Thursday, 22 December 2016

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is a novel which haunts you long after you have read it .First published in 2005 by Faber and Faber ,London , this 282 pages book was also  made into a major  movie , by the same name .
             Hailsham school is a  school  for children  who are cloned  and who are brought up to become  organ donors and carers. The ultimate destiny of these children is to keep donating their organs till they complete(die).The purpose of Hailsham is to  brainwash these students  so that they  remain steady and dependable  suppliers of  organs as they grow into adults. These children remain  puzzled at Hailsham   with many unanswered questions and  grow into confused adults. Their lack of understanding of the world outside is touching . Hailsham carefully ensures that  they are sheltered from any such understanding .They look for their Possibles , the human beings they might have been cloned from .But they fail.
                  The novel is about the life of three such children – Kathy,Ruth and Tommy. None of them have parents but they crave  security , parental figures and love one another. They have heard that if a boy and a girl deeply  love  each other , the couple can get deferral from donation of organs. Kathy grows into an excellent carer and  tries her best that she never lets Ruth and Tommy go .But they finally have to  leave , one by one .
      “Never let me go” is a very touching novel and indicates how hope in these children steadily erodes as they grow up  and begin to understand the world a little. They begin to realize turmoils and injustices  of the world  but  have no choice but to keep calm .But still , they do indulge in  small  pleasures  which life offers them in their situations.
               Kazuo Ishiguro has  written this powerful novel with great skill. The novel shocks and jolts  us on many levels – cloning and its morality , keeping the children in the dark about the world outside while brainwashing them , developing spare  organs for those who are rich and powerful and  who control the system .Despite its dark aspects , the  reading of this book is a very rich experience .
               I recommend you to read this book .Incidentally ,this book finds a place in the list of 100 novels of the century , prepared by Time magazine in 2005 .

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Righteous Mind :Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidth

Many of us are guided by very strong and absolute morals. If some one’s morals differ from ours  , we treat him or her   less moral or even immoral .Such an attitude creates tremendous communication barriers, even  damaging misunderstandings. This book “The Righteous Mind  . Why Good people  are divided by Politics and Religion “ is a seminal book   which contributes  significantly to our understanding about ourselves and others. It tells us why we hold certain moral beliefs   and why many people disagree with us , even  if they are good.
                   I must state at the outset that  Jonathan Haidth  has written this great  book with great care and clarity and I  have very deep regards and respect for his integrity , indepth research  and his communication ability. He   has been on the faculty of  the University of Virginia  since 1995  and is currently a visiting Professor  of business ethics  at New York University’s  Stern School of Business. It is a book on moral psychology.The book is full of  brilliant insights.First published in The United States  of America in 2012 , it was republished in 2013 by Penguin Books in 2013 and has 500 pages.
       His first principle is :”Intuitions come first , strategic reasoning second.”In other words , we first make a decision  based on our intuitions , then  make post hoc  arguments /reasoning  to dismiss other people.(Inspired by David Hume).
          Another insight is derived from Glaucon , Plato’s brother , who says that people are only virtuous  because they fear the consequences of getting caught—especially the damage to their reputations.
             The second principle of moral psychology  is:”There is more to morality than harm and fairness”.The six moral foundations of politics are Care, fairness, loyalty,authority,sanctity and  liberty.Be suspicious of moral monists.Beware of any one who insists that there is one true morality  for all people , times and places—particularly if that morality is founded upon a  single moral foundation.You don’t need to use all six foundations , and there may be certain organizations or subcultures  that can thrive with just one.
            There is a total difference between moral relativism and moral pluralism .He quotes Isaiah Berlin :”The number of human values  is finite.If aman pursues one of these values ,I who do not ,am able to understand  why he pursues it .Hence the possibility of human understanding”.
           The third principle of moral psychology is:”Morality binds and blinds”.We are 90 percent Chimp(Selfish) and 10 percent  bee (selfless).We are Homo Duplex.We have been told for 50 years  now (By Richard Dawkins Selfish Gene , and others) that human beings are fundamentally selfish.But it is not true.We may spend most of our waking hours  advancing our own interests , but we all have the capacity to  transcend self interest  and become simply a part of a whole.Though it is difficult  but not impossible  to connect with those who live in other  moral , religious and political matrices.
           It is a brilliant book based on latest research .I highly recommend you to read it ---to understand your self , to understand others , and to bring about unity in the  world.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

E-Waste,its disposal and Environment

 Recently(September6,2016)  ,  a survey “What India Knows about E-Waste “ was released by Toxics Link , a Delhi based  non-profit working on environmental issues  .The survey polled 2030 respondents in five metro cities of Delhi , Mumbai , Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai.Here are the results:
  1. 34%   respondents said they were aware of the rules regarding E-Waste.
  2. 12%   respondents had heard about the   rules  but did not know the details.
  3. Only the 50% of the respondents   knew what   E-Waste  is.
  4. 93%, 90% , 74%  respondents in Kolkata , Delhi and Chennai   did not know anything about  the legal framework and its provisions, while in Bengluru 52% and in Mumbai 77%  respondents were ignorant about the rules.
     5. 61% of the respondents   are ignorant about the  impact of improper disposal  of electrical and electronic equipment.
    6.More than 50%  consumers ( 63% in Delhi and 65% in  Kolkata)  sell their E-    Waste to Kabadi walas(  local scrap dealers)—a practice leading to  informal   recycling , causing  harm  to human health and environment.
   It is obvious that   there is lack of  awareness  among people and users about E-Waste management , resulting in poor E-Waste management.

