Thursday, 28 July 2016

Catalyzing changes in attitudes and behaviour towards environmental issues

There is an increasing evidence that the existing public policies and consumption behaviour is leading to global warming , climate change,air pollution , water pollution  and other  adverse effects. Despite this , march towards  unsustainable development continues unabated .
What should be done?If we aim to win the battle for sustainable development  , we have no choice but to change the attitudes and behaviour of millions of people towards environment .Although environmental problems are of global concern , the public attitudes towards ways of dealing with them  is different for different nations.
          Two studies conducted in this  regard, one  called Climate Change in Indian mind , conducted in 2011  by Yale Project on Climate change ,and the other conducted in 2014, called: “ Attitudes Towards Environmental Issues:Empirical Evidence in Europe and the United States”by  Darina Peycheva, Jana P√∂tzschke, Theron Delano Hall and Hans Rattinger.. The  study  on India was   conducted in November and December  2011 by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication  in collaboration with Globescan ,with Principal  Investigators Anthony Leiserowitz, Ph.D. ,Yale university and Jagdish Thaker ,Ph.D.   George Mason University.  A  research team from Yale University, Globescan Incorporated and C-Voter conducted a national survey of  4,031 Indian adults ,using a combined urban and rural sample .Overall , the survey cum study   gave , among others , the following important findings  regarding attitudes of Indian public :
Global warming awareness and beliefs:
1.Only 7% of respondents said  they knew a lot about global warming , while 41% had either  never heard of it  , or said “I don’t know”.
2.When given a short definition of global warming , however , 72% said  that they believe it is happening .
3. 56% said it is   caused mostly by human activities , while 31% said it is  caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.
4. 61% said they are worried by global warming   and 67% said   the issue is important to them personally.
5. Large majorities said global warming   will harm future generations (67%), plant and animal species (67%), people in India (66%), people in their own community (62%) and themselves and their own family(57%).
6. 50% said that they have   already personally experienced   the effects of global warming , while 43% said  that global warming is already harming  or will harm people in India  within the next ten years.
The above findings indicate the need to make Indian public  more aware about global warming , its causes, harmful effects.Support for climate and energy policies:
1.41% of respondents said   the Government of India should be   doing more to address global warming.
2.54% said that India should be   making a large or moderate-scale effort to reduce global warming even if   it has large or moderate economic costs.
3. 38% said that India should reduce   its own emissions of the gases that cause global warming immediately  , without waiting for other countries, 18% said that India should reduce its own emissions only if rich countries go first, 13% said that  India should reduce its own emissions only if all other countries of the world  reduce their emissions at the same time , and 13% said that India should not reduce its emissions under any circumstances.
4.70% favoured a national programme   to teach Indians about global warming.
5.675 favoured a national effort   to help local communities   build check dams to increase local water supplies;
6. A majority of respondents favoured a variety of policies to waste   less fuel , water and energy even if increased costs;
7. A majority of respondents said that   environmental   protection either improves economic growth   and provides new jobs (35%) or has no effect on economic growth or jobs(16%).
8.53% said that protecting   the environment is more important , even if it reduces economic growth, while 28% said that  economic growth is more important, even if it leads to environmental problems.
The above findings indicate that Indian Public expects a lot more to be done by Government of India  for making policies to address global warming and other environmental issues.It should make policies to protect environment even if these reduce economic growth. 
Trust in different messengers:
1. Scientists were the most trusted sources of information about global warming (73%) , followed by news media (69%), environmental organisations (68%) ,and their  own family and friends (67%).
2. Government and religious leaders were trusted  by about half the respondents.
This indicates increasing role of scientists, media, NGO’s and governments in dealing with environmental issues, in Indian context.
The other study  related to attitudes towards environment in Europe and  the United States by Darina Peycheva and others  came out with more specific findings as below:
 1.Which environmental issues are of the  greatest concern at local level, the study  shows  that the issues are different in different countries.However , if we try to point out the   main environmental concern in the world , it will be pollution of rivers , lakes and oceans –equally high number of Americans (94%), Europeans(95%) and Turkish people (98%) identified these as very serious or somewhat serious.
 2.Attitudes of Elites  vs. Attitudes of general public:
      Elites have a different perspective on the importance of environmental issues than their respective public. Only 10% of  the surveyed American  elites  define climate change  as the biggest challenge to transatlantic community.
  3.General attitudes   towards environmental issues.:
 The number of those willing to cut their standard of living or to pay higher prices   or taxes in order to protect the environment  is extremely limited.47% Americans are more likely to pay  much higher prices to protect  the environment that Europeans (27%).Further 70% Americans favour paying  15 dollars per month per household in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The Role of main stakeholders  in the area of environmental issues:
4.There is a strong consensus that government should pass laws to make ordinary people   protect the environment.For Europeans , it is mainly the national government that should be held responsible for fighting  climate change.Americans   and Europeans tend to agree that   climate change can only be addressed effectively   at the international level.78% of European citizens  and 53% Americans  share this view.
5. Policies and instruments applied in the area of environmental issues:
Almost 90% of Europeans agree   that the EU should urgently put   new policies in place  to reduce  greenhouse gas emission by at least 20% by 2020.
  Increasing   energy efficiency in EU by 20% by 2020 is supported by almost 60%  of Europeans. Increasing the share of renewable energy  in the EU by 20% by 2020 is supported by 56% 0f Europeans.60% of Europeans tend to support the statement that the share of nuclear energy  should be reduced as it poses  safety problems like nuclear waste , or the danger of accidents. The Europeans point out that   small businesses and households should   receive financial support to make   their energy consumption more efficient.
     It is important that we in India  get more such  surveys and research conducted by universities of repute and share the results with policy makers , media , NGOs, , educational institutions and common citizens  so that better support for meeting the challenges posed by  environmental issues is created in the state and in the country.
(This article was published in the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow  in its July 15,2016 issue.)

