Learning to control the elements is the only way left to negate human effects on climate change

The fact that climate change and its potentially disastrous consequences if left unresolved has been a hot topic of debate for quite some time now. Even school going children have greater awareness to this threat to our planet and our survival. On March 15, they took matters into their own hands. Tens of thousands of them around the world skipped their classes and took to streets to demand greater action to control pollution and save the environment from their governments and world bodies.

Why has the focus on climate change increased? One reason is because scientists and researchers have comprehended that the 6th mass extinction event is underway on our planet. The trademark identification of such an event are the increasing cases of complete extinction of many species of animals because of the overpopulation of one or certain number of species.

Population explosion of humanity and industrialization, especially in the last 100 years has exponentially increased green house effects. But what many people do not know is that this is not the first instance of our planet experiencing the drastic and adverse effects of green house effects. Herbivore dinosaurs had chomped their way through massive forests and expelled humongous amounts of methane gas from their belly after digestion creating massive greenhouse effect.

I had attended a seminar on wetland conservation at the Agricultural University in my hometown a few weeks back. One of the speakers was a researcher on greenhouse effect and he did an excellent presentation on the topic. But I realized that one critical factor was missing from his presentation. If our planet is in the midst of the 6th mass extinction, it means complete destruction of our planet and all its beings has happened five times before. Each time nature has been reset and life has taken roots again. The last time it happened dinosaurs became extinct. But interestingly, crocodiles, cockroaches and turtles survived. So if it happens again, can we survive and what will it take for us to survive? I asked the speaker these questions and he admitted that he had never considered those aspects in his research.

Interestingly, I found the answer to my question on social media the next day itself.

The arrival of the Spanish Inquisition in Central America in the 16th century and the subsequent destruction of the thriving civilization of the Incas resulted in the Amazon forest reclaiming its lost land to people. The unintended effect of this reforestation was the drastic drop in temperature in Europe in the 17th century and large number of people dying because of unbearably cold conditions. We keep adapting to small increases in temperature and changes in weather conditions without realizing that the overall impact of the changes is considerable. Only when the changes are reversed by nature will we know what its effects will be on us.

The floods in Kerala and the destruction it caused is a fresh reminder of what can happen to us when nature resets itself. Kerala has traditionally been a rainfall abundant region because of its proximity to the Indian ocean and Western Ghats. I have learned in school that after Cherapunji, it is Kerala that receives the most rainfall during monsoon season every year. In spite of this known fact, people encroached into low lying areas to build their houses.

While rainfall in Kerala has decreased considerably in the last decade or so, it never meant it would never rain like before. When it did rain, water had nowhere to go. So where water could flow it swept away everything in its path and where it couldn’t flow it got stuck causing massive floods. There was also an enduring image circulating on social media of a bridge filled with plastic bottles and containers, which the water had deposited back on to land.

So mass extinction and resetting of nature has been an ongoing phenomenon on our planet. We can blame human overpopulation and wanton industrialization for climate changes now but that has always been the problem with dominant species as the dinosaur case illustrates. We are the only species on the planet that destroys nature’s ecosystem to create our own. No animal cuts trees to make its own shelter.

Animals adapt to what is available in nature. The reason could be that we were created to rule over nature and not protect it as the quote from Bible suggests. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to RULE over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.”

The question now is how to control our effect on climate change. I believe we are a little too late to think about it. A few billion of us have to die off to restore parity in nature. But there is a catch here. The few billion of us have to die without disturbing the nature, which is impossible without a natural calamity on a massive scale or a man made disaster like a nuclear war. There is an analogous situation happening right now. Flickr, the online photo sharing community has created a new rule which restricts its free users to upload and retain only 1000 photos on its website. The difference here is, nature cannot tell us the size of the human population it can manage. The onus is on us to find it out, reduce our population accordingly and keep it below the threshold number.

Sounds ridiculous right? We cannot wipe off our own population that too on such a massive scale. What we can do is control our population growth and not increase our negative impact on nature anymore. One purpose all species procreate is to stay dominant in nature. We do not need to procreate like other species anymore. All of us do not have to leave our own unique genetic imprint on our population.

There is something more left for us to do though. Humans have been trying to understand nature from the dawn of our existence. Exponential technological advances we have made has helped us to investigate and understand every aspect of nature closely. Even then, we are restricting our research to simply collecting data about nature. The more we learn about something it is natural that we also learn how to control and manipulate it. This is how the field of medicine has grown and how we have learnt to treat diseases.