What is E-Waste?
The waste generated due to   discarded , obsolete , end of life  electrical and electronic  equipments  is known as  E-Waste The computers,mobile phones,  televisions , servers , music systems , refrigerators, air-conditioners, medical equipments  and their respective assemblies contribute to the E-Waste in the country.
                        Globally , 20 to 50 million tonnes  per annum  of E-waste are being generated , which is 5.0%  of the municipal waste at global scale.(UNEP Press Release ,2008).In India , total E-Waste  generation is about 12.5 lac tonnes per annum , which is  merely 2.5% of the global  production , taking a  base of 40 million tonnes  E-Waste generated per annum. Maharashtra among the states and Mumbai  among the metropolitan  cities are leading in the E-Waste generation  in India.
E-Waste has become  the fastest growing waste in the municipal waste stream.USA is leading in E-Waste generation , followed by China, by 30 lac tonnes and 23 lac tonnes  respectively.(Rajya Sabha,2010).
                      In India , the growth rate of the mobile phones is 80%  while that of PC is 20% and TV  is 18%.By 2020 , computer based E-Waste will increase  500% and mobile phone 1800% ,with respect to  2007. (Tom Young ,  ,2010).The E-Waste received from differenr sources comprise the following:
1.Televisions and desktops : 68%
2.Servers                              : 27%
3. Mobile Phones                 :1%
4.Import from developed countries :2%
 The other equipments like  refrigerators, air-conditioners, music systems ,  medical equipments , ovens , etc.,  also contribute in the E-Waste generation  marginally , as their life is more and their use is limited in the society.
Present Status:
The informal recyclers  get the E-Waste  from local waste collectors at very cheap price and recover the metals  like Aluminium , Copper, Iron and Steel,  Lead and Zinc  by primitive methods and leave  all hazardous metals  Lead, Cadmium , Mercury ,etc.,  at the treating sites in open  , causing an explosion of pollutants in the environment. .They generate  heavy loads of pollutants in the atmosphere .They use open burning , acid leaching  for the recovery of metals , which are environment-unfriendly methods.These are detrimental to human health  as the pollutants persist in the environment for years together.
              In general , in E-Wasted equipment, the metal constitutes  more than 60% , plastic 30% and hazardous pollutants 2.7%.It has been reported that  among total metals , 75% are  heavy metals  present in landfills  where E-waste has been landfilled.The landfills are  considered a good source  of manure  and people are making use of it  in vegetable growing .In this way ,  heavy metals  get into human food  chain  easily and may cause  neurological and bone disorders. Such disorders may also come  with ingestion and inhalation .
             Health hazards of  constituents of E-Waste are as follows:
  1. Lead: Causes damage to nervous system , blood system and Kidney .
  2. Cadmium: Toxic effects , neural damage.
  3. Mercury: Damage to brain and respiratory system , Skin disorders.
  4. Chromium: Causes Bronchitis.
  5. Plastics: While burning , causes reproductive problems.
  6. Barium, Phosphorus: Damage to heart , liver and spleen; Muscle weakness.
  7. Copper: Stomach cramps, nausea, liver damage.
  8. Nickel: Asthma, allergy to skin.
  9. Lithium: Harms nursing babies.
  10. Beryllium: Lung cancer, Beryllium disease.
( Ref: Status of E-Waste in India –A Review by Mahesh C Vats , Santosh K. Singh :IJIRSET, Volume 3, Issue 10, October , 2014.)
Present Rules:
In March 2016, the environment ministry notified E-Waste Management Rules , 2016 , replacing 2011  Rules.The earlier E-waste (management and Handling) rules were enforced from May 1, 2012.  Under  earlier Rules, the responsibility of each stakeholder , i.e. , Producer , Collection centre , Consumer or bulk consumer , dismantler and other stakeholders were explained .The E-waste storage was permitted for 180 days, and further    storage would be offensive  until permitted by  State Pollution Control Board concerned in unavoidable circumstances. The responsibility  for disposal of all equipment  produced under his control  was shifted from  municipality to OEM.(Original Equipment manufacturer).
   Under 2016 Rules , producers have  Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and rules provide for  financial penalty for   damage caused to ecology  and any third party  due to improper management of E-Waste.
                    India has ratified the  Basil Convention , prohibiting  trans-boundary  movement of E-Waste .But the developed nations are  despatching E-Waste to  developing nations  continuously in the name of  recycling , charity  and second hand use.
The formal recycling in the country  is in transition .CPCB is registering  recyclers every year.At present , 23  recyclers have been registered   for the treatment of E-Waste produced in the country.
Sno.    State         registered recyclers          E-waste allotted for recycling by CPCB.
1.   Andhra Pradesh            2                         11800 MTA
2.   Karnataka                     7                         3140.6 MTA,120,000 cartridges
3.   Gujrat                           1                         12000MTA
4.   Maharashtra                  3                         8060MTA
5.   Haryana                        1                         1200MTA
6.   Rajasthan                      1                         450MTA
7.   Tamil Nadu                  6                         38927 MTA
8.   Uttar Pradesh               1                         1000MTA
9.    Uttarakhand                1                          12000MTA
The registered recyclers have to  comply with E-Waste management  guidelines  and adhere to the rules  E-Waste (M and H) Rules , 2011.
A fixed quantity of E-waste is being allotted to them .However, they are not getting it easily  and always strive to get it from  import channels  so that their facility may be run at full load.The E-Waste generated reporting process is not in place .The infrastructure cannot be created , based on estimated quantity of E-Waste.

Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) foe E-Waste  :
The ESM  implementation has following challenges:
1.Extended Producer Responsibility has yet to be effectively implemented.
2.,There is a lack of awareness among people.
3.No common E-Waste  disposal point or centre in towns and metros.
4.Formal E-Waste collection , storage , treatment  and disposal system is not yet in place.New infrastructure is needed.
E-Waste is a serious threat to  the human health and environment , and needs our urgent attention .The producers, government and agencies  responsible , NGO’s will have to make joint efforts  to educate consumers  about proper disposal of E-Waste and  ensure that    E-waste  is disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.(This article was published in the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow in its issue dated November 15,2016.)

