The 3R Peoples Party


REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE (The 3R’s) are at the heart of the ‘Go Green’ global movement. All of us, whether a public organisation, private enterprise or individuals, we need to manage resources more sustainably. The world’s resources are not infinite. It is worrisome and scary to note that people in 2050 will only have 25% of the resources per capita that people in 1950 had! Therefore, the only way we can support future populations is by using our resources more efficiently TODAY.

My Professor Friend invited me for a party hosted by “the 3R people” last weekend. “Come and meet some of the spirited folks whom you haven’t yet met and who genuinely care for this Planet. These are the People who not just believe in sustainability but put sustainability in practice”. While saying this he had a smirk on his face (at least that’s what I thought) as he knew that I only preached and never practiced sustainability. Luckily, I knew that I was not the only one – and there were millions like me.

The venue of the party was non-descript and the food served was frugal. But there was no coherence in the food menu – as it had some elements of Punjabi, some shades of South Indian and some Maharashtrian items. Later I was told that for all 3R parties, food is sourced from an NGO who collects all the excess food from the wedding halls in Mumbai. I thought that this was a great concept and I wish this idea is adopted by CIIs and FICCIs and the like who specialize in holding meetings, seminars and workshops where the main plenaries are often the “gala” lunches and dinners. Technical sessions are generally given less priority.

When we entered the venue, we were greeted and taken to a registration desk. There were three types of Tee shirts offered to each delegate. These Tee shirts were all in bright red color with slogans such as REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE. Depending on your interest, affinity, conviction or capability, you could pick up any kind of Tee shirt out of the three. I was offered a plain Red Tee shirt with nothing written as the organizers knew that I was a new comer and they knew nothing about me or my expertise.

The Tee shirts had one line explanation on each of the “R”s. Tee shirt with REDUCE had a bye line – buy less and use less. REUSE Tee shirt sported text “Use discarded item again” and the RECYCLE Tee shirt had a signature note “Make new products from materials that are discarded”.

I liked these simple explanations. I wish this is how we communicated the concept of 3Rs rather than using words that you would generally find in the technical journals that are read only by few.

I was curious to see “which R” dominated the party. A quick scan indicated that there were more Tee shirt people with RECYCLE followed by REUSE and relatively few people were sporting the REDUCE Tee shirts. I therefore thought of meeting first some of the REDUCE Tee shirt people.

The first person I met with REDUCE Tee shirt was wearing shorts and a half sleeves shirt. When asked, he said that he is telling everybody to wear shorts and half sleeves shirts and not full trousers and full shirts. That was his campaign. He said that if this practice was followed by everyone then it could mean saving 1 billion meters of cloth each year. Assuming that average 30 % of cotton is used then it would amount saving nearly 4 billion m3 of water each year[1]. He had even more such interesting statistics on savings of earth resources (especially land), reducing waste release (like fertilizers and pesticides) and emissions etc. but thankfully a REDUCE Tee shirt good looking woman standing next to him interjected and said “and not to forget the advantage of shorts and half sleeves shirts – exposing your skin to the sunlight and getting D Vitamin to your body in the natural form. Do you know that in India more than 69% of adults have D Vitamin deficiency”?  To impress her I said ” this would mean  we won’t need to produce D Vitamin artificially and this will amount to further saving of resources such as water, minerals, protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions”.  And the woman was indeed impressed. She said that I made a good point she had missed.

“Do you really need this spot light”? A tall man with REDUCE Tee shirt asked me and without waiting for my response dimmed the light.  “Do you know if we follow strictly the minimum illumination guidelines (e.g. 500 lumen/m2 for office and 40 lumen/m2 for public areas)[2] , 1 million MW of electricity will be saved each year and so will be a reduction in the coal combusted to greatly reduce GHG emissions. (I was wondering how the Tall man arrived at these estimates – but looking at his face with passion as well as conviction – I did not dare to ask. These are rare skills generally vested with reputed environmental NGOs).  I could see in his eyes his dimly lit house, equally dim lane where he lived and the dim headlights of his car that could lead to road accidents. But jokes apart but I thought the Tall man made a sense. We many times celebrate illumination without any reasons.

