Thursday, October 20, 2011
In a comment of my last post it was mentioned that rural living might be good for some individuals. Present day urban life usually involves an eight-hour workday along with commuting that may be up to one to two hours a day for the round trip. This leaves little time for an individual for himself or herself and it is not surprising then that some individuals who go through that for most of their lives get dehumanized. It is not written in any scripture that the normal workday should be a fixed eight hours, day in and day out. I have lived in towns and countries where the work hours were from eight a.m. to one p.m. six days a week and commuting time to work was just five minutes. However, that is an exception rather than the rule. In ancient times the normal working hours of an individual varied throughout the year. There were weeks of round-the-clock work followed by weeks of lean hours. In modern times this sort of thing has become confined to a few areas of life such as farmers and soldiers.
Besides the problem of work hours a problem with modern life in cities is that busy hours throughout the year reduce time for socializing. Many urban dwellers are also forced to live away from green surroundings. I too live in an urban area. Some twenty years ago when I started to build a home here there were absolutely no trees here. It was a new area that was just being developed. Soon I began planting trees at home and on the street near my home. Then an opportunity came to organize the residents into a residents development and welfare association. As a founder of this association there was an opportunity to get more trees planted in the entire neighborhood. The first tree that came up beside my driveway was a cassia tree. For some reason it attracted all the crows of the area. Their crackling cry is really irritating and often I had to go out to stone them away. In the evening bats flew overhead in the garden and that too was a pain. There is another bird that lived in the vacant lots that has a horrible screeching sound especially at night.
Fortunately as more trees came up and more homes were built here the screechy bird has departed and the crows have left too. Instead there are over a dozen other types of birds that frequent the garden. I do not know the name of all of these but they are gray, blue, green, shiny yellow, black etc. Others such as kingfishers, owls and woodpeckers show up occasionally. I know the name of some such as sparrows, red tailed bulbuls, parrots, blackbirds etc. Their soft chirping throughout the day, especially in the mornings is sweet music for the soul. It is an orchestra of sweet notes and the composition is invariably a new one every day. It is only on rare occasions that a crow or two lands on the property now. I consider myself fortunate that there is a bit of gardening space around the home so that I can enjoy some of this music and greenery. I know it is not like that with many others in the city.
If I had to redesign my life, or next time around, I would move to or create the sort of rural area described in the previous three posts - A rural agricultural life with access to some essential modern urban facilities. This time though it is a bit late for that. It requires a man in the prime of his life, certainly no more than forty-five, when one is full of energy, for that. The population of the earth is seven billion strong now and there is hardly enough good land on our planet for all the seven billion to move to a rural life even if they wished to. Fortunately most do not care to. They prefer the pleasures a city life has to offer. Perhaps it is because of it that Nature has permitted the population of the planet to rise to such enormous levels.
With grateful acknowledgements to http://publicdomainpictures.net for photo. I really should snap some of my own with this is so much easier.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The last two posts described a configuration for farm lots titled as AM farms. This one provides a few more details.
Essentially, AM farms were described as farm lots that are two hundred feet wide and half a mile deep on the average, yielding farm lots of a little over ten acres each. Each of the farm lots would be of unequal size if they face a curving road as shown in the adjoining figure. Curving roads are more natural for rural areas. Often such roads are laid so that they are on lowest ground to catch the run off rainwater. However, AM farms are such that they are not completely rural but rather semi urban because of their configuration and because a depth of two hundred feet is permitted for construction of homes as well as commercial establishments such as shops, restaurants, pub, primary school, produce shop, motels etc. A width of two hundred feet on the road is sufficient to set up both a residential home as well as a commercial establishment if the width is divided into two portions of hundred feet each or in some other suitable proportion. The idea is that such farm owners can derive the benefits of both rural and urban living.
Construction is restricted beyond a depth of two hundred feet so that the area remains primarily an agricultural one. However over a five into five-mile grid a couple of lots may be allowed to set up boarding cum residential schools and a country club. These may be set up from the initial infrastructure expense of setting up the community. A country club of about ten acres is sufficient to set up outdoor activities such as tennis, soccer, swimming and indoor activities such as chess, bridge, carom, billiards and ping-pong as well as a library, restaurant and bar. The high school on the other hand may contain an auditorium for use by the school and for rent to the community if needed. More lots may be permitted extensive construction if they are engaged in food processing industries such as canning, freezing, drying, producing pasta, jams and sauces etc.