Friday, 25 November 2016

The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo

1.Title:  The Life Divine
2.  Author:  Sri Aurobindo
3.Publisher:  Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department
4. First Published:  1939-40
5.ISBN :  81-7058-188-5
6.Copyright:  @Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1970.
7.Pages:  1070
8.Price:  Rs140 only.
I must confess at the outset that it is a difficult book. A  friend had gifted it  in 1994 when I was posted in Moradabad  as District Magistrate. I tried to read it on several  different occasions , but  I had to give up after reading the first  few pages. It was too abstract and difficult .It was only in  July ,2016 that I  took it up as a challenge  .I could slowly read it over a period of about three months and completed its reading in October , 2016.I  can say with all humility that I  have understood it only partly , but whatever I could understand , was worth all the time I spent.
             The Buddha , as he stood on the threshold of Nirvana , of the Non-Being , his soul turned back  and took the vow  never to make  the irrevocable crossing  so long as  there was a single being  upon earth  undelivered from  the knot of the suffering , from the bondage of the ego.The real goal of life  is not Nirvana for an individual.
           God is Sat , Chit Anand .In other words , God is Existence,Consciousness-Force , Bliss.The Divine descends  through the creative medium of Supermind . On the other hand ,  human beings ascend from Matter , Life , Soul(Psyche), and mind and Supermind towards the Divine.This is the Reality and the Universe. This is explained by Book One.
        Book Two is about the Spiritual Evolution .Ego is separative and divisive. Vidya , the highest knowledge is the knowledge of One. Avidya is the knowledge of  the divided Many. Actually Vidya alone is Knowledge . Avidya is Ignorance. Knowledge in its totality , is  abiding self-knowledge  and world knowledge. Self-knowledge  leads to the most direct road to Nirvana.(Knowledge of God).
            Reality is Truth, Good , beauty.(Satyam , Shivam ,Sundaram).Whatever knowledge of self there would be , would be perfectly embodied in the will of the self , the will perfectly embodied  in the action of the self. This will result in  self-formulation and delight of self-expression .The complete self awareness  is what is meant by spiritual knowledge.
              A Divine life must be  first and foremost  an inner life. Those who turn the eye inward  see and know the Spirit  and develop into spiritual being. Inward turning  is the first step towards a true  universality .Often our universalization  on the surface  is a poor and limping endeavour. We think we are universal  in our altruism  but we do not see that it is a veil  for the imposition of our  individual self ,  our need for ego enlargement  upon others whom we  take up into our extended orbit. We have to have an inner sense  of the reality of oneness  to have a realization of spiritual unity. Such a life can govern the action of a divine life. An inner life awakened to a full consciousness  and to a full power of consciousness  will bear its inevitable fruit  in all who have it , self knowledge ,  the joy of a satisfied being , the happiness of a fulfilled nature. Then we have conscious communication of mind with mind , heart with heart, a unity of being , a spiritual conscious community.
             “The individual  does not owe his ultimate allegiance  to the State  .His allegiance must be to the Truth ,the Self , the Spirit , the Divine which is in him and in all .Not to subordinate  but to find and express  that truth of being in himself  and help the community  and humanity in its seeking  for its own truth  and fullness of being must be his real object of existence.”
              As a person moves towards  spiritual freedom ,  he moves also towards  spiritual oneness. He becomes preoccupied with  the good of all beings. A perfected community  also can exist only  by the perfection of  its individuals .For the awakened individual , the realization of his truth  of being  and his inner liberation  and perfection  must be his  primary seeking.
            Education and  intellectual training by itself  cannot change a man  because it leaves human ego unchanged .Man’s true way out is to  discover his soul  and its self force  and replace by it  both the mechanisation of mind , the ignorance and disorder  of life  nature. What evolutionary Nature presses for , is an awakening  to the knowledge of  self , the discovery of self , the manifestation of the self  and spirit within us  and the  realisation of its self knowledge , its self power. A life of (Gnostic) awakened  beings  carrying the evolution  to a higher  supramental  status  might fitly be characterised  a Divine Life. This is the soul true  supermanhood and the one real possibility  of a step forward  in evolutionary Nature.
                 I find  an identity of views between Sri Aurobindo and CG Jung.Both emphasize self knowledge.Self knowledge automatically leads  one towards  being a super mind and work  for  spiritual unity and good of community .Altruism at surface , without inner awakening and self knowledge , is  merely a display of ego .
             If you  muster the courage to read this  difficult  book , it will change your life.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Undiscovered Self by C.G.Jung

1. Title of the book: The Undiscovered Self
2. Author: C. G. Jung
3. Translator from German: R. F. C. Hull
4. First Published : 1958
5. Publisher: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd
6. Pages :  113
7. ISBN: 0-7100-1625-5(  c )
8. Rating:  *****
Normally  a person  possesses only a  limited degree of self-knowledge. State  tries to influence a person through mass movements while religion  does so  through  baptism en masse. But they do not touch the inner man  and cannot bring about any  real and fundamental change in  an individual . Nothing is achieved by  telling , persuading , admonishing , giving good advice. To  know a person , one  has to  relate to the individuality of the human being .
             We cannot ignore the existence of  the unconscious. Self-knowledge  requires not only conscious knowledge of self but also an understanding of  the unconscious self or psyche. Man’s progressively increasing concern  with consciousness  at the expense of the unconscious  results in many psychic disturbances and difficulties. In this way , man  slips into an unreal world  where the products of  his conscious activity  progressively replace reality. As our consciousness  has  broadened  and differentiated , our moral  nature has lagged behind .This is because we have neglected our unconscious , our soul. Self-knowledge  can be achieved only  by exploring our unconscious.Our unconscious  self is the source of our individuality.
              The salvation of the world consists in the salvation  of the individual  soul. Many aspects of of a neurotic’s life  are in the last analysis  , the direct effects of  the Zeitgeist. Such a condition cries out  for order and synthesis. “Resistance  to the organized mass  can be effected only by the man  who is as well organized  in his individuality  as the mass  itself”.
                 A deep-seated change  of inner man (metamorphosis)  can not come from environment .Religion , as a rule , only confirm  certain tendencies  and does  not change them.An individual  has to remould  his archetypal forms  into ideas  which are adequate to the challenge of the present. He has to give all attention to  his soul, his unconscious. It takes time to bring about psychic changes  that have any prospect of enduring .
                Preaching and persuading  are futile .But any one  who has  insight into  his own actions , his own unconscious ,  involuntarily  exercises an influence  on his environment .Its effect lasts only  so long as  it is not  disturbed by conscious intention. .
                         Our social goals commit the error  of overlooking  the psychology of the person  for whom they are intended .Otherwise they only promote his illusions.
                    This book was written in 1958 in the backdrop of communism  and clod war , but I find that it   affirms  the fundamental  truth that to know and strengthen our self , we have to look into our unconscious .Merely acquiring the knowledge of the external world and our conscious self through that knowledge is  highly inadequate.
               I strongly recommend you to read this outstanding book.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Food Wastage and its Impact on Environment