I thought of meeting now some REUSE folks. I saw that most of the REUSE people had assembled together for a kind of ceremony. This was a ceremony where the children “handed over” their used mobile phones to parents. Apparently, this clan of REUSE believed that mobile phones should be reused as much to an extent possible and all within the family. A great concept.

Here, the children got first the best smart phone and once the mobile phone was found outdated or if a better phone was available in the market, then the children bought the new phone and passed on the old mobile phone to their parents or the seniors. Parents and the seniors always used the “secondhand phones”. The life cycle of the mobile phone was thus increased leading to saving on the costs and of course reduction in resource consumption and damage to the environment. I was really impressed.

One of the REUSE ladies asked me “Do you use plastic or paper or cloth bag?” I said Plastic with an honest and guilty face expecting from her a look of disgust. On the contrary the lady exclaimed “So wise of you. There are only few like you who understand. Plastic bag can be reused many times compared to paper. A cloth bag needs to be washed much more frequently and that leads to more consumption of water and detergents. I just don’t understand the anti-plastic bag campaign”. I was surprised with her analysis. “Time to revisit Life Cycle Analysis of various types of bags” I said to myself.

People with RECYCLE Tee shirts were large in number and did not mix much with REDUCE and REUSE Group. In fact, I noticed a kind of animosity in their relationship. Probably recyclers  did not want “reduction” on purchases or consumption and “reuse” of used goods and materials to happen in their own interests.

The topic of discussion was how to increase or improve recycling. Recycling builds skills on entrepreneurship – said one RECYCLE person from the private sector. Another RECYCLE person from Academia spoke about link between RECYCLING and innovation. A lady with large bindi on the forehead (a typical powerful NGO) said that RECYCLING should involve women and support their livelihoods.  All this sounded music to me.

There was a small exhibition in the foyer on recycling of plastic bottles in a creative way. This was really fascinating[3]. One RECYCLE man (short and fat) told me that in the next meeting there will be an exhibition on recycling of aluminum cans. According to him, you could operate a TV set for an estimated three hours with the energy saved by recycling just one aluminum can! He gave me his visiting card that used waste paper (one side had his name printed and the other side it had some “gibberish”) resulting from cutting magazine covers at the Printing Press. What a clever  idea I thought.


When we finished dinner with such conversations, I thanked the Professor for inviting me to the 3R Peoples Party. Professor asked me to write my impression in the suggestion book that was made out of recycled paper by women who were underprivileged.

I wrote “Why have separate Tee shirts for each R? You need integrated thinking. Print all the three Rs on each Tee shirt and the color of the Tee shirt should not be red but green.” The President (who was wearing RECYCLE Tee shirt) wasn’t pleased with suggestion on “integrated approach”. But he liked the idea on the change of color of the Tee shirt.

I stepped out of the hall with Professor. The good looking REDUCE lady in shorts and short-sleeve shirt – whom I had met earlier – saw us heading to our respective cars. “Come on friends – how come you are not following the principles of car-pooling to REDUCE the fuel consumption and the per capita emissions” She did not seem pleased with us as we were using separate cars.

“Well” Professor said “Dr Modak lives in South Delhi and I live in the North – so we cannot pool”

“Oh” she said “now I understand”

Then turning to me she asked “Then how about giving me a ride Dr Modak? I live in the South too. Can I hop in? – By the way car-pooling is also called “collaborative consumption”[4]


I readily agreed. Driving car with a good looking lady was bigger collaborative benefit I thought – apart from the environmental benefit of reducing fuel consumption and air emissions.

I most respectfully opened the door of the front seat for her to hop in.

“Let us also car pool for the next event of the 3R People Party” I said while dropping her at her residence.

[1] Do refer to the report

[2] See

[3]  Have a look at

[4] Read

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My Innings with the Indian Water Works Association


Indian Water Works Association (IWWA) was founded in 1968 by late Mr. D R Bhise, retired Hydraulic Engineer at the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC). He was inspired by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) during one of his travels to the United States where he attended the AWWA convention.