Friday, 15 July 2016

Works of Love by Soren Kierkegaard

Works of Love by Soren Kierkegaard
1.Title                Works of Love
2.Author             Soren Kierkegaard
3.Publisher         Harper Perennial Modern Thought
4.Translator        Howard and Edna Hong
5.Foreword        Georgr  Pattison
4.Copyright        Howard Hong @1962
5.ISBN               978-0-06-171327-9
6.Format             Paper Bound
7.Page Count      378
8.Price                US $ 15.99
9.Genre              Philosophy
10.Rating           *****
                George Pattison   of Oxford University in his Foreword of July 2008  says: ”Works of Love is a book to be read and reread , pondered and  practiced. . . .It is a kind of  book that can change your life. Read it –but then ‘go and do likewise’ “.I totally agree with Pattison’s words of advice.
              The book is divided into two parts.Part One  deals with the three types of love .Erotic  love , Friendship , and  love for your neighbour. Obviously , the first two are preferential while the third is equal for all neighbours. The first two are by our choice while the third in a mandate ;”You shall love your neighbour”.
               Part Two deals with  what are the Works of Love that one is expected to do .
As the headings of various chapters in Part Two suggest , the list of Works of Love is as below :
1.Love Builds Up.
2.Love  Believes All Things  and Yet Is Never Deceived.
3.Love Hopes All Things  and Yet Is Never Put to Shame.
4.Love Seeks Not Its Own.
5.Love Hides  the Multiplicity of Sins.
6.Love Abides.
7.Mercifulness a Work of Love,Even if It Can Give Nothing And Is Capable of Doing Nothing.
8.The Victory of Reconciliation  in Love  Which Wins the Vanquished.
9.The Work of Love in  Remembering  One Dead.
10.The Work of Love in Praising Love.
 Soren Kierkegaard in his preface  of 1847 says that  “These are Christian  reflections;therefore they are not about love  but about the works of love.”Also “no act can be pleasing there  unless it is an act of love.”
He says that one must believe in love .The presumptuous practicality wants to deny the existence of love .In Christianity , to love is duty and erotic love , friendship  are really another form of self-love.”But the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
                    The love relationship is a triangular relationship  of the lover , the beloved , love (but love is God.).Therefore to love another person  means to help him  to love God  .To be loved means to be helped to love God. Love is a matter of conscience and it is so only when  love is from a clean heart and out of sincere faith. Christianity has indifference towards friendship.
                        To love a person just as you see him , with all his imperfections and weaknesses, when he is utterly changed , when he no longer loves you.To love is to remain in infinite debt;the infinitude of the debt is the bond of perfection.Owe no man  anything . But nevertheless , be in debt of love to one another.
The ten types of works of love above   that Kierkegaard has listed are  explained as below :
1.Love  builds up. It is patient and willing to serve. Love builds up by pre-supposing that love is present in the other person .
2.Love believes all things. To believe nothing is the beginning of being evil since  faith is precisely the good in a man , which does not come through great knowledge.
3.Love hopes all things. Never in  unlovingness give up a person  or give up hope for him , for it is possible that  even the most prodigal  son can still be saved , for it is possible that  the most embittered enemy , alas , he who was your friend , it is still possible that he can again become your friend ;it is possible that  he can be raised up again; it is still possible that  the love which has  turned cold can burn again—therefore , never give up any man , not even at the last moment; do not despair. No, hope all things! Hope all things ;give up no man , for to give him up  is to abandon  your love for him –and if you do not give it up , then you hope. But if you abandon your love for him , then you yourself cease to be a lover.
4. Love seeks not its own .For the true lover does not love his own individuality. Quite the opposite, in others he loves “their own”. The lover has understood that  in truth the greatest , the only benediction one man  can accomplish for another is to help him stand alone , to become himself , to become his own.
5.Love hides the multiplicity of sins .Lover does not attempt to discover any sins in the  other .He shuns slander, back-biting , rumour , gossip , scandal-mongering and manufacture of lies. He hides other’s sin in silence , in a mitigating explanation , in forgiveness. The best way to hide the sins is by forgiveness .Forgiveness takes vitality away from sin; but to withhold   forgiveness  nourishes sin .True lover  forgives, he forgets ,he blots out sin. Forgive and you will also be forgiven .The forgiveness which you give ,  you also receive.
6. Love abides. Love never fails. There is no misunderstanding which sooner or later  will not be  conquered by  his abiding, there is no hate that  ultimately  will not have to give up  and yield to his abiding—in eternity if not sooner. In erotic love , one cannot be  unconditionally faithful. Therefore the erotic love does not abide ;it is not eternal.
7. Mercifulness is a work of love , even if it has nothing to give and is able to do nothing .
8. The victory of reconciliation in love .Work of love is to   set the other free  from being humiliated , to set him free  from thinking dejectedly about the forgiveness which he needs.
9.The work of love in remembering one who is dead, is a work of the most unselfish love , the most faithful love .The one dead is not the one who changes ,it is the one living who changes. Remember one dead  and learn  in just this way  to love the living disinterestedly , freely and faithfully.
10. The work of love in praising love .In order to be able to truly praise love , there is a need for inward  self-denial  and outward  sacrificial disinterestedness.
  Kierkegaard concludes as follows: ”To love human beings is still the only thing  worth living for .;without love , you really do not live; to love human beings is also the only  salutary consolation  of both time and eternity.” Love is one of the central aspects of existence  And also, ”Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Avoid speaking the wrongs of others towards you , about the speck in your brother’s eye .