When we talk of food wastage , we have in mind  the wastage of cooked food .But  there is a wastage of food all along  the food  supply chain .There is a wastage at the stage of production , post -harvest , storage , processing , distribution and finally at consumption stage .At global level , there is a wastage of  1.3 billion tonnes of food every year. Total agricultural production  for food and non-food uses is about 6 billion tonnes.   FAO’ s “Food Wastage Footprint : Impact on Natural Resources “ is the first study to analyze the impacts of  global food wastage  from an environmental perspective, looking specifically  at its consequences  for the climate , water, land use and biodiversity.
                  FAO study report says  that 54% of  the world’s food wastage  occurs during  production , post-harvest  handling  and storage, remaining 46% of  wastage happens  in the  processing , distribution and consumption  stages. Thus farmers ,  traders , consumers and all citizens  are all stakeholders in the reduction of food wastage .The direct  economic losses due to food wastage are  of the order of $750 billion  every year .(This is the figure of 2007 , as reported by FAO).This is equivalent to the  GDP of Turkey or Switzerland .This is a low estimate since it mainly considers  producer prices  and not the value of end product .
                                       But economic costs are not the only reason why we should reduce food wastage. Environmentally , food wastage is responsible for  adding 3.3 billion tonnes  of green house gases.As such ,  food wastage ranks  as the third top  emitter after  USA and China.Food wastage contributes to the largest volume of material in landfills in the US and accounts for 21% of total waste system  in that country.Methane emissions  from landfills  represent the largest  source of GHG emissions from the entire waste sector , contributing around  700 million metric tonnes of  Carbondioxide equivalent per year .
In addition , there is water footprint related to  food wastage .Globally ,  consumption of water resources((both surface and ground ) of food wastage  is about 250 Km cube , which is equivalent to  3.6  times  consumption of the USA  for  the same period   .     Besides environmental  costs , there is a major moral  imperative related to food wastage .While 870 million people  go hungry every day , we cannot  allow one-third  of all the food we produce , to go waste .This is criminal .
But what is happening  to food wastage  over time?In US , food waste has increased by  about 50% since 1974 , and now accounts for  nearly 40% of  all food produced  in the US..Across the supply chain , the loss is  1400 kilocalories  per head per day.Food waste accounts for  a quarter of the fresh water  supply , and 300 million gallons  of oil a year .In the times of water shortage  and higher gas prices , that is a lot of wasted resources.One billion people could be fed for a year  with the amount  only the USA  wastes every year.This obviously indicates  the need for stepping up efforts to prevent food wastage.

How to prevent food wastage?
In developing countries , significant post-harvest losses are a key problem , occurring as a result of  financial and structural limitations in  harvesting techniques , storage  and transport infrastructure .Climatic conditions also add to  food spoilage.In India , we need to pay more attention  and devise policy measures to reduce food  losses at these stages .In middle and                                             
high-income regions , food wastage at  the retail and consumer level  accounts for 31-39% of the total wastage  while in low-income regions , it is 4-16% of the total wastage.FAO report also says that  the later a food product is  lost or wasted along the food chain ,  the greater the  environmental consequences , because  the environmental costs  incurred during  processing , storage and transport  and cooking must be added  to the initial  production costs.
               The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include target number  12.3   aims to halve  food loss and waste by 2030.”Think.Eat.Save” campaign of UNEP , launched in 2014, in partnership with  FAO  is a public awareness raising campaign  to mobilise  global action  against food wastage  and against its adverse impact  on  environment , economy and society. This  campaign gives assistance to  businesses ,  local authorities and governments  for designing  effective food wastage prevention programmes.
One way to prevent food wastage is   through reuse. Where reuse is not possible , recycling and recovery  should be pursued .Dumping food in landfills  is a bad idea because  food thrown in landfills  is a large producer of Methane , a particularly harmful  Green House Gas. Instead ,  recycling , anaerobic digestion, composting  and incineration  with energy recovery  have significant advantage over dumping. In order for city and local  governments  to efficiently and effectively  recycle food  waste, it is essential to take actions  at the household level  to separate out food waste from the rest of the waste. Recycling  schemes work out only  when waste is properly sorted at the source. Suitable regulations in this regard  need to be framed and judiciously used.
   Rather than dumping waste in landfills, the use of anaerobic  digestion to break it down into digestate is preferable to both composting and landfill disposal .It gives both  fertilizer and biogas .When digestion is not possible , home composting represents the next best option .At the individual level ,  home composting can divert  up to 150 Kgm of food waste  per household per year from local collection authorities. Incineration  of food waste (with energy released   being recovered) is the option of last resort  for preventing food waste  from ending up in landfills.
                    Food wastage prevention programme  has to be  implemented and monitored both  at the level of businesses and households. Businesses  - both those operating  within the food chain as  well as those operating outside the food chain (which have  a large food print , like Cafeterias, for example) can conduct food waste audits  to determine  how they can improve  their performance in controlling food wastage. Households can also conduct relatively  simpler food waste audits.
 Better awareness and sensitization  in and among all participants in food chain  is of great importance .For example ,  when farmers do not find a market for products , they leave them to rot in field .This needs to to be changed. Families cook larger quantity of food  than actually required .They should be more precise   how many persons will eat food on a particular day. Supermarkets sometimes downsize orders to producers  at the last minute , leaving the producers with  large quantities of unsalable products. Restaurants over stocking  food by over-estimating demand .Food-retailers displaying very large quantities of food , believing it to contribute to increased sale , is a wasteful practice and needs to be discontinued .When  food item starts to approach the end of its shelf life , it is discarded , resulting in wastage .In short, food-retailing has to be environmentally-minded.
                       In a world where we have large population of starving , poor  human beings , where we are suffering from the environmental  challenges of pollution , lack of cleanliness, global warming and climate change , taking all possible steps at individual household level as well as at the level of local bodies and the state and central government  is the need of the hour.-(This article was published in the October 15,2016 issue of the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow , India.)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Blind Spots by Claudia M. Shelton