After founding the IWWA, Mr. Bhise started the Journal of Indian Water Works Association (JIWWA). The Journal was quarterly and carried around 80 pages. It was printed at the India Printing Works (IPW) owned by Mr Limaye (father of my school batch mate Anand who subsequently took over)

Mr. Bhise was close to the Modak family. He worked with my Late Uncle N V Modak at the BMC. He in fact hosted the first pre-wedding party (Kelavan) to my Father Madhav and Mother Nirmala at the ”Champak”, his pretty house at the Shivaji Park. Bhise was known as a “steel man”, not because he laid the large diameter steel pipelines from the Vaitarna dam (now known as “Modak Sagar”) to the city of Mumbai but because he slapped the face of the contractor on the site when he was offered a bribe! (Can you believe that this will happen now?)

“Champak” was the headquarters of the JIWWA. The JIWWA Team consisted people like G N Ganla who is today the mover and shaker of IWWA Mumbai Center and CES Rao who is now retired from Hindustan Construction Company. They and some more such folks used to do all the labeling and dispatch of the Journal with “chai” being served by Mrs Bhise. Today Ganla tells me that this was real fun and the great times to remember.

I met Mr. Bhise at the “Champak” in 1979. I was just 21 years old. I went to submit a manuscript of the paper that was written by Shirish Naik, me and Late Professor P Khanna. The paper was titled “System Identification in Water Quality Management”. (Looking back I feel that this paper did not fit to the Journal at all and should have been turned down right away. But …)

I rang the bell and Mr. Bhise opened the door. I introduced myself and told him the purpose of meeting. Mr. Bhise took the copies of the typed manuscript, put on the spectacles and glanced through the pages. I was prepared to answer his questions. I was told that Mr. Bhise is tough to deal with when it came to accepting articles for JIWWA.

“You are Madhav’s son – right?” He asked. I nodded.

“Then the paper is accepted. Only ensure that you are not using any complex symbols like alpha or beta in the text as we don’t have such fonts at the India Printing Works. That’s all”

“Now how about some Tea”. The editorial review ended.

I presented the paper at the Annual Convention of IWWA in Delhi. That was my first exposure to the IWWA family. I met stalwarts there such as Late L G Dhaigude (whose wrinkles on the face reflected the kilometers of pipelines he laid), Mr. Arvind Doshi of Indian Hume Pipe (who had a face of the “businessman in sophistication”), Late Mr. S P Unwala of Candy Filters (who had a great sense of Parsi humor) and ever lively John D’cruz, Chief Engineer of Delhi Municipal Corporation, who I thought was always ready to dance!

I enjoyed the Annual convention, made lots of new acquaintances and learnt a lot from the presentations.  I started attending thereon all the IWWA conventions that were held in different parts of the country. In the later phase of my life I was invited  to chair the Sessions at the Convention and gave Key Note addresses. It was all an evolution for me. I kind of “graduated”.

In 1995, Mr. S. R. Kshirsagar, Head of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Hon Editor of the JIWWA invited me on the Editorial Board of JIWWA. I happily accepted this invitation. Indeed, this was an honor to me.

After a few years, I was appointed as the Hon Co-Editor and subsequently in 2000, I took over the post of Hon Editor from Mr. S.R. Kshirsagar. That brought me to the Council of Management (COM) of IWWA.

Editing the JIWWA was a great experience. We used to print around 30 articles in a year including the Annual Convention issue. We used to receive each year around 200 articles. So there was a considerable “pull” and a “competition”.  The accepted articles were queued by a year and I used to be hounded by the Authors and Authors “Godfathers”. I introduced 4 pager pull-outs or inserts in the center section of the Journal on various themes like Private Sector Participation (PSP). These 4 pages were paid pages and so the Journal received some revenue.

Revenue came from advertisements. We did our best to “balance” the printing costs with the revenues from advertisements. But this was not easy. There were two challenges – one was to get advertisements and second challenge was to get the invoices paid in time! (The third challenge was perhaps how to “fit” the advertisement in the PageMaker software to minimize the “white spaces” when the Journal text was laid).

