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Monday, April 21, 2014

Jose Mujica, The Godly President and the song of the one percent

Jose Mujica on his farm
While democracy has spread across the world, many politicians are not regarded very highly by the population at large in several countries. Many are seen as working for their own interests or to protect the interests of a vested minority and sing the song of the one percent.

However on this scene there is an exception too. He is Jose Mujica, the President of Uruguay., a politician who is loved by his people, especially the poor. José Mujica has been President of Uruguay since 2010. Mujica was born on 20 May 1935 to Demetrio of Basque Spanish ancestry and Lucy, a daughter of Italian immigrants. Mujica's father was a small farmer who faced bankruptcy.

At a time when many world leaders impose austerity on their citizens, Mujica himself maintains a simple and austere lifestyle. He has been described as the world's poorest president due to his austere lifestyle.  Yet in his heart he regards himself as the richest and most fortunate of human beings. The joy of this contendedness shines brilliantly on his face. He says,

"I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,"

True enough how can one count riches in numbers? A poor person is one who wants more, not one who gives away most of his income because he says he does not need it. He refused to live in the Presidential Palace, but instead lives on his wife's simple farm on the outskirts of Montevideo where he and his wife grow and sell fruits and flowers. He drives an old 1987 VW beetle. He donates 90% of his Presidential salary to charity. He’s a citizen like any other, except he doesn’t have a bank account. Mujica’s annual salary is about US$ 150,000 but he keeps only 10% of it for personal expenses and transfers the rest to a Foundation which supports small productive enterprises and NGOs working on housing developments for the poor. Mujica offered the use of the presidential residence, normally used for government meetings, to serve as shelter for homeless families. He dresses casually like an ordinary farmer at most times but is not averse to wearing a suit and tie if the occasion demands. Needless to say it is gentle humanity and joy that is written all over his countenance rather than sleaze and misery often found on the faces of many other politicians along with a sulk and a frown.

Under his mandate, Uruguay has prospered economically and socially to become one of the most paradise like countries on the planet.  He is a socialist but is not averse to capitalism when it helps everyone rather than just a few. The unemployment rate in Uruguay is lower than that of the US.

Many of his views on God and religion are similar to those of Buddha except that he does not regard life as mere suffering but as as something beautiful worth cherishing while contributing joy to the world. He neither affirms God nor denies Him, regarding the entire Universe, all of nature and all life within it as a manifestation of a Universal consciousness. Needless to say he is a vegetarian but in an informal Lovegan way like Buddha not in a fanatical vegan way.. It is a view of spirituality that is similar to a view of spirituality as portrayed in this blog. In his own words:

"Every day I believe a little bit more in Nature. I learned this very simple lesson: life is beautiful so you have to live it with intensity and pursue happiness.”

A Scene from Uruguay
In June 2012, his government made a move to legalize state-controlled sales of marijuana in order to fight illegal drug trade and the misery it causes. Time magazine featured an article on the matter. Mujica said that by regulating Uruguay's marijuana business, the state will take it away from drug traffickers, and weaken the drug cartels. The state would also be able to keep track of all marijuana consumers in the country, and provide treatment to the most serious abusers, much like what is done with alcoholics. There is an older post on Cannabis in this blog that describes how keeping cannabis illegal is harming humanity rather than helping it although it does create a profit for criminals and others who feed on that profit that includes officials and politicians. As a result, instead of killing each other in huge numbers and ending up with a corrupt police force as in Mexico and other countries, under the project 'war on drugs', Urguayans are loving and kissing each other instead, while psychiatric sickness and drug related crime common in many other countries is fast disappearing from the land. The contribution of cannabis to improve psychiatric health has been discussed in detail in this blog at the earlier link on cannabis. A side benefit is that alcohol related deaths from road accidents have also come down because some of the people now smoke hash instead which appears to be less addictive than tobacco and kills fewer people than alcohol.

Uruguay, under the leadership of one enlightened leader based in love and truth,  Jose Mujica won the war on drugs with love, not guns while in other countries such as Mexico they are still busy killing each other over it.

More recently, feeling sorry for President Obama for not being able to do anything about keeping tortured prisoners perpetually at Guantanamo bay without the benefit of trial, even though he had promised otherwise when he became President,  his heart was moved by compassion and he volunteered to take some in his country so that they too may live like humans.

Therefore here is one person, a President, one can not but help classify as a saint or godly. He does not belong to the present but to a future when the world moves away from the rule of hypocrisy and one percent to a rule that caters to the interests of the majority while protecting interests of minorities. Currently, the world has yet to move out of a one person rule in all of the countries of the world.