1.Title:Blind Spots: achieve success by seeing  what you can’t SEE
2.Author: Claudia M. Shelton
3.Publisher: John Wiley & Sons  Inco.
4.Year of Publication: 2007
5.Copyright: @2007 Claudia M. Shelton
6.ISBN: 978-0-470-04225-0
7.Genre Success in Business’ Executive Coaching
8.Pages: 255
9.Rating : ***
Every one has blind spots in  self. Blind spots are  things we do ,  or negative habits  in our behaviour  that we cannot see.These are the things  we do  unconsciously. For example , we  may not be clear about our own strengths or weaknesses. Blindspots can adversely affect our  performance in business and also  our relationships  because others  see them and get  affected by them while we are unaware of them .
                    Obviously , it is a good thing if we can identify our blind spots  and then take steps to eliminate them .Our quest for self awareness cannot be complete  without identifying our blind spots. Claudia Shelton makes an attempt to educate us how to do it . Some one external to us , a friend or a trusted colleague can do this job for us , if they know the techniques , and if we request them to do it for us .But it is a sensitive exercise .When others give us negative feedback to us about our blind spots,  we may become uncomfortable, and may challenge them .So , it is up to us to shift to neutral , be non-judgmental when some one else  begins to tell us about our blind spots at our request.
                     So far , so good.But when it comes to tools like  Five Most Common  Blind Spots framework, Clear Sight Plan , Personal Self-Portrait, Blind Spots Profile, Blind Spots 360,The Confidence Triangle , Statement of Strengths, Statement of Purpose, Claudia  begins to sound like the author of a typical self-help book.
                     The book makes us aware of the blind spots’ existence in each of us , and encourages us to identify and eliminate them .Even this contribution is  very  significant and I thank the author for this.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Proof of Heaven . . A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Dr Eben Alexander

1.Title:Proof of Heaven  ..A Neurosurgeon's  Journey into the Afterlife
2.Author:Dr Eben Alexander
3.First Published:2012
4.Publisher:Piaktus in Great Britain .
5.Copyright:@2012 Dr Eben Alexander
6.ISBN : 978-0-7499-5879-4
7.Pages: 194
8.Price: Rs. 375.
Dr Eben is a renowned neurosurgeon  based in Virginia. After earning an MD from Duke University , he worked as a neurosurgeon in  the top institutions of the world including  Harvard Medical School. On November 10,2008 ,at the age of 54, Dr  Eben was struck by a rare illness  and was thrown into coma for seven days. He was found to  have bacterial meningitis. E.coli  meningitis is very rare in adults. No underlying cause of his illness could be identified. Scans of his brain revealed  massive damage  and he was not expected to survive. He remained in coma for seven days .On the eighth day , he opened his eyes , became alert  and very shortly  went on to have a full recovery. Doctors attending on him thought it was a miraculous recovery.
               Soon after his recovery , for the next six weeks or so ,Dr Eben wrote his experiences  in the higher worlds. This book is based essentially on those writings. Dr Eben says that he went through deep and intense NDE, Near Death Experience while he was in coma. The death of the body and the brain is not the end of consciousness. Dr  Eben is certain of life after death and  he says:Ï am the living proof”. He also says that any one of us can go deep into our consciousness  through prayer and meditation  to access the truths of higher worlds. He quotes Albert Einstein: ”I must be willing to give up  what I am in order  to become  what I will be.”
                        During his journey after death , he experienced unconditional love and acceptance.He also realized that  nothing can tear us from God.But this was because  throughout his time in the higher worlds , he was asoul with no attachments and nothing to lose.Every one of us is deeply cared for by God.No one is unloved.
                   All this coming from a highly reputed Neurosurgeon  makes us  positively inclined to believe in  a consciousness living even when we die. I recommend you to read this  insightful book .It will make some change in the way you think about this life and beyond.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Deforestation and its impact on Environment

. The clearing of forests continues at an alarming rate because land is being made available  for residential , industrial and commercial purpose .Apart from urban sprawl, logging operations  which provide us  wood and paper  products  also   responsible  for felling   very large number of trees every year. Some deforestation is also caused by   natural factors  like wildfires  and subsequent overgrazing  which  may prevent the growth of young trees.
                Trees are also dying  globally at a rate never before seen, because of climate change. The trees are struggling to  cope with the extreme weather  and temperature variations associated with global warming .The major carbon sinks around the globe are disappearing , as a result.
               Along with deforestation , we have forest degradation also  –a reduction in tree density from human or natural causes.             
              Impacts of Deforestation and  Forest Degradation:
Deforestation  has many negative effects  on the environment .The most important impact is the loss of habitat  for millions of species. 70% of   Earth’s land animals and plants  live in forests and many of them cannot survive the deforestation. Up to 28,000 species are expected  to become extinct  by the next quarter of the century due to deforestation. Soil erosion , floods , wildlife extinction , increase in global warming  and climate imbalance are few of the effects of deforestation .
                 Deforestation also drives climate change. Loss of forests contributes between  12% and 17%  of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Trees absorb greenhouse gases. When forests are removed , greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere. This increases speed and severity of global warming .In addition , forest canopy blocks  the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. Removing trees leads to  more extreme temperature swings  that can be harmful to plants and animals. Further , forest soils quickly dry out  if trees are felled. Many former forest lands   can quickly become barren deserts. Deforestation affects water cycle. Trees absorb ground water and release the same  into the atmosphere during transpiration .When deforestation happens , the climate automatically changes to  a drier one and also affects water table.   
Data for India:
    Forest cover analysis  by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) using satellite data , defines forest as an area  of more than  1 Hectare and more than  10% tree canopy cover. The combination of remote sensing as well as GIS techniques  with ground surveys  can go a long way  in the management of critical areas.
               India is one of the  mega biodiversity nations  and seventh largest in the world  and second largest in Asia  having an area of 328.72 million Hectares (m ha).It has about 17000 species of flowering  plants  and about 5400 endemic species.
                       In India , between 1951 and 1980 , according to the Forest Survey of India (1987), over 26.20 lakh hectares of forest was converted for agricultural purposes all over India. Forest survey of India has been carrying out mapping of forest cover  on a biennial basis. The current estimate of gross deforestation in India is 0.43% for 2009-2011 , compared to global average of 0.6%.