Printing of the Journal in my time was shifted to “Vijay Mudran” from IPW. Vijay Mudran was a fine Printing Press in the Royal Industrial Estate in Wadala in Mumbai. The Press was run by Mr. Madhav Kanitkar. Kanitkar was a Printer par excellence and a perfectionist. He used to tell me that he will only print if he agrees with the text. He does not simply print! So my Editorials used to get under Kanitkar’s lens. He used come up with several red lines and question marks and demand from me explanation on the views I wrote. These discussions used to happen on the mezzanine floor of the Vijay Mudran (where you had to sit down as the ceiling height was only 5 feet) and discussions (or fights!) used to end happily with a well-buttered omelet toast and a badly prepared coffee (with milk burned!). I recall late night or sometimes full night sessions at the Royal Industrial Estate to fix the Journal text and layout with Kanitkar.

Many used to ask me why do I spend so much time to bring out the Journal. This was a job – unpaid.  I used to say that besides the joy and professional satisfaction, editing of the Journal gives me a glimpse on what’s happening in research and practice in India, ahead of time and at least by a year. I realized that this was my edge and I was always up on the curve.

Today, the JIWWA is run by Dr. Ulhas Naik. Ulhas has now put all the Journal issues on the website. This is a great work he has done with the help of Professor S V Ranade of Dynadeep Infotech Pvt. Ltd. You can now upload papers electronically and access all the past articles of the Journal.

Attending Council of Management (COM) meetings used to be very interesting. It gave me a new perspective on the “water politics” and the insight to the personal rivalries. As IWWA was growing, there used to be “tensions” between the personalities and the Local Centers. I noticed at the COM that the “driving forces” were changing over time e.g. initial “mastery” by the BMC, then the “hijack” by Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran (MJP) and then spurts of “oppositions” coming from “free radicals” of Bangalore and Delhi. Many times, I used to drop Mr. Bhise from the COM meetings to “Champak” – he used to have a great laugh in the car and say “Prasad, I never thought that the organization I founded will spend so much time on matters so petty and not address the real professional issues”. Well, this is the most commonly seen situation across associations today.

In 2000, I organized an International Workshop on Private Sector Participation (PSP) in Water Infrastructure on behalf of the Mumbai Center of IWWA. This workshop was organized in Goa. It was an amazing experience for me. The Workshop was timely as PSP was on the rise in India (later ending with a glorious fall!) and stakeholders such as Central Government, Urban Local Bodies and Private Sector needed a platform for discussions. For the preparation of the workshop, I made several sorties to Goa with Mr R S Gaitonde (a “Raja” personality, truly a Goan soul and then Vice President of IWWA). Our stay at the hotel Mandovi was always memorable. I loved having a drink with him in the large ball room in Mandovi hotel, with waltz dance going on Saturday evenings and watching the ships in the river Mandovi. We used to meet Mr. Pratapsingh Rane, Hon. Chief Minister of Goa in the morning to get “all the blessings” we needed for the event.

The PSP workshop was attended by great personalities in the water sector across the word and stalwarts in India. There were only 60 participants over 3 days on a residential basis and so discussions could happen. Later I brought out a special issue of JIWWA that contained all the key presentations. Mumbai Center of IWWA made a cool “profit” of 500,000 Rs.  So the event was a “success”

After I stepped down as the Hon Editor of JIWWA, I slowly drifted out of IWWA. I started attending the annual conventions only occasionally. The annual conventions are now in a new avatara. There are now large exhibitions (with all the noise and clutter), side visits (more as tours for the families) and the lunch/dinner galore. Technical sessions are crowded with no time to discuss.  I am not much inspired now-a-days to attend the IWWA Conventions. I see more strangers than friends at the sessions. But isnt that quite natural and not a surprise.

Many of us, old timers of IWWA, still meet and try to get together as regularly as possible. Most of the times, Park club near the sea beach in Shivaji Park is the place. We speak about the good old times of IWWA and drink beers.