But surprisingly, other than cloud seeding to create artificial rain, we have not been able to control weather and climate changes. There are places in our country like Kerala which receive abundant rainfall and other areas which suffer from extreme drought every year. All government departments and research institutions watch this unfold every year helplessly. None of them have even wondered if it would be possible to distribute rain clouds or rainwater to all parts of the country uniformly.

There is a story in ancient Indian texts about the young Hanuman who leapt into the sky to catch the rising sun to play with it. Indra, the God of lightning and thunder, in his apprehension threw the Vajrayuda (thunderbolt) at Hanuman who got struck by it and fell back to earth unconscious. Maruti, the God of wind who was Hanuman’s biological father got enraged and pulled out all the air flowing on earth and relented only after Hanuman’s health was restored. The takeaway from this story for me is that air flow on our planet can be controlled. Ancient Indian texts are treasure troves of extremely advanced technology and interpreting them correctly can answer and solve most of the problems we are facing now.

There are primarily three obstacles we are facing for space exploration and one of them is creating and controlling weather conditions suitable for us on other planets. The key to this lies in greater understanding and controlling weather and climatic changes on our own planet. The fact that children are speaking about climate changes reflects poorly on their parents and exposes the ignorance they have on the subject. People have to start talking about solving social problems and these discussions have to start from educational institutions. The research that the speaker did on the greenhouse effect creates no value because all the effort he put in does nothing to help humanity. What is the objective of doing research on any subject if it is not helping in the survival and evolution of our species?

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My thoughts and experiences about the nuances and hazards of dealing with money

Of all the factors that has divided and fragmented society, money has risen to top that list. Now money is not the same as wealth. It is commonly said that someone is wealthy and prosperous. Wealthy denotes someone who possesses wealth but there is no similar word to someone who possesses money. It is never mentioned as rich and prosperous and there is a reason to it. Wealth adds value to our lives in many different forms and that is how we become prosperous. Money only helps us to buy things and every one of those things are perishable. This is why money does not add value to our lives which in turn never makes our lives prosperous.

Back in 2008 when it was supposedly my “peak age” for marriage, my parents wanted me to buy an apartment in Bangalore where I was working at that time. I was aghast. There was no point in buying an apartment under the assumption that my marriage was going to happen. Then there was the demon of the housing loan to reckon with. I am bemused by how people queue up to take housing loans to buy apartments and houses, especially in burgeoning cities like Bangalore and in exhausted cities like Mumbai. Now let’s say I take up a housing loan for 20 years. I am effectively committing myself to paying back the EMIs every month without a break for 20 years. And how can I be so sure that I am going to be alive and healthy for the next 20 years? The funny part is, people look to reducing the monthly EMI amount by extending loan repayment period. Banks are all the more happy because they know they will end up getting back more money. The sinister thought behind it is, the longer the repayment period, the less likely it is of a proper full repayment which means when borrowers default, banks can easily take over the properties. The ideal way of repayment is to pay almost double of monthly EMIs and close the loan as quickly as possible. The advantage here is, even if we default on payments for a few months, banks will not proceed with any sort of action. But the catch here is, if we try to close off a loan faster, we have to pay some extra money as penalty on foreclosure. This is the best indicator that banks are more interested in what the borrowers have given as security to the bank than the money they have lent.

In cities, parking space for cars are available only in apartment buildings. This means to own a car, we need an apartment that costs may be 5-10 times or even more that of the car. This is how money lures us in into it’s honey trap. The education system trains us to become employees in the corporate world. Then everything that is associated with money takes over our lives. Then social status comes into the picture and social status rises when we start “owning” things. This perception pushes our needs to ridiculously high levels. Own a house, own a car, the list goes on and we embark on our Sindbad journey in the pursuit of more and more money, with little realization that we are being turned into money churning machines. We are simply working hard and enslaving ourselves to the banks to hold on to the things we have bought with money. Add to this the fact that everything we have bought is perishable and may need to be replaced anytime means even more money required.

Money never makes us prosperous because it does not allow us to add value to our lives and without adding value to our own lives, we cannot add value to other’s lives. How Antilla, the mansion of India’s business tycoon Anil Ambani stands out in the extremely crowded and tough living conditions of Mumbai is the shining example. Prosperity reflects on us only when our surroundings are also prosperous. Money keeps us locked to the extent that we actually stop noticing the value of everything else in the world. I was deep in my search for employment in 2013 after completing my MBA when my dad went down with a cardiac arrest. Because he is physically very strong, the experience did not shake him even though he had reached the brink of death. But taking the advice of reducing salt intake too seriously, he literally stopped taking salt. After a few days I noticed strange changes in his mannerism and behavior. On a Sunday evening I insisted and dragged the doctor into the hospital for dad’s check up and that was when we found out that his sodium level was fast declining and he would have had possibly gone into a coma in the next couple of days.

