadic uncertainty for the pure freedom and simple pleasures that come with it.
Our campaign started in Agonda beach, Goa in mid 2017. We were walking along the beach talking to people about habitat loss and wildlife conservation. Although most people were very supportive, they had little to no clue about what was the real driving factors behind climate change were and what they could do to reduce their own carbon footprint. We started BeAnimal to help raise awareness about these issues as well as promote environmental and nutritional education. We decided that we would raise funds for our project by running eco-tours in India with a special focus on yoga, sustainability and conscious travel. We have had a couple of tours so far and they have all been tremendous fun.
At this moment we are preparing for all the tours that have been planned for after the monsoon as well as setting up a jungle yoga retreat in the North of Kerala.
How are you positively impacting your society and environment?
Our main activities so far have been in education and permaculture. These are two areas that can revolutionise our impact on the planet and the way we think. Permaculture is a way of design that uses nature and natural processes as a guide. It is used to optimize the yield without requiring additional labour and resources from the side of the farmer. The energy extracted from a permaculture site is far more than the energy put into it - this could be in terms of labour, fertilizer or electricity. The purpose of our campaign is to spread this knowledge so each person can do his part in protecting the planet.
We have been lecturing in a number of colleges and schools so far and the students with whom we have spoken seem very interested in this way of being. In a country like India, which is going to have the largest population in the world in a few years it is absolutely crucial to get this information out there. People need clean air, water and food even if they don't realize it at this time. Indian society has been driving this insane consumerist narrative for many years now and it's our job to give these kids something more positive to work towards.
What's your dream, your vision?
Our dream is to help create a world where people can exist in harmony with nature and one another - where humans do not treat all other forms of life as inferior or as commodities. This peace can only be achieved if we all choose to slow down and understand the systems that effect our quality of life. Health, ethics and the environment all go hand in hand. We need to look at the whole picture and act accordingly.
Our aim is to inspire a lot of people to make this change before it is too late. Run away climate change is not a thing of fiction. It is very real and it's happening right now. Can we adapt fast enough is the only question.
Have you found your meaning and purpose in life? Why?
The work we do gives me a lot of satisfaction- I love travelling, teaching and interacting with students. The goal at the moment is to stay focussed and break this project down into bite sized chunks. We are still at the point when we are building our reputation and it's important not to get ahead of ourselves. The freedom that comes with this way of life is incredible but the discipline and skills you learn along the way are even more valuable.
There are many things I would like to do in the future in the fields of sustainable energy, transportation and design. Some of these might have to wait a few more years before I get down to them!
What does being a socially-conscious individual mean to you? And, why did you join the PiMov movement?
I think caring about the health and happiness of the people around us is fundamental to all people. It's just that we've grown to judge others a great deal more that should. This puts us in a deep pit where we are constantly fearful and unable to relate to anyone at all. No one can exist in isolation so caring about others, animals, plants and the planet as a whole can keep us grounded. This fascination for life helps keep our minds young and our bodies fit.
I joined the PiMov movement beause I want to inspire people to immerse themselves in nature. To travel widely and to learn where their food comes from. To learn about the animals who share this planet with them before it is too late and they are all gone. I believe we have a fighting chance but only if we wake up today and educate ourselves. We live in a time where information is available at the stretch of a fingertip but the power to act on it has to come from within.
Find more inspirational stories at https://pimov.org/