In 2007, I gave the Modak Memorial Lecture that was instituted in the memory of my late Uncle N V (Nanasaheb) Modak. In 2016, I was asked to deliver this lecture once again for the second time at the 48th Annual Convention. This was indeed a rare honor to receive. I delivered my talk in the morning of January 21 at CIDCO auditorium in Navi Mumbai. That very evening I suffered a massive heart attack. I just survived and miraculously so as I was moved in time to the Hinduja Hospital. After the angioplasty was done and I was sent home, I spoke to my colleagues at the IWWA. I said in a lighter vein that, if I had not survived, then IWWA would have had two Memorial lectures from 2017 (one for the Late uncle and another for the Late nephew!).

Now that I have lost more than 10 kgs, and feeling really fit, I do hope to deliver Modak Memorial Lecture for the third time, may be in 2025!

Wish me luck! God bless.

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‘Blue, Green and Everything in Between’, Companion Edition to ‘Sixty Shades of Green’ Coming Soon!

Dear Readers,

Enthused by your response to ‘Sixty Shades of Green: Musings on Sustainability‘, I am now bringing out it’s companion edition,  ‘Blue, Green and Everything in Between: Musings on Life, Love and Sustainability’ which pulls together another 50 of my blog posts.

Blue, Green and Everything in Between


Take a look at the Table of Contents – TOC.

Both the print and the e-Book versions of the book will soon be available for sale on various online bookstores. So stay tuned! We are targeting release by August 30, 2016

What readers have to say about the articles 



Whether to Drive Electric? It’s all about Location, Location and Location! Awsome Dr.Modak and I am purchasing a bicycle now…

–       Mahesh Dalvi

Eye opening sir.

–       Dr. Vijai Singhal

Environmental Emissions Market in India –Are We Prepared Enough? Very Informative and thought provoking article as always

–       Manoj Karmarkar

Teaching Environmental Modeling with Hooke’s Law This piece is simply superb!! Modelling otherwise sounds so abstract for the learners. Pedagogy like this is much needed for the teaching of environmental science so as to get professionals who understand modelling, not the application of the modeling software. And this is true for so many other concepts of environmental science. It’s so frustrating when even the practitioners in field get confused on such basic things like organic pollutants and COD, using the terms interchangeably.

–          Shantanu Roy

A Competition So Funny! Humor at its best- alas! with subtle reality.

–          Akhilendra Gupta

Journey of Environmental Assessment towards Sustainability Appraisal Well written article and very informative in the way you have linked the progression of the practice of assessment. I fully agree that the practice in this country is weak and has been further diluted by unethical short term bottom fishing approach

–       Zarasp Irani

Awesome article Sir. Thanks

–  Sunita Purushottam

 Prasad – Very good summary on evolution of EA …..

–       L. Panneerselvam

Wastewater Treatment Plants that Speak Wow, ETPs / STPs personified!!

–       Kshaumesh Antani

Great reading. Fantastic style of narration to explain a complex issue of maintenance in an ETP.

–       Pradeep

The World of the Banks Thanks for this brutally honest sharing

–       Loy Rego

Good one Dr. Modak. Pretty realistic picture!

–       Mythili

Let us Work in Full Circle Very thought provoking article.

I hope everyone realizes the urgency and we start on the path chalked out by you.

It could be in the smallest possible way.

I think we all owe that much to our future generations.

–       Nayan Khambati

Those Magical Days of GMDH It is very good article and I learnt many things. Well-crafted and informative.

–       Nitin Sonawane

On reading the blog, I wished to iterate that you have an amazing array of knowledge, interest and experience in doing interesting things. Though I have no knowledge about GMDH but was definitely interested to read about it. Each and every blog of yours is so interesting to read as offers a new understanding about your experience and knowledge. We are enriched just be reading them. Thanks for sharing your old and new experiences.

–       Aparna (Nahar) Sethi

Indian Weddings now require Environmental Clearance Another hilarious “episode”. Good that the post marriage blues were not included as a compulsory “post audit”. Look forward to the next one.

–       Akhilendra Gupta

Indeed hilarious. However it must be recognised that waste management is a very serious challenge to the service provider and menace to the neighborhood due to scavenger animals, flies…

–       M.C.Badarinarayana

Dear Dr Modak. Good idea! Generation of new business avenues! May be getting EC report would eventually become a status symbol and a fashion to gossip about in high class clubs and social events! Depending upon the propaganda, there may be a prize announced for the family which spends highest amount and/or best EIA report for wedding-events. Wow! ECO WEDDING!