Uruguay image from wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maldonado_desde_la_Barra.jpg

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How to Prevent Damage from Forest Fires

Forest Fire Protection

While several earlier posts in this blog have advocated the creation of more forests and planting more trees as a measure to mitigate adverse climate changes, forests pose a danger to humans too. This danger arises when forest fires occur and engulf a human habitation. The ensuing damage can be tragic. Some areas such as those in California and Australia are more prone to such damages than others and preventive measures need to be put in place in order to avert tragedies especially in areas prone to this danger.

One possible preventive measure is the creation of an agricultural strip or body of water such as a lake between the human habitation and the forest as shown in the adjoining schematic. If such a strip is being newly created an excellent design for the surrounding agricultural land is the use of AM strip farms. This type of farm was proposed in an earlier post as a job creation measure but it has excellent application in the present case too.

The Characteristics of AM Strip farms

  1. They consist of agricultural holdings in narrow strips that are two hundred feet wide and about half a mile deep yielding lots of approximately ten acres
  2. Non agricultural activity and construction is permitted up to a depth of two hundred feet from an approach road that is between 100 to 200 feet wide. No other construction is permitted on the remaining lot.
Animals entering water during a forest fire

If the presently suggested method is used as a mitigation measure, it would lead to at least a half mile deep agricultural strip between the habitation and forest with the first two hundred feet adjacent to the road permitted for construction. Each farm will have a front on the road whereas the rear would be adjacent to the forest. Such a town would be blessed with fresh agricultural produce too. This initiative could be combined with a job creation initiative as described in the original posts on strip farms. It would mean removing some forests in some cases and this loss would need to be compensated by planting a similar forest elsewhere.

What about persons who like living adjacent to a forest? This author is one of them but in that case one must relocate to an area that does not have a history of damaging forest fires. There are other risks too of living adjacent to a forest in the modern age such as the risk of a break-in. Even with the present proposal the forest is less than a mile away for walks and picnics on forest trails.

The present proposals need greater study in detail before implementing. This author is available for any further information if required and can be contacted as a comment in this blog to begin with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Impact of increased Carbon Dioxide Emissions on Human Evolution

As mankind burns fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, carbon emissions are added to the atmosphere. Some of them such as particulate matter are short lived but others such as carbon dioxide is a long lived component. A previous note explored the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on climate change: (http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/04/a-new-perspective-on-climate-change.html)  It was concluded that a much higher level of around 1000 ppm of carbon dioxide appears to be beneficial for the green side of life – plants and trees – because carbon dioxide is to plants as oxygen is to animals. It was also stated that the full impact of such increases on global ecology is a matter for further study.  The present note touches upon a topic that has received little attention so far – The impact of increased carbon dioxide on human physical and spiritual evolution. It is assumed that both go hand in hand as regards humans.  The present brief note merely makes initial comments with the hope of initiating more detailed studies in this direction.Over the past century, carbon dioxide levels have increased to present levels of around 400 ppm. With continued use of fossil fuels it is expected to increase further.

It is essential to clarify at the outset what is meant by spiritual here. It is a broad term that can describe things varying from a tribal beating on a drum while some dance around a fire to others burdened by an original sin lost in the mists of time. However, here spirituality and spiritual evolution refer to something much simpler. It is to do with compassion, beauty, clarity of thought to understand truths of our universe, a sense of humility at our smallness in this vast universe and a sense of wondrous joy about it. Further, the present discussion clubs spiritual evolution with a physical one because there is an assumption that the essential inner or spiritual consciousness is the template on which the physical universe that includes individual life forms, evolve and unfold.

When we speak of the impact of increased carbon dioxide it is also assumed simultaneously that levels of oxygen shall either be the same or increase but not diminish. One need not worry that they would decrease as carbon dioxide increases to 1000 ppm because that is still only 0.1 percent of the atmosphere. Moreover the increased photosynthesis would result in the generation of more oxygen while nitrogen levels can only go down because plants absorb nitrogen too through a complex nitrogen cycle for their growth. Therefore an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not lead to a decrease in oxygen. It may remain substantially unchanged or increase.

The central question is what will happen to humans when carbon dioxide increases in the very air they breathe. Air, water and food are fundamental to life and its quality is fundamental to the quality of life that depends upon it. Of these, air is more important than water and water more important than food. A human may live for a few weeks without food, for a few days without water and only for a few minutes without air. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the quality of air a human breathes every instant of his life plays a critical role in the quality of his being. Changes in carbon dioxide content are bound to have an influence.