Data for the world:

Since 1990 , half the  rain forests of the world have been destroyed
1.Forests still cover about  30 percent of the world’s land area .
2.An estimated 18 million  acres of forests , of the size of  country Panama are lost every year , according to the United Nations  Food and Agriculture  Organization(FAO).
3.The world’s  rain forests could completely vanish  in a 100 years  at the current rate of deforestation 4.20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon’s forest.
Rate of Deforestation:
FRA(Forest Resources Assessment) says that while in  1990  forests made up  31.6% of the world’s land areas  or some 4128 million hectares , this has changed to  30.6%  in 2015  or some 3999 million hectares. Meanwhile the annual rate of forest loss has slowed down  from 0.18%  in the early 1990s  to 0.08% during the period 2010-2015. 93% of the  world’s forest area is natural forest  while planted area currently  accounts for 7% of the world’s over-all  forest area , having increased by over  110 million hectares  since 1990. Thus ,over the past 25  years , the rate of net global deforestation  has slowed down by  more than 50%.(FAO report dated September7,2015).This is a positive sign and gives hope but more efforts are needed.  Globally , natural forest area is decreasing  and planted forest area  is increasing .While  most forests remain publicly owned , ownership by individuals  and communities  has increased.In all cases , FAO stresses the importance of  sustainable forest  management practices.The management of forests has improved dramatically  over the last 25 years .This includes planning , knowledge sharing , legislation and policies.

      FAO has estimated that  total carbon emissions  from forests decreased  by more than  25% , between 2001 and 2015 , mainly due to  a slowdown in global  deforestation rates.
             The major driver of forest cover  changes in India are  shifting cultivation  along with encroachment  for agricultural land , mining , quarrying , expansion of settlements , dam construction and illegal logging .
             Wildlife Protection Act , 1972 provided protection to  wild animals , birds , plants as well as their  habitats  and envisaged setting up of Protected Areas.The Forest  Conservation Act  aimed at lowering the rate of deforestation  by controlling conversion  of forest land to non-forestry purposes.
What  needs to be done  to stop deforestation and forest degradation ?
1.Promote  sustainable choices :
             Purchase recycled items like notebooks, paper , books , toilet paper and shopping bags. As companies use recycled materials as raw materials. This reduces the demand for new materials. Make efforts not to waste.
2.Reforestation: Encourage people to plant trees.In China , every able-bodied citizen between 11 and 60 years  is responsible for planting 3 to 5 trees in a year or  to do equal amount of work in  other areas of forestry.
3.Tree Care:                                                 
When cutting down trees ,  single out full-grown trees and spare the younger trees.For every single tree that is felled , make sure that two are planted in its place.
4.Change the politics:
Crack down on corruption .Ensure the strict implementation of forest conservation rules.Illegal felling takes place because of corruption  and also because of unsustainable forest management practices. This in turn can fuel  organized crime and even armed-conflicts.
    Make laws to stop illegal wood  products from entering our markets .Support treaties like  CITES (Conservation of  International Trade  in Endangered Species ) to protect  forests and the endangered  species  that rely on forest habitats.
5The Power of the  Market Place:
Look for Forest Stewardship Council  (FSC) Certification   for wood , wood products .In fact companies  and corporations should hold  their suppliers accountable  for producing commodities like  timber , palm oil , paper  in a way that does not fuel deforestation .For the non-recycled products that they buy , they should ensure that  any virgin  fiber used is certified by a third party such as the  Forest Stewardship Council(FSC). Even corporations like Nestle , McDonalds‘s, Kimberly –Clark have taken steps  to stop  deforestation .
6. Standing with Indigenous  Peoples:
When Indigenous Peoples’ rights to traditional lands and self-determination   are respected , forests stay standing .Often corporations and governments  overlook or intentionally  trample upon the rights of forest-dwellers.
7.Use alternative energy:
In winters , use coal as  alternative to charcoal and fire wood.This will prevent premature felling of trees. Ending deforestation is our best chance  to conserve wildlife  and defend  the rights of forest communities.
8. Become an advocate  for forestry and environment:
Use your voice to speak for forest matters .Become an advocate of reforestation .Learn how you can spread the word. Raise funds with which to protect the forest land.When people join together  and demand  forest conservation , companies and governments listen .
9.Support Conservation Organizations;
Donate your time , money or actions to  organizations  that  run programmes focused on preservation of forests and forest habitats. Organizations like  World Wide Fund for nature, Greenpeace,  Conservation International are some such organizations at international level.
10.Eat vegetarian meals as often as possible.
11.Go paperless.
(This article was published in September 15, 2016 issue of the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow , India).

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

1.Title: Purple Hibiscus
2.Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
3.First Published by: Fourth Estate (2004),An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.
4.Present Edition: Fourth Estate (2013)
5.Copyright: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2004)
6.ISBN: 978-0-00-727235-8
7.Genre: Fiction/literature
8.Pages: 307
9.Price :Rs.399.
Adichie is   now a known  author from Nigeria and Purple Hibiscus is her first book.It was longlisted for Man Booker Prize 2004 and shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2004.It received the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award 2004.
                     Purple Hibiscus is the story of a young girl Kmbili and her brother Jaja, brought up in a strict religious regimentation by their father  Eugene Achike (Papa).Achike  gave   up and condemned   his past  religion and became Christian.He always tried to prove how  true  Christian he was , and kept  vigil over his children so that they  also remained  strict Christians.But this is not to say that he was a monster.He was kind and thoughtful in his own ways  but when  it came to religion , he did all kinds of  awful and horrible things.He was a strict believer in  religion and  order and  himself makes  a daily schedule  for the children and pastes it  on the wall above.
                     Eugene was the publisher of a a fiercely independent newspaper the Standard.His editor  Ade Choker   was killed by the dictator of Nigeria .Eugene looks after the family of Choker.Eugene is connected  and intelligent enough to  survive  death at the hands of dictator.
           Eugene has a sister whom his children call Aunty Ifoema.They were born and brought up in Abba , but  Eugene , on becoming Christian , breaks contact with his own father (Papa Nnukou).Every year , Eugene visits his home town with his family , but his children are allowed to meet their grand father only for 15 minutes.Eugene humiliates his father as  he thinks his father is a Pagan.
                             Aunty Ifoema is a lecturer in  the University at Nsukka.When Kambili and Jaja meet her , they understand  what freedom and fearlessness means.The three children of Aunty Ifoema also breathe in a free and unregimented environment , unlike  the tight and regimented life of Kambili and Jaja, back at home where their father  beats them violently for any alleged transgression . From Aunty Ifoema’s house , Jaja brings  stalks of Purple Hibiscus and plants these in his own house .Purple Hibiscuses  symbolise  freedom and non-regimentation .Aunty Ifoema  set higher and higher jumps for  her children  in the way she talked to them .Eugene made his children jump higher  by creating terror in their minds.
                    One day , Eugene is found dead in his factory  premises at his table .I will not be spoiler by telling who kills him.But it is important to know .
                           .I recommend you to read this very powerful ,  lyrical  and touching  story by  Adichie.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Demian by Hermann Hesse

