This was the event of a lifetime. A day like this will only come once in a hundred years. Since we're not likely to be around the next time, here's what happened this time around.
Sunday, 10 October 2010 was designated as a 'global day of doing' around the world. It was meant to be the largest day of positive action regarding climate change. People from London to Lithuania participated in every way they could. Big and small, individual or public - every effort counted towards cutting their countries' carbon footprints, 10% a year, starting from 10/10/10.
One Degree Initiative (www.1di.org) brought that spirit to Bangladesh with their latest project, Degrees on Wheels. The idea was to cycle around the streets of Dhaka, changing incandescent light bulbs to CFL ones along the way. By doing this, they were raising awareness on two very important issues. One was to save energy whenever possible. Going around on bicycles gave the message that it is very possible for kids like us to contribute to reducing traffic jam, rather than creating it. If kids over 14 start going to school or other short distances on bikes instead of cars, then it seems that much of the traffic problem is solved. 1dI hopes that once the idea kicks off and there are enough bikes on the street, the government will eventually be persuaded to build a separate lane for bicycles.
Although around 200 applications came in, around 40 were selected (based on prior bicycling experiences) and these pumped-up 1dI enthusiasts took the Dhaka streets head on in a unique effort to change the world. The participants were divided area-wise into four groups. They rode around Dhanmondi, DU Campus, Gulshan and Uttara, armed with energy-saving light bulbs and the desire to make a difference. They stopped in front of schools and universities to talk to the students about climate solutions and encourage them to start riding bicycles. While many initially smirked at the idea, eventually they became just as curious and excited as the volunteers. 1dI distributed brochures (printed on paper from plantation fibre), which illustrated why we should start taking action now and how easy it was to be the change we want to see in this world.
Meanwhile, 1dI also had a stall at the 10:10 Bangladesh Fair held at Hotel Sonargaon on the same day. The fair included some of the participating organisations who were doing events on 10/10/10, and 1dI cooked up an eight by eight space to create its own statement. This was to raise awareness about the fact that there are young people out there who actually care about what happens to our future. The walls were decorated with newspapers, adding texture with a mini commode made out of old cardboard boxes up front. The commode intended to encourage visitors to 'flush down' one bad habit (something they'd like to change about themselves) and 'turn over a new leaf'. Who would've thought that would receive such a massive response? People were 'flushing down' smoking, arrogance, forgetfulness to switch off lights, and so on. They also had a fish bowl for ideas where visitors were asked to stop talking about the problem and start figuring out solutions. The stall carried the slogan iDifferent that emphasised the importance of individuals taking the first step towards making a difference and growing consciousness towards their responsibilities towards their communities. The project was supported by 10:10 Bangladesh, TERM Magazine (the country hub for 10:10 this year), Cyclelife and Ad-Din Hospital.
The responses received were varied. Some pledged to pick up a bicycle, while many showed interest in learning how to ride one (1dI will soon be arranging lessons!). Some thought climate change is the government's headache and we were all wasting our time. Some laughed, some listened, some participated and some left with inspiration.
In the end, it all comes down to us. It's our future and despite what it seems like, we can actually start changing it right now. 1dI plans to make Degrees on Wheels an annual project, with smaller fun rides in between. So if you want to join in, just grab a bike and hit the streets. With little space and limited time, cycling around seems to be the best way to get some exercise in the city. If nothing else, you'll cut down your electricity bills and maybe lose a few kilos if you have to.
Last week topic for this column was Miles to Go Before I Sleep. Among the more obvious articles we received, this write-up stood out for the subtle way it referred to the “miles” that the character needs to go. For next week, as we stated in the last issue, we ask the readers to go out and interview someone who makes a living off the street. The deadline has been extended to Sunday 12 AM. Submissions sent in have to be within 600 words and a picture validating the interview has to be attached. Send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Purpose of Life
By Ridwan B. Kushal
Once upon a time, in the most magnificent city of one of the world's greatest kingdoms, there lived a young man of great endowments and renown, who was said to have the answers to all the questions of humanity. He was a philosopher, astronomer, jurist, mathematician, architect and virtually everything that a learned man could be. The people of the kingdom, both the royalty and the subjects, worshipped him as the god of knowledge.
One day, this venerated person received a visit. The visitor was an old man who claimed to have a question that the young god could not answer. 'Pray tell me, what is the purpose of life?' asked the withered octogenarian.
The young man leaned forward in his chair and rested his chin on his interlocked fingers. His gaze was intense, his countenance unfaltering, his intellect unparalleled. Yet his brow was furrowed. He found that he had no answer.
In a million years this question probably would not have occurred to him, if the old man had not put it forth. For the years after the said meeting, the young man endeavoured to find the answer. At first, he assumed that the answer could be found by logical thinking, the purest form of science, which his mind was accustomed to. He reasoned that the purpose of life was self-fulfilment. But the fate of a society where everyone sought this end was inevitable corruption and eventual destruction. So this could not be a justified purpose of life. No amount of reasoning from an armchair would yield a satisfying answer for the young man. Dismayed by the lack of usefulness of his immense knowledge, he decided to travel.
Half a decade later, walking by a farmstead, he spied an aged farmer in great difficulty. The farmer was trying to move a log of wood, but it was too heavy for him. The young man rushed forward to assist. After he had helped carry the log into a cabin, the farmer thanked him profusely, and asked why a man of such princely appearance was out in the country travelling by foot.
'I am looking for the answer to a question,' the young man replied. 'I want to know what the purpose of life is.'
The old farmer nodded wisely. 'The purpose of life,' he said, smiling, 'is to keep looking for the purpose, and the invaluable things that you pick up along the way.'
It was a moment of revelation for the young man. In his heart he knew that the farmer had spoken the truth. Suddenly his life seemed like a journey which stretched onwards into the future, where the discovery of a greater purpose awaited him. This is the path I should follow without rest or respite, he thought. It made his life seem meaningful, something which all of his scholarly labours had failed to do.
Thanking the farmer for this piece of wisdom, the young man stepped out of the cabin. The road ahead beckoned him.
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