In order to determine the influence of increases carbon dioxide content in the air we breathe does not require many new studies or experiments because already several scholarly and medical studies exist on the subject where the influence of carbon dioxide as high as five or even ten percent has been studied in detail. The interested reader can easily discover these through a google search. It turns out that carbon dioxide does not have a negative role provided the oxygen percentage remains high. If anything the influence seems to be a beneficial one. Air also has a large component of nitrogen in it but while that component appears to have little influence carbon dioxide plays a more fundamental role on human psyche and biology.

Just to quote from one of these references “In the twelfth paper of this series, Wolff and Lennox showed by experiments on animals that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide increases the volume of blood passing through the brain by raising the systemic blood pressure and by dilating the cerebral arteries. Venous blood becomes more arterial-like (richer in oxygen and poorer in carbon dioxide). They expressed the belief that the most effective measure for increasing the supply of blood, and hence of oxygen, to the tissues of the brain is the inhalation of a mixture of 90 per cent oxygen and 10 per cent carbon dioxide. The latter increases the diameter of arteries and, by inducing a condition of acidosis, increases the dissociation of oxygen from hemoglobin and makes more oxygen available for the tissues. It also stimulates respiration and increases the blood pressure.”

Please do note that the past comment concerns animals not humans. However as regards humans, in the past a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen called carbogen was used in therapy. “Meduna administered carbogen to his patients to induce abreaction, which, with proper preparation and administration, he found could help clients become free of their neuroses. Carbogen users are said to have discovered unconscious contents of their mind, with the experience clearing away repressed material and freeing the subject for a smoother, more profound psychedelic experience.”

It must be pointed out that these quotations concern very high levels of carbon dioxide whereas even with 1000 ppm carbon dioxide the level would be only 0.1 percent i.e. far lower. If the quotations have been included here, it is merely to illustrate that carbon dioxide is not a poisonous pollutant when inhaled but in fact small increases may be beneficial.

One may look at the past of our planet too. During the Cambrian era when carbon dioxide levels were far higher in the atmosphere an explosion of evolution and new life forms took place on the planet.

Now turning our gaze to recent times, the past six or seven decades in which carbon dioxide levels have increased gradually to a level of 400 ppm due to heavy usage of fossil fuels, can we discern any changes in human evolution or well being? This same period has seen a tremendous rise of human population. Increasing number of humans have been forced into crowded and polluted cities and many are forced to live in high rise apartments without the benefit of outdoors. To add to human woes, daily commuting on crowded roads has increased and the synthetic chemical component of processed foods as well as vegetables has seen an increase. All this does not contribute to human well being. Yet the same period has also seen an increase of life spans and new technological discoveries such as nuclear power, television, computers, and mobile devices etc. that have changed human lives drastically. Democracy has become more prevalent in the world and although exploitation of humans by a small percentage of the powerful, the so called one percent continues its yoke is being loosened with a proliferation of free speech and it has at least moved from the rule of one person to one percent except for a few isolated countries

 In this complex picture it is difficult to arrive at any definite conclusion about the role of increased carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere on human lives. Prima facie it appears to be beneficial. Further studies in this direction are needed.

Looking at the situation philosophically, carbon breathing life forms and oxygen breathings ones have evolved in co-operation right from the very beginning of evolution.  None can survive without the other. In a sense they are two sides of the same coin called life. Therefore, it is to be expected that if one prospers the other shall too.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A new Perspective on Climate Change

Climate changes and global warming do appear to be taking place due to man-made causes but hitherto it seems that the cause of it all has been incorrectly identified by a majority of experts. It now appears that the assigned cause - carbon dioxide emissions - is irrelevant to the issue at hand. While a minority had expressed dissent from the start, they were not heeded, perhaps because of socio-political and psychological reasons that fall outside the realm of scientific reasoning. It seems, humans believe more readily what they wish to believe.

The simple and straightforward cause to climate changes aside from natural cycles appears to be a a reduction of forest and tree cover on the planet over the last century and a half. This cause was so obvious that it is surprising  it has not been given the importance it deserves. The difficulty now is that a number of intergovernmental panels, NGOs and groups including one of concerned academics at Harvard have believed the experts or misinterpreted their silence and jumped on to the bandwagon of an erroneous cause.  None doubts their sincerity and the ability to contribute good in the world, provided they know what the right thing to do is. What will they do now? The answer to that question is also simple. Back track a bit and take a new road. The destination, after all is the same for all - an improved planet.

For those who still do not believe this, all they have to do is step into a forest in hot weather and feel the temperature difference. Is it surprising then that the planet as a whole has become just a bit warmer considering the destruction of forests that has taken place all over the planet for more than a century?