A drive down the central curving north- south road of such an agricultural area would give the impression of driving through a town, whereas in reality it would be a farming area. The farms would be hidden behind built up areas. However, a drive down the East- West road would primarily be a drive past farmlands.
Besides these three or four lots over a 5 X 5 mile grid (containing 50 x 25 = 1250, farm lots) there is no need to permit any other lots for commercial activity since it is permitted on all the farm lots as described earlier. Two to four lots as shown in the figure may be left as a common green area that is partly wooded in each square mile. The idea is that this would permit an open field for village fares, weekend farmers markets, jogging or trekking grounds etc. as well as fishing if a stream passes through it. Without such intermittent green areas the layout would become claustrophobic.
A person living in an agricultural area and owning adequate amount of irrigated land is assured of some fresh food and a roof over his head in green surroundings in the worst of times(except for natural calamities like droughts or floods). On the other hand, an urban person in a bad way in bad economic times faces life on a garbage-strewn street or a crowded shelter for the homeless and food from a soup kitchen produced perhaps from expiring surpluses of supermarkets. It has already started happening in Greece.
On the other hand even when times are good a most heaven like life is possible in green surroundings rather than within nests of concrete and cement, nested one above the other, similar to insect homes and beehives, the fate of many urban dwellers in the so called modern age that we live in.
Concluding Remark: The name AM farms was chosen as a pun. It suggests having to get up very early every morning including weekends as one has on farms aside from initials of the person in whose mind the idea originated -mine :)
Saturday, October 8, 2011
NOTE: do read the older post http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2011/10/towards-green-life.htmlfor a background to this one.
Some of my earlier posts have alluded to the possibility of a return to land as a way of creating jobs in developed economies such as that of the USA that is trying to deal with this issue. The last post described a layout of farmlands in designed narrow strips so as to minimize some of the hardships faced by rural communities. May I call these AM farms for convenience here.
Let us consider a fifty into fifty mile irrigated land area divided up into AM farms and try and estimate roughly the expenses for creating them and the number of jobs that might be created by doing so. It would be necessary to divide the landmass into a grid of roads that are a mile apart in order to provide road access to all the farms for the purpose.
One square mile of land area results in 50 AM farms laid back to back and facing two roads that are a mile apart. Each of these farms would be a little over ten acres in size. Thus a fifty into fifty square mile area would create 125000 AM farms. However allowing for about 20% of the area for a central township and some natural common areas let us say a 100,000 AM farms are created in our chosen land area. If these farms work as modern intensive farms, each farm may generate direct and indirect employment for up to ten adults i.e that would create a million jobs. This is only first estimate but a more careful detailed study is likely to produce a similar result.
However a jobless person with little or no money can hardly be asked to move to a farming enterprise and make a success of it, even if they are interested. The infrastructure has to be created, training provided and an initial grant (that includes a starter cottage on the farm with electricity, water and gas connection) is the minimum required. If we assume an initial expense of 100, 000 dollars per farm then these 100, 000 farms would cause an initial expense of ten billion dollars – a small amount compared to the 400 billion dollar job creation plan that is being proposed in USA nowadays and very small compared to a trillion dollar bank bailout. Even creating ten such agricultural hubs across the USA would cost just 100 billion dollars and possibly create ten million jobs.
Some of the expenses incurred would be as a loan to the new farmers with their farmlands (and any construction on it) as a collateral to be paid back in easy installments spread over twenty years. Not everyone is a good farmer. Those who cannot make a success of their farms would lose them eventually for allotment to new applicants. The central town may have an extension and training center with short courses in agricultural technologies such as orchard growing, mushroom growing, beekeeping, poultry, blue water fish farming and diary industries etc.
If such farms were created would there be a market for all the extra farm produce? For sure there would be. The population of our planet is now over seven billion strong and rising food prices are an issue all over the world.
More details of AM farms is provided in the next post. The present proposal of designing farms in narrow strips and permitting the roadside fro construction would add some of the advantages of urban life to rural area and remove its main disadvantage i.e scattered farm houses.
