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Sailesh Rao On Why Ahimsa (Nonviolence) Is An Essential Response to Climate Change

By October 16, 2015January 19th, 202417 Comments

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”

Mahatma Ghandi

Today I am pleased to offer a conversation with environmentalist, engineer and technologist Sailesh Rao, the founder and Executive Director of environmental non-profit Climate Healers.

With a focus on ahimsa — the Sanskrit word for non-violence — as an essential and perhaps the most powerful response to climate change, Climate Healers promotes technological and engineering advances aimed at clean air and reforestation. Partnering with NGOs, tribal villages, and school clubs, current projects include efforts to devise an affordable and high-functioning solar powered stove to replace the traditional — and quite environmentally detrimental — wood burning stoves that proliferate across low income areas of India.

An electrical engineer by training with a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Sailesh’s background in technology includes stints at both AT&T Bell Labs and Intel, where he was instrumental in developing early iterations of the internet itself.

Sailesh is also the author of Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of the Butterflies*— a call to undo the planetary damage done by the human species in its present “caterpillar stage” of existence.

As for palmares, Sailesh was selected as a Karmaveer Puraskaar Noble Laureate, an award presented by iCONGO (Indian Confederation of NGOs) whose primary mission is to encourage citizen action for social justice.

This is a conversation about environmental preservation, the inherent and incredible power of ahimsa, the imperative of service and a reminder that each and every one of can make a positive difference in the world.

Sailesh is a highly intelligent, contemplative and compassionate man devoted to making the world a better, cleaner place for us and future generations. I greatly enjoyed this conversation and applaud his advocacy and devotion to service.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Note: Apologies for publishing this episode a day late and for the brevity of this post. I am currently traveling internationally with little free time or internet access. I’m doing my best under the circumstances and appreciate the consideration. When I find the bandwidth, I may supplement this entry with additional thoughts and resources. Thanks for understanding!

Peace + Plants,


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To learn more about healing the earth from the inside out, visit

Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.

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  • Teresa Catford says:

    I did a happy dance when I saw this topic. I LOVE YOUR PODCAST!!!!!

  • Teresa Catford says:

    I did a Happy Dance when I saw this topic! I LOVE YOUR PODCAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tommy F says:

    The Vegan Movement “is” the beginning of the transformation. Anyone not fully dedicated to a plant-based diet, cannot consider themselves a valid environmentalist. They’re only fooling themselves. With the current population of environmentalists far exceeding that of Vegans.. it’s time for a full consciousness of those intending to protect the environment, to also become compassionate about the fate of ALL species living within it. We need this group to shift into the Vegan (plant-based) category.. now. The environmentalist, should eventually be considered a subset of the larger Vegan demographic.


  • rachel ward says:

    I also picked up on that quote from the new Cinderella movie, it had a similar impact on me. LOVED this podcast, very beautiful and inspiring <3

  • Sophie says:

    This is one of my favorite episodes on the RRP.

  • Belen Molina says:

    I absolutely LOVED this podcast. Beautiful stories & quotes, simple ideas, and a great deal of love, compassion, and inspiration…. Thank you Sailesh.

  • Sherry Lynn says:

    Enjoy your travels! I appreciate that you took the time to post this during your travels and I am looking forward to listening to it.
    Keep safe!


  • SpinsBackwards says:

    This podcast rocked me. I wrote a post about it:

    Rich. At the end of podcast Sailesh said this:

    Take just what you need and no more. For the earth and all her bounty does not belong to you. But to the lord.

    Where is this from?
    Thanks man,

  • Veronica says:

    Fantastic, fantastic, his calm voice, courage, kindness & all will be alright, this was awesome. Thx again Rich xoxox

  • Matt says:

    This was a terrific discussion – thanks, Rich. I think Sailesh has it right, getting people to go vegan to combat climate change is something tangible and empowering. The problem stops being so daunting when you realize you can take meaningful action with what’s on the end of your fork… Great insider insights on Al Gore’s perspective on the issue, too.