Fresh analysis and data has resulted in a new perspective on carbon emissions, fossil fuels and climate change that is contrary to prevailing thinking on the subject. Accordingly:

1. A much healthier atmosphere for the production of food and growth of plants and trees requires 1000 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rather than the present 400 ppm. However, the full impact of a higher level of carbon dioxide i.e. 1000 ppm on the full global ecology including the oceans needs further study.

2. Calculations show that an increase of the greenhouse, gas carbon dioxide from 400 ppm (0.04%) to 1000 ppm (0.1%) will lead to a global temperature rise of less that 0.1 degree centigrade. However, present stocks of fossil fuels may be insufficient for attaining this level.

3.  The past rise to 400 ppm from 200ppm could not have contributed to more that a 0.02 degree centigrade rise in global temperature as per heat transfer calculations that include chain effects.

4. Present levels of carbon dioxide are too minute to cause climate extremes and disturbances

5. Trees play a major role in cooling the atmosphere and stabilizing climates. Improvements in climate require extensive forestation efforts on the planet. Although growth of many new forests and trees will reduce carbon dioxide levels as they absorb that gas for their growth, it would be towards a useful end of improving climate and environment.

It does seem that many experts would not disagree with conclusion numbers 1 and 5 above. It is conclusions number 2, 3 and 4 that are new. Only a minority of specialists in the area currently accept them. This author believes that future studies will clarify the position further and support them. The present conclusions do not imply in the least that efforts at development of renewable energy must be slowed down in any manner. Fossil fuels are a limited resource and they are becoming increasingly expensive. Further, their use does cause local pollution if not a global one. Instead what the present conclusions imply is that ignoring the real cause of climate changes and global warming i.e. deforestation and not doing anything substantial about it could be devastating for the planet.

A detailed explanation of these five points is given in the following article:

A note on the impact of higher carbon dioxide levels on humans is here http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/04/impact-of-increased-carbon-dioxide.html

UPDATE April 16, 2104: Based upon the debate that ensued after this post was published, the original article from which these conclusions were drawn has been revised slightly. Accordingly conclusion number one as reported here is also revised to reflect that change (recorded in a different color) - the second sentence in conclusion number 1.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Children are close to God

A picture of my god-grandson Golu (Naynesh)
Children because of their innocence remain in close companionship of the Almighty God. In a sense they are the gentle and loving facet of God. That is why they inspire love in all who interact with them. It is only when we become adults that we either disbelieve or avoid even ignore the Source of our wondrous and infinite universe. This is also true for many who say that they believe in the Lord. However, if we can lose our own sense of pride and greatness while inculcating love and innocence, as is common with  children, we too can come close to God, even as adults. It does not matter if we view God as a person with a human-like form, as nature or as the formless Infinite, as a Christian or Jew; as Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim. All that is required is to be seeped in Love and shun hatred for there can be nothing further from God than hatred. He is all about love, or even as an Independent theist who would rather stay away from any human religious organizations. God is all of these and everything else besides, being every part of whatever is real and beautiful in the universe as the eternal reality of it all.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A need for more Trees - A possible cause of recent Saharan dust storms in Europe

On the banks of Sattal ( Seven lakes region of Himalayas)

The photo above is one from the District of Nainital (The seven lakes region) in Himalayas showing this author along with his adopted son and grandson in the summer of 2010. This district is still full of lovely trees but sadly that is not the case with many other parts of the world today.

Over the last century as human population has increased on the planet the population of trees has gone down drastically due to human activity. This has led to a deterioration of the environmental quality of the planet as well as climate instabilities.  A reduction of trees on the planet and the resulting change of wind directions may well be the cause of recent Saharan dust pollution in Europe.

Global deforestation sharply accelerated around 1852. It has been estimated that about half of the Earth's mature tropical forests—between 7.5 million and 8 million km2 of the original 15 million to 16 million km2 that until 1947 covered the planet have now been destroyed.  The destruction of non-tropical forests appears to be even more severe and began earlier as forests were cleared for agriculture and urbanization in Europe and America. The deforestation continues and recent trends can be found at the following links

Trees play a crucial role in controlling global warming and climate extremes. You may read more detailed post on that here:

Human are the only species on the planet that have the capacity to be both consciously destructive as well as constructive. It is time now for every human to make some contribution towards more trees on the planet. Every tree helps and you can begin now by casting your vote for more trees at the following link.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Trust the Lord or trust fellow humans

My five year old grandson Golu trusts and loves the Lord
When Man is mentioned here in the title what is meant is, man, his words, his beliefs, science etc. His here includes her and the mention of man is for both men and women. However a lack of trust does not in the least imply for me a lack of love for mankind. Rather my compassion and love for humans has increased because of it.