 I admire Kierkegaard for his remarkable depth and clarity. He was undoubtedly  one of the great thinkers of 19th century , and the greatest Philosopher  born in Denmark. He has demonstrated in this book that  love saves us from isolation  and unites us with one another and with God. The ten major types of works of love and their essence  help us to realise the meaning of love. For those who like serious reading , I recommend this book .It has the potential to change the lives of its readers.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Promoting a Tree Plantation Drive

"Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky.We fell them and turn them into newspapers that we may record our emptiness." -Kahlil Gibran
We need to plant trees to preserve ecology and environment , to prevent climate change and global warming,to preserve and sustain life on earth."The symbolism "--and substantive significance  of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every  society on Earth  and it is a way for individual men , women and children to participate in creating solutions  for the environmental crisis" -- Al Gore, 2007 Nobel Prize Winner. " A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know  they shall never sit in"-Greek Proverb.
   Though there is some awareness among people to plant trees voluntarily, it is necssary to accelrate the pace of planting trees to avert the impending crisis of global warming  and climate change.This can be done successfully by organising  periodic tree plantation drives.
        In empowering the public , a drive also empowers the governments by providing proof that  addressing climate change is not a political risk.Far from it , it is perhaps the most popular move  of our time , with electorates  right behind leaders who take significant action  on a transition to low carbon socielty.Plantation drive responds to a need  and common yearning to solve the environmental crisis and to be a part of the solution .We just don't get our hands dirty  but it gladdens our hearts  and connects us to other eco -citizens around the world.
       We in the Forest departmrnt of Uttar Pradeh organised a very unique Tree Plantation drive  in 2007 to plant  10 million saplings on a single day(31 July 2007) as apart of a bigger world-wide drive organised by UNEP and called "Plant for the Planet.The Billion Tree campaign".United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) published a book in 2008  with the title "Plant for the Planet.The Billion Tree Campaign.An Album"(ISBNN:978- 92-807-2896-5).
                 Many features of Uttar Pradesh campaign  of July 31, 2007 should be followed by any one  who wishes to organise such a drive.It is important that all governments in states of India  organise one massive plantation drive  during the Monsoons.But to do large-scale plantation  during Monsoons it is important to do  the advance planning and other ground work.
      UNEP described in the above quoted  quoted booklet this achievement as a world record  set by India , and  Guinness World Records  Ltd  also  recorded it  as a world record in the form of  a certificate as below:                         Guinness World Records
"The most trees  planted in one day is 10,000,000 in an event organised by  the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department  across the State of Uttar Pradesh on  31 July 2007."
                                                                    . . . . . . . . . . . . ..Guinness World Records Ltd.
The UNEP booklet says the following:
"Billion Tree Campaign
World record set by India in July, 2007".
Mr. Achim Steiner , Executive Director of UNEP and Under Secretary General , United Nations wrote:"The precise number of  people mobilised  awaits  compilation.It is worthy to note ,however that 6,00,000 people including school children  in Uttar Pradesh , India  planted 10.5 million trees  in a single day of July 2007."
 It may be mentioned that the UNEP  acknowledged that a number of regional and national governments  organised the most massive plantings.India found mention in the top plnating countries.India , Japan , the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela  were reported to have planted 11 million  saplings each .It is a matter of pride that  out of 11 million trees planted by India  in Billion Tree campaign  , 10.5 million trees were planted  only by Uttar Pradesh on July31 , 2007. A part of credit goes to  personalities like Al Gore , Prof Wangari Maathai  of Kenya (the Nobel Peace Laureate)."When we plant trees , we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope." -Prof . Wangari Maathai.
   The greenest day of calendar in India  and a tree planting record  by 6,00,000 volunteers. 10.5 million trees planted by Uttar Pradesh in a single day.The Forest Department of Government of Uttar Pradesh , the most populous state of India  succeded in planting 10.5 million trees in a single day on 31 July , 2007.This ambitious project in which 6,00,000 people participated , was meant to raise  the awareness of  the residents of the State towards the importance of tree-planting  and the vital role of trees in correcting ecological imbalances , removing the environmental pollution  and increasing tree cover.The decision to launch this unique operation  was taken at the government level.
