By Reya Mehrotra
Bengaluru is not only known for its good weather but the active participation of its folks when it comes to climate conservation and environment activism. It is no surprise then that the country’s first ‘Green LitFest’ takes shape in the city. “When we learn more, we do more” is the tagline for the recently-concluded Green LitFest, a first-of-its-kind literature festival that stirs conversation around climate change, sustainability and environmental issues. The first and virtual edition of the festival saw a host of authors and corporates come together to discuss the need of the hour. The idea of the festival evolved over a period of time. It was the brainchild of Bengaluru-based Benedict Paramanand, editor of SustainabilityNext magazine, an e-magazine that focuses on business of sustainability, who is also the founder of Bangalore Business Literature Festival.
Benedict shares how the festival took form. “In SustainabilityNext magazine, we have been doing reviews of books focused on environment and sustainability. We realised that most of these books are not marketed appropriately. Having said that, in the past five years, the quantity and quality of such books have gone up significantly and we need a platform to market them. So we aerated this platform for authors and readers to connect and for marketing and sales to happen,” he shares.
He also feels that there is a need for deeper conversations around climate change, but there is a lack of forums. “These issues are raised largely through social media and it doesn’t happen very engagingly or in a healthy way there. We need to create spaces for this conversation,” he says. The platform engages people from all streams—students, executives, entrepreneurs—and gives them access to better literature so that they can influence policies and put pressure on decision makers. “The big issue of climate change is that there is more of talk and less of action because there is not much pressure from civil society. If we are well informed, we can apply better pressure on policy makers,” adds Paramanand.
The speakers and invitees of the festival included the likes of Mahindra Group’s chief sustainability officer Anirban Ghosh, IAS officer and additional chief secretary (Tamil Nadu government) Atulya Misra, MP Jairam Ramesh, writer and editor and co-editor of speculative and solar punk stories and author of several books like The Butterfly Effect Rajat Chaudhuri and more. When asked how Paramanand managed to put together a strong list of speakers at the first edition of the festival, he shares, “We had a good mix of authors, corporates, activists and politicians. It was perhaps the novelty factor. It is a new concept and no one has attempted this. There are many authors who have written books in the recent past and would like a platform to talk about their books.”
When Padmini Srinivasan, associate professor, finance and accounting, and chairperson of Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship, IIM Bangalore, asked Mukund Rajan, author and chairman at ECube Investment Advisors, whether sustainability is a far-fetched goal for developing countries like India, Rajan replied, “It is true but we cannot keep waiting for the right technology to happen. We don’t have time and, therefore, we need to take early action.”
On the question of sustainable business, Anirban Ghosh, chief sustainability officer of Mahindra Group, shared, “As one emerges from Covid, one hopes to get more climate action. We have reached a stage where people want to take the right action but don’t know what to do in business.”
Spreading the message
Green Litfest is likely to be an annual event and switch to a hybrid version once the pandemic ends. “The online reach is larger but the discussions are much more engaging in a physical space,” believes Paramanand.
Once physical, the organisers plan to take it to different cities to engage a larger audience, particularly places where there is an engaged and active civil society like Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru, Kerala, and so on. “We plan to engage with local authors, writers and bring society together,” Paramanand says. A plethora of issues would also be addressed each year and the focus in future would be to take up different issues in different cities wherever the festival travels. For instance, in Goa, mining and coastal region issues would be addressed.
This, believes Paramanand, would also encourage new and young authors to emerge and the conversations would excite them to engage. “One significant impact would be that people would get to know more about books and authors on various interesting topics on environmental awareness,” he says. Apart from an annual litfest, the organisers also plan to have monthly dialogues and quarterly mini fests at various places. This, they say, would keep the conversation active throughout the year and there is an interesting lineup for 2022.
In October this year, Green LitFest organised a dialogue titled, “Spies, Superheroes and Satire: A New Wave of Eco-Comics” and in November, another dialogue titled “Writings on Elephants for Young Readers” was held. Both the dialogues saw participation from renowned authors writing on environment for children. Initiatives like these are likely to encourage young authors to write and young readers to engage in such works.
Some of the sessions held included ‘How India Can Build Outstanding Sustainable Businesses,’ ‘Why Green Literature Matters?,’ ‘Nature, Childhood and Our Emotional Lives: How Literature Binds Us’ and so on. The second day of the festival had a film screening of Wild You Were Sleeping by The Habitat Trust, exploring six lesser-known species found in diverse habitats across India and short film screenings of Galathea Bay: Will the World’s Largest Sea Turtle return to nest in India?, Globe Skimmer: The Dragonfly that Flies from India to Africa and more.
The first edition of Green LitFest was held from December 8 to December 10.
Day 1: Business Category Winners of GLF Business Honours
* Oxygen Manifesto: A Battle for the Environment by Atulya Misra
* Fossil Free: Reimagining Clean Energy in a Carbon Constrained World by Sumant Sinha
* Nine Rupees an Hour: Disappearing Livelihoods of Tamil Nadu by Aparna Karthikeyan
Day 2: General Category Winners of GLF Honour Booklist for General Fiction & Non-Fiction
* Cities and Canopies: Trees in indian Cities by Harini Nagendra and Seema Mundoli
* Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh
* Animal Intimacies: Beastly Love in the Himalayas by Radhika Govindrajan
Day 3: WWF-GLF Honour List for Children’s Books
* Making Friends with Snakes by Rohan Chakravarty
* Saahi’s Quest by Yuvan Aves and Anusha Menon
* The Gravepyres School for the Recently Deceased by Anita Roy
* 10 Indian Champions Who are Fighting to Save the Planet by Bijal and Radha
* A Tigress Called Machhli by Supriya Sehgal