I do not reject science altogether because I am a scientist myself and to do that would be to reject a part of myself. What is implied is that not just the science and technology of man but also his philosophy is at all times accepted by me and I hope by every wise person with much reservation and fistfuls of salt. When it comes to human medical science, interfering with human, animal and plant biology such as GM foods this caution even turns to dread. For much that many would go to a human doctor for, I have turned to Almighty God as many of my posts may have revealed, and this too has been a paradoxically a result of the study of science.

First, the belief in God although inherent in self from childhood was thrown into doubt and debate soon after I began university level education in science and technology. However, as I went further and further in this field, to its highest levels, further enquiry returned my belief in the Lord and Almighty in full and firm force. I shall not go into the details of this here but one can find those arguments in perhaps the very first post of this blog long ago. What may be mentioned is that it is because of similar discoveries that many scientists themselves including Einstein were firm believers while many of their students who studied science up to lesser levels were not.

Now returning to dread of science as regards human biology, the dread emerged during doctoral research in phenomenon concerned with relatively simple engineering devices. It was realized that even in simple things like thermal power plants and the flow of a simple fluid like water in a pipe there is much that we as human scientists do not know yet, much is subject to revision and much that may still take centuries before it can be improved. This did not mean that I rejected science, because it does make many useful contributions despite all this, in easing human lives. I myself have made contributions in this direction that any reader can check out by searching for my name as a google scholar where scientific publications, citations and their use by others would be found listed. However the clear message was that when we do not even know enough about simple machines, it would be foolish to expect that we would know more about a far more complex one – human, plant and animal bodies – that God or mechanisms of the universe devised by Him and under His control made. Therefore to express blind faith in procedures based on this incomplete knowledge to the extent of allowing free play with even one’s body and even far more so with one’s mind as expressed in an earlier post borders on utter foolishness to my mind. Now in the evening of my life I feel well vindicated by such beliefs by observing instances from my own life and those of friends and relatives who believed and did otherwise.

I do not mean to suggest that one must reject all medical procedures. Very many of them are of great benefit. For example there is nothing like a nice plaster for a fracture of the limb or an antibiotic for a growing and painful infection. What is suggested is that before any serious intervention with one’s body, a careful deliberation, wide consultation and an evaluation of alternatives especially simple ones must be considered, especially if time permits. A simple cheap alternative, if available, although appearing leas attractive in the short run may prove to be the best choice in the long run. The cheaper the alternative, the less the taint of greed! It goes without saying that in doing so you are likely to save money for something pleasant like a holiday and the capacity of your body and mind to enjoy it as well as the beauty of your body to attract a pleasant companion for the holiday too.

Some decade and a half ago, when I suffered from Angina and had been advised to go for some by-pass surgery or risk sudden collapse, I shunned it completely. I reasoned that everyone goes one day anyway and when one does, it would be much better by a stoppage of a heart rather than with a slow failure of the liver, kidney or tumors that grew gradually with increasing pain in the body.  I wrote a post on it in this blog earlier that can be found by searching called – When heart disease is a blessing. This sentiment is expressed in the poetic prayer of a recent post too. When I explained that to one of the most competent doctors in the country who was also a family friend (General Harish Puri) he appeared to get annoyed and could not give a satisfactory rebuttal. Further, from belief in the Lord and soul came belief in future lives and I also realized that it is a blessing when people leave the world reasonably young in a fit state rather than a very aged ailing one. May as well get into a new fresh body clothing sooner rather than go tottering about in a worn out one! My reluctance to get my angina treated led to my near collapse and demise on some occasions in this period lasting over seven years, when I depended on nothing more than a soluble aspirin thrown in a glass of water and which I carried with me at all times, combined with mindful breathing and mantra jap described in earlier posts that can be found by using the search tool at the top of the left column.

However, it seems that the Lord has not decided to relocate me just yet. My angina has vanished on its own over the years while some friends who depended on doctors are into their third stent or bypasses and baloonings accompanied with a compromised depressed existence.

My distrust for some medical procedures is not entirely a result of scientific study but also because of a philosophical one that has enabled understanding human nature. The understanding has been that medical procedures do not arise only out of scientific advancement but also out of human commercial greed and a human ego that regards itself at times as superior to the Doctor of the universe Who created infinitely more complex life forms and the universe with far greater perfection and ease than any human can ever dream of.

A similar realisation has been a part of the understanding of many since ancient times and it is perhaps because of this that Solomon the wise said thousands of years ago.

“One who does not fear the Lord fears man”