1.Title: Demian
2.Author:Hermann Hesse
3.First Published:1919
4.Harper Perrenial Classics Edition , Published :1999.
5.Translated from German by:Michael Rollof and Michael  Lebeck
7.Price;Rs 386.90
     Demian , a short novel , was first published   under the pseudonym of Emil Sinclair , its protagonist and narrator.The tenth edition was published under the name of Hermann Hesse. Hesse  applied in this book  the depth psychology of Carl Jung .Sinclair finds the meaning of his life  through his dreams and the symbols of his paintings.
             Hesse  emphasised  the uniqueness of every human being  who “represents  the unique , the very special  and always  significant and remarkable  point at which  the world’s phenomena intersect  only once  this way and never again.”
                The relationship between  Hesse and Romain Rolland  (the French Author and a Nobel Laureate) got reflected in the novel  as a relationship  between  Emil Sinclair and Max Demian.(Max Demian is the character , after whom the novel is based.)Both Romain Rolland and Max Demian believed  that  the ravages of world war  will give way to a healed future.(The novel was published  in 1919 , the third year of world war one.)
     This book exerted a great influence on the youth of Germany and other countries , and it became an instant best-seller.It gives the message that  each one of us  has to struggle to  become self –aware, to be true to our self and finally to  actualize our self , and to remain hopeful while doing so..This is our destiny and our purpose .
                I recommend you to read this novel.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Communicating Interpersonally-A Social Construction Approach

1.Title:                                 Communicating    Interpersonally                                                                                                                                                                                               
2.Authors                          John Stewart , Karen E. Zedikar,Saskia                                                                     Witteborn                                                                                
3.ISBN                               81-7992-533-1

4.Publisher                        Jaico Publishing House ,  Mumbai                                                                    
5.Pages                               414.
6.Price                               Rs.995.
7.Genre:                         Management ,Psychology,Sociology      
Communication  plays a very important part in all relationships .Yet , we hardly try to learn communication .This book on communication  is  written by  John Stewart  ,  Karen Zedikar  and Saskia Witteborn  , all from  University of Washington--- basically teachers and researchers.
                       I have tried to  distil ten most important points about communication  from this book of 414 pages , as below.These     statements  apply in important relationships including  friendships.
1.Understand  the other person’s  culture , value systems , beliefs and attitudes.
2.Be honest and trustworthy in communication and interaction.
3.Never use  hurtful, aggressive and violent statements.
4.Have respect for the dignity of the other person .
5.Be trusting .
6.Have transparency (open sensitivity).
a)Face the other person  when talking.
b)Maintain eye contact.
c)Make responsive sounds.
d)Select open sensitivity responses.
8.In cyberspace  including social media ,  be careful to present yourself and  relate to others.
9.Follow Universal Rules of Relationships/friendships:
a)Respect the other person’s privacy.
b)Do not discuss that which is said in confidence with the other person .
c)Do not indulge in sexual activity with the other person.
d)Do not criticize the other person publicly.
Communication is a very vast  and complex subject .If you want to read it as a  serious subject , you can read this book  like a text book .Otherwise , it can be left to  he  students of communication .

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The power of your subconscious mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy

1.Title :                                     The power of your subconscious mind
2.Author:                                   Dr. Joseph Murphy .
3.Pages                                       253.
4.First published :                      1963.
5.Present edition                        Pocket Books.(2006).
6.Genre                                      Self- help
7.Price                                        Rs. 277.

Dr. Joseph Murphy  was born in Ireland in 1898 but  moved to the USA in 1922 where he continued to  preach Divine Science and write till his death in 1981.He did his Ph. D. in Psychology from  the University of South California He The power of subconscious was one of the 30 books he wrote  but it sold over a million copies in a very  short span , and still continues to be read, over 53 years after its publication.
                   Mind has two parts : conscious and subconscious (Some people  call the latter unconscious ). The conscious mind is rational and subconscious mind   is irrational. But , Dr. Murphy says that subconscious mind is extremely powerful as compared to conscious mind , though it takes commands from conscious mind . The famous Psychologist William James said: ”The greatest discovery of the  nineteenth century was the power of the subconscious mind  touched by faith”.The book is based on  religion as well as  psychology. Dr. Murphy wants us to read it several times. Only then it will  help you to remove the mental blocks  that stand between you and your goals.
                    Among several techniques to use the subconscious   is autosuggestion .Give yourself positive suggestion before going to sleep, and counter act any negative suggestions. Your subconscious will work for you through the night.
                        Another technique is to believe that (what you desire) you have received and you shall receive. Prayer therapy is another , which combines  the function of conscious mind and subconscious mind, scientifically directed. Pray together and stay together.
                        Visualization is another technique to use the power of the subconscious mind .Use imagination and not will power. Power of sustained imagination can bring success .
             Affirmation is another technique. Affirmation succeeds  best when it is specific and when it does not produce a mental conflict or argument .
        Do positive thinking .You cannot attract what you criticise.
              You can use subconscious mind for harmonious human relations, for forgiveness ( “Forgive until seventy times seven”), for removing mental blocks, for helping in breaking or building a habit or to remove fears. r Murphy closes his book by telling how to stay young in spirit for ever.
                   Though all the miracles that  Dr. Murphy attributes to the power of subconscious  mind  may not be correct , the book is interesting  and gives you ideas about the possible uses of subconscious mind.If  you have not decided against reading self-help books ,I recommend you to read this book.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Nuclear Power and its implications for environment and human safety

