A traveller, an activist and an inspiration to many- Divya Nawale is all that and much more. DoJMA had an opportunity to interact with her during Metanoia- the Annual BITS Alumni Summit organised by the Alumni Relations Cell, BITS Goa. Here’s what she had to say about her experiences so far and her journey hereafter.
DoJMA– You have been to so many countries, and have been a part of so many institutions and companies. Could you explain how you went from doing engineering in BITS to being a conservationist and an advocate of sustainability?
Divya– My journey of self-discovery started while I was in Pilani. Everything used to excite me. For the longest time, I didn’t know what it is that I really wanted to work towards. After I graduated from BITS, I essentially went into the real world; I realised that I couldn’t do everything at once and I had to focus on one thing. Apart from being a passionate member of the dance club, I was always really active in NSS and I also enjoyed teaching kids and was even a part of Nirmaan. That’s when I understood that I wanted to go into social service. In 2007, I watched the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and it had such a tremendous impact on me, so much so that it played a very crucial role in making me who I am today. Subsequently, I started working with different companies and organisations, went to Antarctica, and jumped my profession whenever I thought I could help the world in a better way.
DoJMA– How can we as college students, bring about changes in our lifestyle to promote sustainable living and to conserve the environment?
Divya– First thing, I wanted to let you know is that I have met representatives in the morning from Nirmaan and EPAC, and we are basically seeing how we can work together to make events eco-friendly. My suggestion is that we have to first do a baseline; understand what’s happening. First, you measure, right? Figure out what’s happening, and then one by one you start understanding, what can you do differently, what can you do different. Yes, it’s a tiresome process, but you have to take one thing at a time. Change is slow, so you have to keep pushing and do the process, as it comes along. The first step would be personal, like I said, start personally, work individually on yourself and see what you can do different, and that way you change people around you. People look at you and they say ‘Okay, maybe I can do this with you, I’ll join you.’ And then, when you do it together you might be able to actually find more avenues. It broadens your perspective. Once you start thinking in a certain way, everything opens up.
DoJMA– As a person, you have seen quite a lot in the field of renewable resources. In your view, what would be the future of renewable resources?
Divya– I personally have seen that around 10 years ago there was not much about renewable resources. Now, it’s boomed. The reason why it has happened is economics. As the economy changes, we’ll go faster towards alternative, cheaper and hopefully greener alternatives. I see that the economy is already changing. We have economic models in place. By 2030 there’ll be no fuel based cars in India. I think there is enough political will to put the plans in place but not enough technical expertise to implement it. That’s why we need more people in these places. The future is green and it is through jobs and companies that are trying to make this change. I personally think that even people who have worked in automobile sector are moving towards more efficient technologies like hydrogen fuel cell. India is way ahead of the curve. It has more technology and more youth to drive this change.
DoJMA– What were your responsibilities as a young climate change leader from India on the International Antarctic Treaty expedition?
Divya– Essentially all of us were made into groups and asked to think of problems that threaten the earth. We were taught what we can do, as young people, to be as sustainable as possible. I suppose my biggest takeaway was that it doesn’t matter what we do, if all of us are aware and make a little conscious change in our lives to make it more sustainable, it will make a huge difference. Another important thing that we were taught was, as funny as it sounds, story-telling. I have been in rooms with children but I have also been in rooms with government and university officials and the skill of story-telling has enabled me to talk to them about my work and encourage them to help the globe.
DoJMA– You’re affiliated with the 2041 foundation, right? What are the goals and the work of the foundation?
Divya– The name 2041- it’s about preserving Antarctica, and how you do that is by raising awareness and ensuring that things are changing. If things are changing then 2041 will not have to worry about going and fighting a war for oil in Antarctica. So, it’s a very long-term strategy, but how we break it down in the short term is that we want people to take personal challenges and work on activities that can help inspire the rest of the world. The expedition itself is like a sensitization program, it’s more of an educational awareness opportunity. You get to go and have a conference on a ship, where you get to learn from all these speakers. You get to brainstorm, sit and work together on solutions and make commitments about a single goal, the one thing you’re most passionate about. Even within sustainability, there are a hundred things. Somebody wants to work on electric vehicles. Someone else would want to do supply chain management and make it greener. So, one can find their exact skillset, and make it aligned with sustainability or with the vision, of saying that this will help me to actually support the mission of 2041. So, in that sense, 2041 has these expeditions every year; this year they went to the Arctic, next year there are two expeditions again, one to Kilimanjaro, which I’m going to be on, and then there’s Antarctic again, at the end of the year. So, as a part of that, when you sign up today, your journey has already begun; because to start preparing for it, you will have to raise funds for it, and when you fundraise for it, you have to talk about awareness, you have to talk about sustainability. By doing this, you already start inspiring people. The idea is to get people talking, to get people engaged. The more people you change, you get inspired, they get inspired, they ask other people to change, and it’s basically a chain reaction. So, even though 2041 itself doesn’t necessarily go out there and sell products or services, it’s essentially in the education and awareness industry.
DoJMA– As an adventure traveller, you have travelled to a lot of countries. Could you tell us one experience which sticks out and why?
Divya– I’ll talk about two places that are very special for me. Antarctica is in the top three so I am not going to talk about it. First one is Australia. I had scuba-dived there in 2011 in the Great Barrier Reef and every time you read a story about the reef getting bleached, it breaks my heart. This is probably because, despite the fact that I love Antartica, it is very monochromatic. The Reef, however, is so lovely and vibrant. Scuba-diving in the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most exciting experiences one can ever have. The second place to leave an impact on me would be Ladakh. I have been there twice. The beauty and simplicity of the people there really inspire me a lot. I don’t know if you know this but there is this ritual in Ladakh where people actually pray to mountains and kiss the land. The most beautiful thing that I have ever witnessed was that in 2010 there was a cloud burst in Ladakh (due to climate change again) and then next year everyone, right from children to adults prayed at the same time to pray for the climate.