C. B. Ramkumar dons many hats. A Malayali brought up in Chennai and based in Bengaluru, he is the founder of Green Dreams for the Planet, an NGO, Our Native Village, an eco-resort, and author of Green Dreams. Ram says his father-in-law, who was the captain of a ship, fell ill and wanted to settle down as a farmer. “We got a patch of land in Hesaraghatta. His friends joined in and soon we were farming together. I remember around 20 years ago when the rains in Bangalore had failed. We were losing ragi and baby corn crop and though there was enough ground water, there was no electricity to pump the water up. We finally had one sack of bitter gourd and I went to the market to sell it. In the auction, I saw an old couple who had three lots of pumpkins that sold for Rs. 70. I asked myself how they were going to survive with just that amount for the next three months. It moved me terribly.”
That got Ram thinking. “These people had traditional knowledge. We knew how to harness nature once upon a time. Now, all that knowledge has been wiped out. With the green revolution it had become primitive to depend on nature. We gave borewells to everyone and then pulled the plug by not giving electricity,” laments Ram.
Our entire definition of progress is flawed, he says. “I promised myself that day that I will develop a 360 degree self-sustaining living model. Down the line, we converted the back-of-beyond place to a resort.” What’s more important, he says, is that they developed a commercially viable model of application in total sustainability. “The next step was to write this book. This year will be 10 years since we started the company. I will fail in my duty to pass on the rich experience and knowledge I’ve gained if I didn’t write the book. I call it Green Dreams because this is a green dream I want everyone to have. I want to inspire people to green their own homes and eventually cities and urban settlements will also become green.”
Ram went on to become a climate leader and trained under former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
“I’ve also started Green Dreams For The Planet, an NGO. While the book will give a roadmap for what you can do, the NGO will take that forward practically and provide help and guidance. We took up the ‘Red Off’ initiative where volunteers stood in traffic signals with signboards asking people to turn off their vehicles when the signal is red. It turned out to be very positive. We hope to take initiatives like this to a global level.”
What’s the most important message he champions? “That it is possible. There is a misnomer that the eco-friendly move is expensive. It’s not. Prices have crashed. Moreover, there is a moral issue that governs the lives of future generations. It’s not about the money though there is financial viability. The battle itself is important.”
So what can people do in a city like Bengaluru? Ram says: “There are a lot of low-hanging fruit. Pluck them first. Solar panels, windmills, etc. are the top of the tree. Start small with LED bulbs. Harnessing nature is all there is. Grow your own fruits and vegetables around your house in your landscaping. Compost all the food waste and use them as manure. You don’t need land. You can do it in your house itself. This is an urban model. Every household in Bangalore will see it’s not complicated. You will have a sense of achievement.
On the battle between development and environment, Ram says this is a world where we need to coexist. “Native Village is a 100 percent eco-resort where we give all the creature comforts. That is the only model which will work. Intrinsically we are all nurturing beings and we live in an environmentally-conscious society. I’m a revivalist. There is no place for activism, only total inclusiveness. I’m trying to revive the way man used to live back in the day. Our Native Village has revived Indian art, old practices from the Indian village, village games and using revivalism to teach people about forgotten things. This will revive knowledge and interest in living.”