–       Pravina Parikh

Absolutely hilarious!! Prof Modak, I didn’t know that you write literary masterpieces as well. Thought you are an expert basically on the drab EIA!!

–       Mythili

Silence of the Lambs

You are at it once again. The level of satire used is at a different level altogether. I hope all personnel and organization’s mentioned find a way to read this.

–       Pranay Krishnan

Good analysis. I need not read so many books to understand the status of EIA and ESP in India, thanks Modak Sir…

–       V S Balasubramanian

Dear Dr Modak – excellent capture of current situation of Indian stakeholders in field of environment thru “silenced” sarcasm!!

–       Anand Palkar

Good observations and excellent interpretation of current happenings in the present Indian environmental scenario. I do not see in near future any of our professional associations rising above their petty squabbles and contributing positively to the future policies. But, obviously blame ourselves for not participating and showing spine at the right time on subjects concerning issues beyond our daily routine. Inaction by good people at the right time, is more damaging than destructive action of “not -so -good ” people. Lets wake up , try and make a difference in the future.

–       Nayan Khambati

Extremely informative as usual.

–       Manoj Karmarkar

Professor’s Unique Beauty Saloon Great piece of writing. Delightful blend of fantasy science reality politics with your softly biting comments. Enjoyed thoroughly Prasad! !!

–       Pradeep


Taking a simple example of visiting saloon, so many Enviro terms are interwoven creating an awareness even for a ‘non-connected person’. Keep it up!

–       sudhirvj


BTW, a few hard copies of the first book “Sixty Shades of Green” are still available. Visit link to purchase.

More about the “Blue and Green”

‘Blue, Green and Everything in Between’ has a different sort of flavor – it brings together 50 of my choicest posts in which I have related anecdotes from my personal experience with people, places and life. However, just like ‘Sixty Shades of Green’, I have adopted a semi-fictional satirical style to narrate life and love through the lens of sustainability. As before, the book  comes with rich and attractive illustrations but in a new format.

I want to gauge your interest in purchasing the book.  It would be really nice if you could answer the following questions:



Body, Soul and the Ultimate Truth


I was standing outside the Victoria Terminus (VT) Station of Mumbai at 9 am with Professor Hikeda of Tokyo University. Professor Hikeda was researching on the subject of “urban crowding”.

A huge mass of human bodies was pouring out from the VT station. All bodies were walking briskly with not many “collisions” between them towards their destinations.  Professor Hikeda was busy on his video recording the movement of bodies and speaking into his digital voice recorder taking his audio notes. “Reminds me of Tokyo – but the scale here is different”. He turned to me and said.

When I returned home, I started thinking about the human body and consumption. “Oh to keep these human bodies alive and in “motion”, there must be hell of a consumption” I said to myself.

Many of you know that every human produces an individual ecological footprint that is determined largely by the wealth and level of development in the country they live in. More developed countries have a larger footprint on average—but the choices we make in our daily lives about what to consume also makes a significant contribution. Driving a car, running clothes through a dryer, turning on the air conditioning—are the activities that add up to a larger footprint.

If everyone in the world lived like the residents of the US, humanity’s annual demand on nature is estimated to be equal to a whopping four Earths per year.  And then there are several countries that have very low footprints that are poor in economy. In fact they are yearning for more consumption as they are undernourished and energy poor. “Basic” amenities and services are not available to them.

According to recent United Nations estimates, global population is increasing by approximately 80 million — the size of Germany — each year. Although birth rates have declined in most areas of the world, population growth continues to be fueled by high levels of fertility, particularly in Asia and Africa. Continued high birth rates in many developing regions, coupled with low fertility in more-developed regions, means that 80 percent of the global population now lives in less-developed nations.

See the chart below taken from the United Nations Development Programme (dated 2006) that attempts to link human well-being with ecological foot print.


The challenge of reducing our footprint is getting more complex every day. How do we decrease our resource use and at the same time create a future that provides food, water and energy for the 9 billion people that will share the planet in 2050? That’s the “sustainability equation” we are attempting to solve.

