In commenting on LinkedIn on COP26 (the UN climate change Conference of the Parties), Suzanne Mooney MBE, Founder of The Lost Food Project, proclaimed, “If only Sir David Attenborough were a world leader”. She was, of course, referring to Sir David’s powerful and impassioned conference speech in which he called upon the leaders of the world to work together to produce “ a remarkable recovery”. As he said, “If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet. Surely working together, we are powerful enough to save it”.
Two remarkable women speakers repeated this call to action. The first was, of course, the speech of 95 year old HRH Queen Elizabeth II who, in her online welcome address to the world leaders, calmly beseeched them to “rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship” by uniting to address the challenge of climate change and by realising that “the time for words has now moved to the time for action”.
The second came from a more unexpected source, 15-year-old schoolgirl Vinisha Umashankar from Tiruvannamalai in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu. Vinisha told the delegates, in no uncertain terms, that her generation was angered by the empty promises of previous leaders and their failure to deliver. She implored them to stop debating the old debates and instead develop a new vision for a new future. If they did not, she said, “we won’t wait for you to act. We will lead, even if you don’t. We will act if you delay”.
Unlike the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, Vinisha is not an activist but a pro-active entrepreneur who rose to global fame on 17th October 2021 by being a finalist in the recent Earthshot Prize initiated by The Duke of Cambridge, HRH Prince William. Like Sanergy she did not win her category (Clean Our Air), but her innovative venture could save millions of lives.
In India, some 1.6 million people die each year as a result of air pollution and the country, which is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the most vulnerable with respect to human-induced climate change. Vinisha’s invention is intended to reduce the pollution created by the country’s 10 million ironing carts, each of which uses some 11 pounds of charcoal a day not just contributing to the pollution of the atmosphere but to deforestation. Her invention is an ironing cart that uses solar energy to heat the iron. The roof of the cart is a solar panel that produces the necessary electricity. The cart has a battery that stores the surplus electricity so the iron can be used at night and is cloudy.
Already Vinisha is working on five other projects to address some of the environmental problems the earth is facing. As she says, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the innovativeness of the human population and how it can adapt to overcome adversity. She believes “we can take the same initiative for the future and for our planet”.
Let us hope she is correct, and the world “leaders” heed the advice of these two remarkable women and replace words with action. As Kay Luan Tay, the former Vice-Chancellor of The University of Malaya-Wales and adviser to the Harmonious Entrepreneurship Society, has questioned, “are we doing this for real?”. Hopefully, our leaders will have got the message and will not simply repeat the pledges, promises and agreements of previous years.
At more than any other time in its history, the planet needs entrepreneurial leaders. People with the vision and strength to bring about change by working in harmony with each other, nature and their people. We need Harmonious Civic Entrepreneurs concerned not just about wealth creation but people and the planet, for “when Harmony prevails all things under the sun will flourish” (Xun Zi)
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