A different proposal in this blog on adding the advantages of rural living to urban areas in a green hybrid city is also described in this blog at http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2012/06/green-hybrid-city.html
Photo: Hen by Bobby Mikul from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net
Friday, October 7, 2011
At the age of sixty, reflecting back on my life, I draw satisfaction from the fact that it has been a wonderful life. For sure, there were extended periods of grave difficulties interspersed with extended periods of Joy. However, without the difficult and challenging times, life would scarcely have been worth it. In retrospect, the difficult periods although unpleasant at the time, have made life interesting. Within them were lessons that were of immense value as an education for the soul. An earlier post about the purpose of life mentioned that for me the purpose of life is an evolution of the soul. It takes place through an education of the soul. The soul also evolves through helping others – all life – evolve. I hope that I have been able to make some humble contributions in that direction too because of my pursuits as an educator.
Although life provided most of what I have desired deeply in life, there are some ambitions that have not yet been met to my satisfaction. These would have to wait for another round. After all, it is not possible to get everything in one life.
One of the things that I missed sorely in this life from time to time is living in fully green surroundings. To me fully green surroundings are a solace for the soul. The greenest areas involve greenery at all five height levels – trees, bushes, herbs, grasses and moss – with flowering creepers running through them, that one can look out on from one’s window and on the paths that one has to walk on daily. My childhood was spent in precisely such a green place in the beautiful town of Nainital in the Himalayas. Since then, education and profession has caused me to stay in various other parts of the world, some green and others arid. I have lived for many years in somewhat arid Delhi and presently my home is in the arid zone of India in Jaipur. Over the years I have succeeded in making the surroundings of my home very green with trees, bushes, creepers and flowers but one has to venture away from home from time to time to confront the dust and dry areas amongst a jungle of cement and concrete that many cities around the world including Jaipur has become.
To compensate, I make trips into the Himalayas, even for extended stays whenever opportunity permits, but then one has to return to ones home again after the trip is over. It feels nice to return but soon a yearning for green fields and hills returns. I have debated a permanent change over to a green Himalayan town but eventually hesitated for practical reasons. One practical reason is that the same green Himalayas become very cold in winters and I am finding that with age cold is increasingly uncomfortable. Central heating is neither available nor practical in India. The second reason is that much movement in Himalayan towns takes place by walking up and down the hills. That is becoming less and less comfortable with age. Over the last few years, I run out of breath easily on a climb and a climb down a hill path causes the leg muscles to ache. This is very different from when I was younger and could walk up or down the hills for days, trekking in the Himalayas. One such trip to a beautiful valley called the valley of flowers that is above the tree line involved a thirty kilometer trek from the nearest motorable road. That trip inspired me to write a lovely fictional story called ‘Mystic and the blossoms’. It was published as a Novella. If that title is googled one may find links to reviews, kindle, ipad, ebook and paper editions of that book.
Before building my home here in Jaipur, I debated if I should instead acquire a farm and live on that. It would have permitted acres of greenery. That is something I still yearn for. However practical consideration once again compelled me to reject that option. The difficulties one faces in agricultural areas are a lack of facilities that are available easily in urban areas. There is also social isolation because farmhouses are spread across vast areas. In an earlier post it was mentioned that the agricultural option may be considered by some urban persons in future because of a shrinking economy and lack of urban jobs in the developed world, especially in countries such as USA that have vast land resources. Incase a younger person considers that option they would face the same difficulties as mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. Certainly such difficulties can be minimized if rural agricultural areas are properly planned and if they are located no more than an hour away from a town or city that one may depend on for urban services. There has been much work on urban town planning in the world but little on rural planning. It is time governments got involved with such planning and formulated appropriate regulations for the same. Here are a few regulations worth considering for rural agricultural areas.
1. Rural farms must have aspect ratios (length to width ratio) of more than ten and the width along a hundred feet wide approach road must be no more than 200 feet.
2. All residential and commercial construction must be confined to a depth of two hundred feet from the road. The remaining depth may have construction for such agricultural purposes as animal sheds (cow sheds, chicken coup etc.) and minimal construction for pumps or wind power generators etc.
3. Commercial enterprises such as restaurants, shops, motels etc. can be set up besides homes without licenses as required in urban areas but these too must be constructed within the specified two hundred feet depth from the road.
