Earth Day Thoughts


Today is April 22nd. The world around me brought to me by the print, visual and social media is crying hoarse about the Earth Day. While it is appreciable that there is a dedicated day that is observed for the last 46 years to protect the earth and conserve her resources, one wonders if the impact it has had is enough. In today’s instant fix world and life, it is no wonder that we have one Earth Day, and not every day. Look at the following shocking facts to realize that a catastrophe awaits us, a ticking time bomb.

  • 2015 was globally the warmest year since records began in 1880, according to NASA and NOAA. The average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62 F (0.90 C) above the 20th century average.
  • Fifteen of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.
  • In the 10,000 years before the Industrial Revolution in 1751, carbon dioxide levels rose less than one percent. Since then, they’ve risen 37 percent!
  • By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions.
  • Almost 800 million people lack access to clean safe water every day.
  • Compared to today, five times as much land is likely to be under “extreme drought” by 2050.
  • The global middle class will surge from 1.8 to 4.9 billion by 2030, which will result in a significant increase in freshwater consumption.
  • By the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today.
  • By 2050, 1 in 5 developing countries will face water shortages says UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • The first of the 10 top endangered animals in the world is our national animal  – the Tiger. 😦
  • The polar ice caps have melted faster in last 20 years than in the last 10,000. A comprehensive satellite study confirms that the melting ice caps are raising sea levels at an accelerating rate.
  • Every year sees humans using over 300 million tons of plastic out of which only 10% or less is recycled or reused.
  • Even in a developed country like the US only 20-25% of e-waste is recycled. Large amounts of hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, and cadmium leach into our air and water, contaminating our community resources.

As I dig up more and more data, there is more and more reason to feel depressed and pessimistic. So I reflect on this wonderful palindrome poem by Jonathan Reed – Lost Generation. (Thanks to Sir Christopher Stone, Senior Vice President GEMS Education, who introduced it yesterday while addressing us at school.) This 2011 poem is about cynicism and optimism. Read to the end, then read in reverse starting from “There is hope” and continuing upward. Check it out:

I am part of a lost generation
and I refuse to believe that
I can change the world
I realize this may be a shock but
“Happiness comes from within.”
is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy.”
So in 30 years I will tell my children
they are not the most important thing in my life
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
is more important than
I tell you this
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
but this will not be true in my era
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me
30 years from now, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.

And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

There is hope.
It is foolish to presume that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic.
It will be evident that
My peers and I care about this Earth.
No longer can it be said that
Environmental destruction will be the norm.
In the future
I will live in a country of my choosing.
I do not concede that
30 years from now I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my
Experts tell me
that this is a quick fix society,
but this will not be true in my era.
Families stayed together,
once upon a time.
I tell you this –
is more important than
I have my priorities straight because
my employer will know that they are not the most
important thing in my life.
So in 30 years I will tell my children that
“money will make me happy”
is a lie, and
“happiness comes from within.”
This might be a shock,
but I can change the world!
And I refuse to believe that
I am a part of a lost generation.

Yes, and I refuse to be believe I can do nothing. I can do something and make a difference. So what am I going to do to make my carbon footprints less each day and show compassion to the only living place we have? I am proud to say that I have only relied on handkerchiefs. So, it’s wash, use and reuse. I have already made some difference by not using tissue papers. They may be soft tissue papers, but they are hard on the environment.
Now going forward, it’s these that am going to embrace:

  • Resist the urge to open and close my fridge doors as and when I please. Each time I open it, cool air escapes and the compressor is forced to use more power to cool it down again.
  • Reduce the use of plastics bags as much as possible. I have taken this pledge that I will never use plastic spoons from today. I believe in my small way I can make a difference. Wherever I go, I will carry with me a stainless steel spoon which I can wash or if not possible, wipe clean.

So it’s official. I am a Spoon Washer from today. Care to join me?

Sustainable development should be the mantra for governments world over. Conserving, afforesting, recycling, reusing and reducing – if we don’t remember these actions each and every day it would be too late to undo the damage already done.

Am reminded of the profound Cree Indian prophesy:

“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.”

The question is should we wait till that time???
Let’s make each day an Earth Day.
We owe it to posterity, don’t we?

Bough – Wow! Tree Talk!!

I confess I am a Lord of the Rings fan, however great a fantasy epic it is! Life is but dull and drab without a little or even a lot of fantasizing. I loved watching the Ents of J R Tolkiens’ Middle Earth, particularly Tree Beard, the grand old man of Tolkein’s world. Ents bear close resemblance to trees and are able to talk in the book and the movie.  

I have always wondered – what would trees tell us, if we get to understand their mode of communication? Sure enough they would harp on the mindless destruction of forests, including that of pristine rain forests, the lungs of the world, and carp about man’s inordinately insatiable greed.

Long back in 1990, Jagdish Chandra Bose, the distinguished Indian scientist and a pioneer in Biophysics, announced an astonishing discovery. At an international conference of physicists in Paris, and later in England, Bose proved that plants respond to pain and stress much like humans. To prove his theory, Bose invented an instrument called the Resonate Recorder that was so sensitive it could record the subtlest of changes inside a plant.

“The telltale charts of my crescograph are evidence for the most sceptical that plants have a sensitive nervous system and a varied emotional life. Love, hate, joy, fear, pleasure, pain, excitability, stupor, and countless appropriate responses to stimuli are as universal in plants as in animals”, the great man is said to have told Paramahamsa Yogananda (The Autobiography of a Yogi – Chapter 8).

So much about plants and trees responding to stimuli! Tree Talk seems to be an interesting possibility going by an Associated Press dispatch quoted in the Science Frontiers #63, MAY-JUN1989 © 1989-2000 William R. Corliss which says:

“Grants Pass, Ore. (AP) – Physicist Ed Wagner says he has found evidence that trees talk to each other in a language he calls W-waves.
“If you chop into a tree, you can see that adjacent trees put out an electrical pulse,” said Wagner. “This indicates that they communicated directly.”
“Explaining the phenomenon, Wagner pointed to a blip on a strip chart recording of the electrical pulse.
“It put out a tremendous cry of alarm,” he said. “The adjacent trees put out smaller ones.”
“People have known there was communication between trees for several years, but they’ve explained it by the chemicals trees produce,” Wagner said.
“But I think the real communication is much quicker and more dramatic than that,” he said. “These trees know within a few seconds what is happening. This is an automatic response.”
“Wagner has measured the speed of W-waves at about 3 feet per second through the air.
“They travel much too slowly for electrical waves,” he said. “They seem to be an altogether different entity. That’s what makes them so intriguing. They don’t seem to be electromagnetic waves at all.”

(Anonymous; “Physicist Says Blip Proves Trees Talk,” Seattle Sun Times, February 12, 1989. Cr. R.L. Simmons)

A footnote goes on to say that in addition to the above discovery, Wagner, who holds a PhD in physics from the University of Tennessee, has detected electrical standing waves in trees. The voltage measured by electrodes implanted in trees goes up and down as one goes higher and higher up the trees. Interesting indeed!!

Coming back to what trees would communicate, Ilan Shamir, author & inspirational keynote speaker seems to have captured beautifully. His poem ‘Advice from a Tree’ is full of innate wisdom. These lines can truly teach us simple lessons to last this life time. Probably these would be what trees want to convey to us – Bough-Wow! Talk about Tree Talk!!!

Advice from a Tree 
By Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!

[Could not resist posting this beautiful You Tube video on this poem. Am sure you will enjoy it’s brilliant visuals and melodious music.]