               The saplings were planted by school children , the local population , farmers , industrial units, government departments and the forest department .The object of the exercise was to make  tree plantation a people's participatory activity with people from a vast cross-section of  society participating in the planting  os saplings at 9320 sites  across the seventy districts of the State.Of these 43.72% were farmers ,38.01% were educational institutions' sites , 9.14% forest department's sites,6.33% other government departments' sites and the remaining sites were of other institutions.The planting activity on all sites were  photographed and authenticated.For this , 18,640  independent authenticators were mobilised.
                  The pits for planting were dug in advance  and the plants to be planted  were transportted to the sites  in order to be planted in one go on 31 July 2007 . The entire activity was carefully sequenced  and detailed guidelines were prepared in the form of a booklet  and widely circulated.The whole effort of planting over ten million saplings  on one day was co-ordinated centrally  from the State capital at Lucknow.Detailed plans were prepared  which included the details of the sites  along with GPS based locations , the species of saplings to be planted , the source of saplings  as well as the name of   site co-ordinators , photogrphers and videographers.
              In India , 31 July 2007 was an auspicious day  as it represented the first day  of Shrawan , according to the Hindu  calendar. The exercise gave a boost to  the Billion Tree Campaign . Organisers  also recalled that  the theme of World Environment Day 2007 was "Melting Ice-A Hot Topic" and the Forest Department of Uttar Pradesh  helped the issues  of  global warming , expansion of tree cover  and carbon sequestration.
 There was large scale  participation by many citizens  and institutions by way of  contributions in kind  for meeting the cost of plants , their transportation , payment of photographers , etc.In many places , the officers /staff of  the forest department  had voluntarily donated  salary os a day for this purpose.
 The essentials of any tree plantation drive  are as below:
(1). Role of Forest Department
(a).As co-ordinator.
(b).As supplier of saplings.
(c).Technical know how in  choice of species , planting and post-planting  care.
(2). Mobilse the local communities  to participate in the campaign .Category of participants could be :
(a) Private individuals.
(b)civil society and NGOs.
(c).Local and national government.1) Forest Department .2)Other Government Departments.
(d) Farmers.
(e)Private companies
(f) Community groups.
(g).Schools and other educational institutions.
(h).Children and youth.
(j). Others.
(3).A few leading  media houses  be made partner  so that through media  campaign , others can be motivated  to join.Media includes newspapers , TV channels , FM channels and magazines.
(4).Point out plant species  most fit for area.Right trees for the right place -- so that such trees  transform both lives  and landscapes.Plant local species  to restore the area's original biodiversity.
(5).Sapling distribution at new outlets.
(6) Publicity for new outlets  for making saplings available.
(7).Giving the gift of saplings.
(8).Arrangement for funds  through government and company funds  under Corporate Social Responsibility.
(9).Bucket farming for those who live in flats.
(10).SMSs be sent enblock through bulk SMS providers.
(11).Utilizing the lessons learnt from the previous campaigns.
(12)Involving celebrities to promote  campaign and to plant one  sapling.Superstars  from the world of fashion , music and media  should also plant saplings.
(13) Plantation  drive as an activity for environment education .
(14)NGOs may have the following  role to play:
(a).To co-ordinate with Residents' Welfare Associations  and Market Associations.
(b).To co-ordinate with Eco clubs in schools and colleges for massive plantation.
(c).To train people ,particularly children to plant trees properly.
(d).To identify a nodal plan in each association /school  to work with.
(e).To assess the number of saplings required as also the species which will be required.
(f).The NGOs can be advised to identify and adopt old/heritage trees growing in and around the  cities.For this , they will take the help of financial institutions  and co-operative sector.
(15).In urban areas , Residents' Welfare Associations may   perform   the following roles:
(a).Informing the residents of the tree plantation drive.
(b).Collecting saplings from Forest nurseries.
(c).Gathering volunteers for planting .
(d).Identifying places for planting.
(e).Co-ordinating with NGOs and governmental agencies  and chalking out programme for plantation  in their respective colonies.
(f).Ensuring proper protection  and regular watering of plants.
(16).Role of Municipal Corporations , Housing Boards and Development Authorities in providing sites for plantation in parks , green belts and round abouts..
(17).Role of Horticulture Department:Providing saplings from horticultural nurseries  and giving technical know how.
(18).Role of Rural Development Department  in motivating village panchayats  and other rural local bodies.
(19).Role of banks and other financial institutions  in sponsoring tree guards and other fencing materials.
 (20).Last but not the least .Tree Plantation Drive must pledge  to involve every resident of the State  as a part of his or her fundamental constitutional duty.
The above is not an exhaustive list , but if followed in spirit,it will result in a highly successful tree Plantation Drive.
(This article was published in June 15,2016 issue of the magazine Tree Take, Lucknow, UP, India.)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Ambition ,The secret Passion by Joseph Epstein