The goal is that everyone lives within the Earth’s capacity to sustain people and nature—and has equitable access to, and use of, natural resources.

When I asked this question to my Professor Friend, he lighted his cigar and said

“For the future footprints, the changes in the birth rates and the “dependency ratios” will matter. A dependency ratio is defined as the number of people over the age of 65 for each 100 people of working ages between 15 to 64”

I had not come across this term “dependency ratio”

Professor continued

“A recent forecast appeared in a November 2012 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The report is titled “Looking to 2060: Long-Term Global Growth Prospects”.

“And what does this report say?” I asked

“By 2060 Germany and Italy are expected to have dependency ratios above 55. The graph below shows estimates of “dependency ratios” of the Eurozone through 2060. So people in Europe will get older much faster before they become rich and overconsume. In 2010, China had just a dependency ratio of 11.3 but it is estimated that it will be in the same range as the US and UK in 2045. So there the surge in consumption will fall with tapering economic growth. The pace of change in countries such as China will make planning and adjustment of global resources much more difficult. The report says that more rapid aging of the population in China will partly explain why India and Indonesia will overtake China’s economic growth rate in less than a decade.


I said “So the underlying message is that a rise in the birth rates brings its own set of challenges in the form of an increased demand for resources such as food, energy, and water leading to high ecological footprints and affects the economic growth”

Professor summed up while extinguishing his cigar

“As quoted,  a real dilemma is now taking shape: no growth in birth rates, then more dependency, less economic growth, and lower rises in standard of living. Or, growth in birth rate, more short term economic growth, and more pressure on resources necessary for a sustainable form of growth and improvement in standard of living”

I said “The sustainability equation will simply be jinxed!”

I started thinking about the human bodies, consumption that we need to do for living well and the birth and death cycles in the context of planets sustainability.

Since the matter had to be dealt at the highest level, I called Lords Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma on Skype and they answered my call immediately.

I saw that the Lords were working on a laptop along with Professor Jay Forester, father of System Dynamics and who used to teach at the MIT. They were busy adjusting the birth and death rates trying to tame Planets Population. I thought they were having fun like playing a mobile app game.

Professor Forester said Hi. He was showing the Lords how to plug in various “loss functions” like cyclones, earthquakes etc. and was introducing new sub-systems like “Climate Change”. He said that Climate Change will significantly alter the birth and death rates as well as the status on resource availability – rather resource security. “This sub-system will require more modelling” he said.

The Lords were thrilled to see such potential interventions and were wondering whether they could crack the difficult equation of sustainability using the tools and sub-systems.

I asked the Lords (and Professor Forester) – “My Lords – after the death on the Planet Earth – why don’t you keep souls with you at your end and don’t let them take birth again in human bodies. It’s the body that is becoming the problem. It leads to consumption and affects sustainability. The souls should rest in peace with you and simply not return. Won’t it help in reducing the birth rates?”

Lord Vishnu smiled and said “Dr Modak – we cannot keep every soul with us. There is a minimum qualification criteria that a soul must meet. The soul must be sensitive to people and to the environment and should be believing in doing good for everybody. Further the soul should be detached to the material world of consumption. Only then we reward such as soul and give them a place to stay with us”

I was shocked with this crazy logic.

“My Lord, shouldn’t it be reverse? All such good souls should be sent back to the Planet so that we attain sustainability. We badly need such good souls. You should keep the “bad souls” with you and do not let them return to the Planet Earth and take form in the human bodies”

The Lords and Professor Forester were stunned with my reverse logic.

I continued “Professor Forester – can you please run your System Dynamic model with this change?”

“You have an interesting point Dr Modak” Professor Forester said while starting the re-code and re-run of the model “I must try this alternate approach – at least for academic interest”

The three Lords were however not charmed with this idea.

“Oh Dr Modak, your jugglery with bodies and souls is fine for a discussion but you do not understand the Ultimate Truth” said Lord Vishnu.

With this, all the three Lords closed their lotus eyes in deep meditation. And there was a silence.

The Skype call was disconnected.

Cover image taken from

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