There are at present over 400 nuclear power plants in the world. These plants provide less than 7% of  world’s total energy supply. India’s share of nuclear power generation  is just 1.2% of world’s nuclear power generation capacity, making it the world’s 15th largest   nuclear power producer. India has  7 nuclear power plants(21 reactors) having an installed capacity of 5780 MW.(as in 2013).These nuclear power plants are located in six states  of  Maharashtra , Gujrat , Rajasthan , U.P. , Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Out of these , only one nuclear power station is located in UP at Narora. It is operated by NPCIL  and has two units of 220MW each (total 440MW).Four projects(6 units) are under construction in Tamil Nadu , Rajasthan and Gujrat ,with capacity of 4300 MW.
                    India gets under 2% of its electricity   from nuclear power with the rest coming from  coal(60%) , hydroelectricity(16%), other renewable sources (12%)  and natural gas (9%). India plans  to produce 25% of its electricity from   nuclear power in due course(9% by 2032).
                    India has had many advocates for nuclear power , the most notable in the recent past being our former President , Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam who said: ”Energy independence is India’s first and highest  priority. India has to go for nuclear power  generation in a big way using Thorium  based reactors .Thorium , a non-fissile material is available in abundance in  our country.” There is no burning of fossil fuel in nuclear power plants , no green house gases  are produced. Nuclear energy produces more  electricity on less land  than other carbon free technologies. It is under such reasoning  that India is going in a big way for setting up nuclear power plants.
             But let us go  into the safety and environment aspects of nuclear power plants. There have been three major  reactor accidents  in the history of nuclear power generation . They are :
1. Three Mile Island  (USA , 1979)
2. Chernobyl              (Ukraine , 1986)
3. Fukushima              (Japan , 2011).      
 Tem former Nobel Peace Laureates , including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Rigobata Manchu Tum  stated the following in an April  21 , 2011 open letter  to 31 Heads of State  whose countries are currently  heavily invested in nuclear power production  or are considering investing  in nuclear power: ”Choose renewable energy over nuclear power :Nobel Peace Laureates to World Leaders::
On the twenty fifth anniversary  of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine—and more than two months after the massive earthquake  and tsunami that devastated Japan , it is time to recognise that  nuclear power is not a clean , safe or affordable source of energy.
  We are deeply disturbed that   the lives of people in Japan are  being endangered by nuclear radiation in the air , in the water or  in the food  as a result  of the breakdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. We firmly believe that if the world phases out its current use of nuclear power , future generations of people everywhere—and the Japanese people who have already suffered  too much – will live in greater peace and security.
             Radiation is not just  a concern  in a nuclear accident .Each link in the nuclear fuel chain  releases radiation , starting with drilling for uranium ;  it then continues for generations  because nuclear waste includes plutonium  that will remain toxic for thousands of years. Despite years of research  , countries with nuclear energy programme such as the United States  have failed to solve the challenge of  finding safe and secure storage  for spent nuclear fuel.
                There are presently over 400 nuclear power plants  in the world –many in places of high risk  for natural disaster or political upheaval . These plants provide less than 7% of the world’s total energy supply .As world leaders , you can work together  to replace this small amount of energy  to move us towards  a carbon-free and nuclear –free future.”
                    Though there was no death , injury or adverse health effects  due to Three Mile Island accident , it shattered the  public confidence in nuclear energy , especially in the USA. As a result   , there was a major decline in nuclear  construction though the  1980’s and 1990’s .The lessons learnt were applied in a big way in all the nuclear power plants in the USA.
                            In Chernobyl accident , 30 firemen and operators were killed  within 3 months. In addition , 28 persons died as a result of Acute Radiation Syndrome(ARS) within a few weeks of the accident. 19 more died subsequently between 1987 and 2004.The Chernobyl Forum report said that   about seven million people are now receiving  or are eligible for benefits as Chernobyl Victims. In what is referred to as his Testament –which was published soon after his suicide   two years after the accident –Valery Legasov- who led the soviet delegation to  the IAEA post-accident review meeting ,wrote,: After I had visited  Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant,I came to the conclusion that  the accident was the inevitable  apotheosis of the economic system which had been developed in the USSR  over many decades.  Neglect by the scientific management   and the designers was every where with no attention being paid to  the condition of instruments or of equipment.”
                   In Fukushima accident , there were no deaths from the accident but  over one lac people were evacuated from their homes so that there was no radiation exposure. There have been over 1000 deaths from maintaining the evacuation. Evacuation orders were issued to people residing  within 20kms of the site. Fukushima accident destroyed the public confidence  in Japan  in nuclear power, particularly in earthquake-prone regions having reactors. Japan has decided to  meet its energy needs without relying on nuclear power  and  is now going  for alternatives to nuclear power .Japan is building a network of 30  solar power stations , of 2MW each.
      A disaster like Chernobyl or Fukushima , if it happens in a densely populated country like India , could have huge human , economic and environmental  consequences, as had happened in the  industrial disaster  of Union carbide , Bhopal. There have been mass protests in India against the French-backed 9900MW   Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra. Though India has enacted 2010 Nuclear Liability Act   which puts financial responsibility and compensation  in case of a nuclear accident on  nuclear suppliers, contractors and operators. But is it enough to make provision for financial   compensation  ? We just have to look at the  precariously hanging electricity distribution lines in any city like Lucknow and ask whether we have the confidence  in the maintenance of equipments and instruments of nuclear power plants ?Where does  nuclear power  fit in the culture of neglect and indifference among public sector employees in India ?And add to this the rampant corruption  in public sector in supply of plants , materials and accessories. We need to think and re-think   hard about  our  nuclear options  and pay heed to the appeal of ten Nobel Peace Laureates  against  going in for nuclear power. India  , which has lot of land and sunshine , may opt for cost-effective, cleaner  and  safer  solar power , where location is also  not at all critical.(This article was published in Tree Take  magazine , Lucknow in its August 15,2016 issue.)