Friday, 23 July 2010

Rig the Climate

The climate denial lobby is beginning to look really silly.
It creates loonies out of people -the most recent one - Lord Monckton - who claims that climate change, is a conspiracy, a new flag of the left and rebukes the very idea of global warming. For someone who has no training in science whatsoever to discount the IPCC s body of some 800 scientists, he is irresponsible and certifiable.
The science is now loud and clear - warming of the earth is unequivocal and there is no doubt that much of the change in climate is due to human induced action. Scientists at NASA-GISS have confirmed that the first six months of 2010 have set a global temperature record.
But I am not going to write about the vicissitudes of climate change of my generation or the politics that world leaders  has been engaged in over the last decade to try to solve the climate crisis or what is the planet we are leaving behind.

It has been about 2 decades since the Earth Summit in Rio and we are still struggling for an agreement to protect our planet and its ecosystems, its forest, water tables, atmosphere, oceans and mountains. In the last 50 years or so millions have been spent in UN conventions, declarations and pledges  for environmental protection.  While we may have failed the earth in the last 100 years or so – there were some who paid it glorious tribute 5000 years ago.

The best tribute ever paid to the environment can be found in the Vedas.
The Vedas are considered the most sacred books for Hindus. The word Veda means  “wisdom”. There are 4 Vedas .The Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda.

The Rig Veda , a collection of hymns ,are the most ancient of  all Hindu texts, probably about  5000 years old but codified much later.This is concerned with the worship of gods that are largely personifications of the powers of nature. 

The Rig Veda contains the most popular mantra , the Gayatri mantra. I don’t know any Indian who does not know the Gayatri Mantra – it’s the mother of all mantras. 

Aum Bhoor Bhuwah Swaha 

 Tat Savitur Varenyam

 Bhargo Devasaya Dheemahi

Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodayat

There are various interpretations of this simple mantra - I do not wish to go into the existential meaning of this mantra, its metaphor or its esoteric meaning.I am no expert in Sankrit or ancient texts. Not at all and cannot even remotely claim to be. But this much I know -when I do a word to word break down of the Gayatri Mantra  it is telling me something –   a prayer to the "giver of light and life" - the sun (savitur). Its power remains unchallenged and unrivalled.

It is not only the Rig Veda that pays tribute to nature. There are 63 mantras of Atharva Veda (12.1.1. to 12.1.63) pertain  to Hymns to the  Earth, which glorifies Mother Earth.
 The Rig Veda regards trees and plants as possessing  healing properties. Tree planting is considered a religious duty. So ecology is not a modern day science that was started in Europe. Its root can be found in our ancient texts and its modern day manifestation in the Chipko Movement that began in the early 70’s in the Garwhal – where villagers formed a human chain and hugged trees marked to be cut down for the development of a sports equipment factory. Since then, the movement has grown as a  ecological movement.

So while world leaders break their heads over complex documents on carbon emissions,legal frameworks,binding targets,offsetting, de-forestation and afforestation, Indian Rishis understood this 5000 years ago but instead,chose to express it through beautiful, 4 line hymns - that are still chanted today.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Age of Innocence

Like the players in Edith Wharton‘s The Age of Innocence, climate change seems to be plagued with scandals.   There have been a series of climategates – from hacked emails of the University of East Anglia , to accusations of unnecessary alarm on the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, exaggeration on the sea level rise that the Dutch objected to, lack of peer reviews within the IPCC, to CDM fraud and its unintended beneficiaries and even to Dr Pachauri s high carbon miles and his vested interests in clean tech businesses.   That he wrote a racy sex novella immediately before the scandal broke did not help the good doctor.

Ah. There was even Amazongate – which attacked the IPCC, claiming their data on the Amazon Rainfall was false. The claim was aired in hundreds of publications.   Only to be subsequently retracted by the Times. But the damage had been done.

Now wait till the full Al Gore sex scandal with his masseuse comes to he fore.  There will be a settlement of a few millions – it will get more eyeballs than 2010 year being another temperature record year, or USD2.65 billion needed to clean up the BP oil spill or the rapid Arctic Sea ice loss that we experienced in June or even drought in parts of the rainforests in the Amazon.  That we are likely to head towards a 4 degree temperature increase leading to near-total collapse of the huge Greenland ice sheet will get a dot of a mention.
Why even go to such sibylline locations of the Arctic or the Amazon.

In our own country we do not hear about environmental refugees from the Ghoramara islands of the Sunderbans due to sea level rise, who are forced to vacate their community.  Or the threat to our national security due to melting of glaciers along our borders with Tibet. That we already experience more severe droughts and floods is taken as business as usual. Food security will be under severe threat.

Neither is the rapid melting of the Gangotri glacier, a source of drinking water for 40% of the world’s population even newsworthy . That some of our revered rivers will become seasonal before they disappear completely has not caught the attention in any news reporting circles. 
 How desperate does the climate crisis have to get before we even acknowledge it.
Will we forget our Ganga as we did our Saraswati ?