It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that 33-year olds Varun Sivaram and Laxmi Parthasarathy make a good team as both life partners and sustainability crusaders in their respective domains of influence. This dynamic American-Indian couple has been working hard to develop long-term and sustainable solutions for their local communities. This is crucial for the global climate change movement.
For better context, Dr Varun is a physicist and clean energy technology expert currently serving in U.S President Joe Biden’s administration as the Senior Director for Clean Energy and Innovation to Secretary John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Varun, a Rhodes and Truman scholar was selected by MIT as one the top 35 under 35 innovators to design new public policies to promote clean electricity. Forbes 30 Under 30 and TIME100 Next Most Influential Persons of 2019 are just a few of the prestigious lists Varun has been on.
Laxmi Parthasarathy is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Global Press—an international, women-led, non-profit news organisation that builds independent news bureaus staffed by local women reporters in under-covered parts of the world. She is a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Mentor who has also authored a chapter for the book Kamala Harris and The Rise of Indian Americans.
A PAIR WITH A PURPOSE
The relationship between the duo is a great example of how two heads can be better than one. Laxmi, who’s from Toronto, Canada first met Varun at the ballet at the Kennedy Center in Washington, and both felt a spark as they bonded over their unique experiences and vision for a better future. Their common South Indian heritage, as well as their shared traits of kindness, empathy, family-centeredness, kindness, and empathy, helped to deepen their relationship over the past six years, which led to a recent marriage.
The couple is humble, open-minded, and funny for public figures with impressive portfolios and distinctive profiles. Despite juggling various roles in the areas of academia, policy advisory, entrepreneurship and publishing, Laxmi and Varun’s focus on the causes they believe in and share a passion for, has remained unwavering.
MAKE MOVES THAT MATTER
Varun, who has previously worked as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at ReNew Power, India’s largest renewable energy company, is quick to point out the ambitiousness of India’s Varun Sivaram and Laxmi Parthasarathy talk to Aindrisha Mitra about their active advocacy of climate and social reform as next-generation innovation leaders, and how these connect them both sustainability goals against climate change. He believes that political action is essential to address the climate crisis and the sustainability issue at an individuals level.
It is not enough to just switch to clean energy. It must also be affordable and reliable. Clean energy distributed through the installation of solar panels on household rooftops and micro-grids to support communities could become a cheap, accessible and sustainable means to meet India’s energy needs. It will also drive the economy as a bonus.
In Varun’s opinion, the India-US partnership is pivotal in bolstering climate action agendas and a clean energy revolution. He also plays a crucial role in the ‘First Movers Coalition,’ newly launched by the US State Department, in collaboration with 35 large corporations to commercialise emerging clean energy technologies and accelerate adoption in private sectors globally.
REPORTING ON RESPONSIBLE RESPONSIBILITIES
Global Press, which Laxmi co-leads, was founded 16 years ago and has more than 250 journalists from 40 countries. They cover the economy, human right, climate change, and the impact it has on local communities. By establishing representative news bureaus around the world, the organisation is committed to ethical and accurate journalism. Local reporters keep track of these stories for months, sometimes even years, to investigate the long-term impacts of climate change-induced natural and catastrophic disasters on local communities in countries like Zimbabwe and Puerto Rico. Laxmi cites an example of a Global Press Journal story by Lilette Contreras, on innovation and damage control around climate change in Mexico’s Chihuahua, where corn cultivators collaborated with cattle farmers to sell corn stalks to feed livestock instead of burning them as they would traditionally do. This helped to reduce carbon emissions, air pollution, waste management, and saved cattle from starvation during droughts. Over ‘parachute journalism’, Laxmi supports in-depth and responsible storytelling, which has reporters in areas facing earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, cyclones for a short period of time. “We need more local reporters tracking the prolonged impact of these natural disasters on communities who are equipped with the required resources to cover complex climate stories,” she explains.
IN A UNIQUE NEWS CULTURE
Multiple studies have shown that there is a relationship between the people who report on news and the ones being covered. Unique source access, language efficiency and a balanced reporting style are some of the organisation’s key focuses while telling a story. The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected the Ugandan sex workers. Only by building trust with the affected parties and establishing meaningful equations, the reporter became a conduit to sensitive inside details about the lives of the marginalised, underrepresented group.
WHERE DOES A BUCK STOP?
Change in diet behaviourism in terms of plant-based protein intake, lab-engineered yet tasty food supplements, conscious and mindful lifestyle choices, recycling and conservation of resources and energy are few recommended ways to do one’s bit when it comes to climate action without making huge personal sacrifices, Varun suggests. The same goes for electric vehicles that can be powered by batteries. This could help to reduce pollution.
Finally, a greater consciousness can be a great start in climate action. You can also consider alternative career paths in science, technology, innovation, and media to tap into the many opportunities they have to offer.
Laxmi says that representative newsrooms around the world can be a benchmark for quality journalism by providing accurate, consequence-driven reporting on innovation and sustainability in relation to climate change. To ensure the safety of reporters and mitigate risks while they are at work, Global Press has a dedicated ‘Duty of Care’ programme in place prioritising physical, emotional, digital and legal security for journalists operating in challenging areas.
Photo credits: Malie Osborn
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