1.Title of the book:Ambition , The Secret Passion
2.Author               :Joseph Epstein
3.Publisher            :Elephant Paperbacks ,Ivan R.Dee,Inc.,Publisher ,Chicago
4.Copyright           :@1980 ,Joseph Epstein
5.ISBN                   :0-929587-18-9
6.Format                 :Elephant Paperback
7.Page count           :312
8.Price                       :$ 18.90
9.Genre                   : General
10.Part of Series       :No
11.Rating                  :***

Is it good to be ambitious? Or does  ambition fuel self-promotion and  getting ahead ?Why are some persons more ambitious while others are not? These are some of the questions which led me to this book. 
       Epstein defines ambition as the fuel of achievement.But he also says:"If life is to be more spiritual , more tender-minded and large- hearted , ambition clearly must go.Or so it is said."But in the same breath , he also says that  "If people are to retain  the energy that ambition can give --and as Dreiser writes in Sister Carrie ,"there is nothing so inspiring in life  as the sight of a legitimate ambition , no matter how incipient"-then a clearer view is needed about what ambition is and what it entails."
     "Moderation", says la Rochefoucauld ,"is languor and idleness of the soul , ambition is its activity and energy". But neither , it must be added , is ours an age noted for moderation.The middle class has from the beginning run on ambition .In the end , forming our own destiny is what ambition is about.
Epstein's examples of  eminent Americans  Benjamin Franklin , Henry Ford , Edith Wharton , F. Scott Fitzerald, Adlai Stevenson, Rockfeller, Guggenheim, and Kennedys  make a fascinating reading to illustrate how they achieved their secret passion (ambition).
   Epstein in his book  gives a spirited defence of ambition  which has been given a bad name by some.To discourage ambition , says Epstein , "is to discourage dreams of grandeur and  greatness".But he says  nothing    original in support of his stand .The  book is a broad sweep but he catches nothing  to  show. In many cases the fuel of achievement has also been the engine of destruction.Though the book is full of many interesting sides of eminent personalities , and  perhaps  that makes it  worthwhile to read , it lacks intellectual substance to clearly convince us what it says .Most of the spiritual books  guide us to be moderate and less ambitious . Epstein has tried to make a case for ambition   but has not really succeeded.
           "Thinking about ambition ", he says ," has caused me to disregard  the notion that our final judgment  about the men and women of history  hangs on the question of whether  we should like to dine with them".