The idea of these regulations is that it will cause rural homes on farms to be set up within close vicinity of each other. One could reach ten homes within a walking distance of four hundred feet on the road and if there were annexes for farm workers besides homes than the number of home one could visit within minutes would be larger, all while living right on one’s farm The fact that the density of homes on an approach road is large will make it easier to provide services such as piped water, electricity lines, postal services, public transportation, shops etc. on the same road. Thereby some of the major disadvantages of rural areas such as social isolation and lack of services will be reduced and one may enjoy a green life along with a social life and modern services. The adjoining figure shows how such an agricultural area would look from the sky.
It is not suggested here that urban areas cannot be green if they are planned for greenery. It requires setting aside at least fifty percent of urban land aside for green areas such as small forests and parks. There is a design for that too in the present blog called the Green Hybrid city. You will locate it easily by using the search box on the top right corner if you wish. However, there are not many towns or cities like that around the world anymore. Human greed prevents the establishment of such towns. Urban land is expensive and city planners would rather sell that for homes and businesses to raise more money.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Human life is made up of sad and happy moments, some very sad moments, and brief or prolonged periods of sorrow or difficulties as well as prolonged periods of happiness. Yesterday on TV one of the principal characters of a program I watch mentioned that an evolved human is one who can face both sorrow and happiness calmly with equanimity, since these are inevitable portions of life. I completely agree with this view and feel that the Universal Intelligence makes humans face sorrow for precisely such evolution.
One of the things that has made me face sorrow and difficulties in life is the belief in an afterlife – the belief in reincarnation. I know that many do not believe in a soul or reincarnation but I believe that when one firmly accepts reincarnation as a fact, then sorrows and difficulties of life become less serious, even trivial at times. Perhaps all of us would have experienced an unpleasant dream in which something awful happens. We wake up and feel relieved that it was just a dream. Some such thing happens to a human soul that is facing an awful time in this life but on departing from it feels relieved that it was just like a prolonged dream that is over and that the soul must move on to a new life. On the other hand, when we wake up from a pleasant dream the happiness may persist for some time into the waking hours. Some such thing must happen to a soul that leaves this body in a happy state. It is likely to continue into new happy lives. Our future lives are drawn from our past. A very rich person however, such as some of the richest persons on our planet may feel sorry on leaving this body because of the realization that they can longer access the riches that have been left behind. It is therefore good to be rich enough so that one’s essential needs can be met with ease but not so rich that one does not have time enough to use those riches for producing happiness. Those who are poor do not realize that the richest persons in the world are such that if they set about to withdraw all their money in cash from banks and attempted to set fire to that cash, their lifetimes would not be enough for them to complete that task. This could even become a criterion for the limit to the wealth of an individual in a new world order. No human should be permitted to acquire more than he or she can burn in his or her lifetime.
Looking back at my own life I can draw joy and satisfaction from moments and periods of happiness. I also draw contentment from moments of difficulties and sorrow because those were periods of learning that produced most maturity, but only after the sorrow has long gone by and is lost in the mists of time. It was definitely not pleasant while it lasted. This makes one realize that it is important to continue learning about life even in happy times. As mentioned in an earlier post a highly respected saint of India – Kabir – even went on to suggest that a human would not face sorrow if he remembered God in times of happiness.
During my younger days moments of happiness were found in the bustling metropolises of this world. However during childhood and now that I am older such happiness is found in communion with nature – trees, forests, green fields, fresh water lakes, streams and green mountains. I feel that Nature provides the same sense of warmth and security to an older person as a mother provides a feeling of warmth and security to an infant. Our planet is a beautiful one with vast tracts of green spaces. It also has harsh areas such as deserts, frozen spaces and arid grounds. At the present moment in the history of mankind it seems that human population has become far more than desirable. I feel it is so because in the ideal case it should have been possible for all humans to live in the green and pleasant parts of the planet, reserving the deserts etc. for small settlements for the purpose of mining or research. However that is not quite feasible at the present time. Large sections of humans are compelled to live in arid or inhumanly cold and frozen parts of the planet. It may take many centuries now for the population of humans to decline to a much lower level. Nature alone knows how and when that will happen.
Photo is of Golu, my adopted grandson