Now what if I had been employed at that time? First of all I would have had been working in a city away from my parents. My mom would have had never noticed the changes I saw in dad. He would have had most likely ended up in coma and I would have had spent almost all the money I was earning on his treatment and my travel. It was a massive learning curve. My keen sense and better understanding of human anatomy made sure I did not have to spend money when I was not earning. If there is a way to earn money there will always be ways to spend the money as well. We can never hold on to money. In a place like India with ever rising inflation and decreasing value of money, the concept of “owning” a house, having a “decent” bank balance and living a “retired” life has taken the biggest hit. We have evolved into a situation similar to that of animals and birds in the wild. They have to seek out their food each and every day regardless of all difficult situations or they will die. If they stop trying they will die. We have also reached that critical state where we have to find ways to earn money till we die. Ironically, as per the Bible, when the “Gods” created us, we were created as beings that were meant to lord over the animals and not live like them.

Now here is what I have learnt through these experiences. First of all, we need to find our balance with nature again. No living being has the ability to destroy nature for it’s own needs except us. We cannot cut the same branch of the tree we are sitting on. The branch will take us on it’s way down. More money is alarmingly proportionate to more destruction of nature now. Bangalore’s geography is dotted with numerous lakes. Almost all the small lakes have been covered up for construction and many of the bigger lakes are being openly used to drain human waste. Then people keep complaining about lack of drinking water. Why? Bangalore has been taken over by the migrant community from all over India who come in search of jobs in the IT industry. Now these people are in Bangalore to make a living and have no time to understand and solve environmental issues of the city. The result is, as per reports, Bangalore is set to become the first unlivable city in India very soon. When we make nature unstable for our needs, nature will take course corrective action to bring back it’s stability and the consequences can be disastrous as we found out with the recent floods in Kerala. More people move into cities like Bangalore every year, creating more need for living spaces and water further depleting the city’s already stretched and dwindling natural resources. We have to stop our war with nature because we can never win it and will only lead to our own destruction.

It is funny how so much is spoken about finding work-life balance without any proper understanding of it. We wake up in the morning at a particular time so that we can finish n number of chores and activities and leave for work at a particular time so that we can reach our work place at a particular time. In the night, we sleep at a particular time so that we can wake up at a particular time next morning. So essentially when we become corporate employees, the corporate takes possession of our lives and time. Our entire 24 hours gets sucked up into our jobs and we get paid only for 8 hours. The balance we need to find is not in work and life but in our need for money. If we learn to find contentment in what we have and look at our needs sensibly, our need for money will decrease considerably. This, in turn, will free our time and energy and help us to focus on creating value in our lives. IT industry in India is notorious for the fact that as employees gain more experience their value decreases. Plenty of IT professionals have become stagnant in their jobs or have lost jobs and are not able to find employment again because they simply do not know anything else to do and did not consider learning and mastering new skills.

It no longer makes sense to “own” anything. This has given rise to business opportunities like renting cars, bikes and even household items. The amount we spend on renting a house or apartment will invariably match up to the amount we spend on maintaining our own. Back in 2008, a colleague in the Netherlands was refusing to own a car because of traffic and parking space issues. Our population has only increased in 10 years. From owning a house the challenge has shifted to living in a decent neighborhood with the availability of drinking water and proximity to essential outlets and services. But paramount now is to not get stuck in a single source of income. Develop skills that would open up potential opportunities for several streams of money. Chasing money should be just like how our body reduces fat when we start working out. Our body instinctively knows how much fat we need based on our daily requirements and burns only what it understands is excess fat. Similarly, if we have a fine understanding of how to simplify our life, we will automatically seek only the money we need to live that life.

I never chase money because money destroys human values and relationships and maroons us in our own little islands. Money clouds our judgement and makes us take wrong decisions. I make sure not to judge anyone in terms of money. It only takes an hour of madness in the stock market for a millionaire to become a pauper. Not having to focus on the money I was earning was what helped me focus on my dad and save him. I seek skill development, self improvement and building good relationships with people. Money, wealth, prosperity, everything will come but there is one question that always keeps bothering me. When all of it comes, will I be ready to use it in the best possible ways? This is what keeps me on my toes and always alert to every potential opportunity. Understanding the nuances of money and it’s potential hazards is the only way to not get enslaved to it.