  • Cathy Fisher says:

    This interview was like a beautiful, informed, and inspired dance between you both. Such smart questions and comments, and thoughtful, easy to grasp answers. Sailesh’s voice is so soothing, and none of his words seem wasted; it was great listening to him talk. Excellent interview! 🙂

  • Em says:

    I listened to it while packing Wind Sensors, so sorta! It’s weird to
    be part of Global Capitalism, I justify it to myself on the grounds
    that these are the sensors scientists (often amateurs, but still
    scientists) use to measure our world, which is a good way of
    appreciating it and raises awareness of human errors, but I know it’s
    far from an an ideal day-to-day activity and I’m not sure my actions
    are lining up with my values.

    “she’s a beautiful woman” wait what, is being zero waste not okay if
    you’re ugly? What does that have to do with anything?

    I have been binning the kitty litter because flushing it might be bad
    for sea wildlife (cat parasites do well in the ocean), but apparently
    there’s a compostable kind?

    Can we just compost our normal kitty litter?

    It’s a weird tradeoff buying lightbulbs– all the ones I got were on
    sale from Mass Energy and they made me take florescent ones with them
    (toxic waste!), so it’s probably a net -loss for the environment but a
    net gain for us (look they use 1/10th the power and last 10x as long).

    The activism in India reminds me of JFW, he learned a lot on that
    trip. “Oh, no internet– they need local copies of Wikipedia! *goes to
    India* oh, no _power_.”

    I went to a bioenergy talk today, I would be unsurprised if we’re
    still using liquid fuels 50 years on. I expect they’ll be generated by
    GMO diatoms and the feedstock will be GMO silvergrass– and someone
    will make a hyper-efficient solar panel (maybe from chlorophyll) so
    the electric grid will _still_ outstrip our liquid fuels system in all
    but power density. Cheap nanocapacitors are coming, diatoms got
    significantly easier to genetically modify, but what -isn’t- coming is
    a cultural shift toward mass transit and carpooling. So far the best
    we’ve done on that front is Lyft/Uber.

    whelp, back to Global Capitalism–


  • Stephen Brown says:

    Such a pleasure to hear someone who has a
    positive outlook on our future. I often get very down on people, groups and cultures because of the way they put their values and traditions above all other people and animals. Listening to Rich and Sailesh brought me hope. Hope is a good thing these days.

  • Sailesh Rao says:

    This is a translation of the first Mantra of the first of the Upanishads, the Sri Iso Upanishad..

  • Martin Gray says:

    Better said: the Vegan Movement is part of the transformation; not the “beginning”. Additionally, a person can be a valid environmentalist and not be “fully” dedicated to a plant-based diet, while the smaller vegan demographic will increasingly realize it is part of the far larger environmental movement spreading across the planet. The author of this post, Tommy F, might care to closely observe the words he uses, freeing them (and in the process strengthening them) from the tirade of absolutes.

  • Tommy F says:

    Thank You Martin for considering my comment and being thoughtful enough to respond 🙏. Your kind reflection has afforded me the opportunity to ponder and reassert my prior sentiment.

    My understanding, is that God has created this earth, not simply as a revolving aesthetic to wince at from the outer reaches of the universe. This breathing planet was created as a playground of love, kindness, and joyful expression for God’s sentient children. To protect only the playground, while enacting/accepting the suffering of billions of his sentient children by the day.. misses the intention of it all.

    If we protect, honor and love all of God’s sentient beings, the playground will heal itself.


  • Martin Gray says:

    Tommy, it is nice that we are engaging in dialogue regarding these matters. For your information I have been a vegetarian for more than forty years and mostly agree with the positions you state in your post. What I was addressing in my post was (what I consider to be) the importance of not making absolute statements, particularly of using absolutist languaging when addressing things, because such wording has the tendancy of ‘turning people off’ to what we are trying to express. Also, there are and have been many people who have had significant and beneficial effects on the environmental movement who are neither vegetarian or vegan. Hopefully more and more of these people will deepen in their understanding of the necessity of limiting industrial agriculture that is based on violence done to animals, but I would rather have their assistance now in the far broader aims of environmental protection than disregarding or alienating them because of my disagreement with some of the ways in which they lead their lives. It may interest you that in a few days I am having a long meeting with Sailesh Rao and we will certainly be discussing this matter. Additionaly, you may care to look at a web site I have been working on since 1996, called Places of Peace and Power at, which chronicles my extensive travels in more than 150 countries around the world. I am a National Geographic photographer and cultural anthropologist who is very educated regarding what is happening on our planet. Also, there (sadly) are many, many places on the planet where it is impossible to fully practice vegetarian or vegan ideals.

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