Free access to information

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There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration. -Andrew Carnegie, industrialist (1835-1919)
Andrew made a fortune during his life time from Steel making but he left behind one of the largest library development in the history of modern man till then. He was instrumental in spreading knowledge across the cities of America at a scale never done before for the masses as till then libraries were for the elite of society only. Thus the great philanthropists spoke when they donated a great deal of their personal wealth; for funding libraries, museums, and research and development, so that the mind of man could be free to grow, and imagine great things for our future. From time immemorial the spoken word has been the key to communication, and as languages developed so did the nuances of cultural affiliations; that are the inherent property of a language. The libraries house the literature and also the architecture, art, music, attire, sculpture are housed in the museums; for all of us to see and share equally. These bring about a transformation 0f the history of the civilizations long forgotten by the common man; that have gone before but their achievements are brought alive for us today.
So to bring equality educate girls, boys, youth, old men, old women and anyone else that you can find hiding behind the veil of ignorance. The internet will be the next big enabler; as the poorest of the poor, and the weakest of the weak, will get access to information from around the world. As local languages catch up; with the world of technical information available, in say English or German, knowledge will spread. Human ingenuity is a strange phenomenon, and surprise game changing discoveries and innovations can come from anywhere. As the World Wide Web expands, the information will reach more and more people; who in turn will add their own native knowledge, to it. We are on the cusp of a revolution; and there is no force on earth, that can stop this progress.
The whole world is our own and we need the equality and knowledge sharing for our own survival. In an interconnected world pandemics will spread faster; and so will desired and undesired outcomes, of the use of this knowledge. There are twisted minds everywhere; who will try to subvert security and privacy, of their fellow humans for personal gain. There will of course be the wise few who will continue to use the power of charity for good, to spread compassion and hope. I know for a certainty that if we just keep faith; and pursue the path to knowledge sharing and opportunity, the future will look a lot brighter for all of us! We are all indebted to those who have opened the pandora box of knowledge; to the world’s masses, and now have to overcome the evil and let the good prosper, for the benefit of all our suceeding generations..

Vegan Bill

The other day hearing an energetic and surprisingly healthy looking ex-president Bill Clinton; talking in an interview on TV, I was surprised to hear that he had turned vegan, or a vegetarian who does not eat any meats or dairy products. Then I saw another interview of ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson explain how his love for his new wife; took him from a 360 pound overweight coke addicted low life, to rebuild his life and go vegan and drop 150 pounds and become surprisingly healthy again and drug free. These two were the poster children of the meat producing industry in their heyday; sneaking off to enjoy juicy steaks and live a life of meat eating high protein diet, and become superb specimens of manhood in their prime. Later the same life styles seemed to have led to obesity and health problems; that they had to battle, with a new paradigm. With the bloat gone now they were looking surprisingly trim and healthy; and seemed to be living a charmed life for their age, that we should all aspire to.
This caused me to do some research and I came across the following: “According to the editors of World Watch, July/August 2004: “The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future — deforestation, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.” Another research pointed out “Thirty-three percent of our nation’s raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter. In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.” It also looks like tax payer’s subsidies are coming out of our pockets for McDonald and other burger chains to provide their low cost meals to us, “Half the water consumed in the U.S. irrigates land growing feed and fodder for livestock. It takes 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, but 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of meat. If these costs weren’t subsidized by the American taxpayers, the cheapest hamburger meat would be $35 per pound!”
Having always admired Bill for his intelligence; and not necessarily his lifestyle, I now feel that he is on to a good thing. As the increasing pressure of populations strain our earth for more resources; we will have to rethink our consumption patterns of food and calories, to sustain life. With the diversion of water hungry crops like sugar cane in Brazil; and corn in the US, to making ethanol and providing for energy, there will be even more pressure on food production. We can already see the rising prices of grains and scarcities for the poorest of the poor; as they struggle unaided in a situation, that can be easily avoided. Millions already go hungry in the under developed and developing nations, due to political\economic considerations today. Large corporations own huge tracts of land and divert the resources for maximum economic gain, and not for the largest good. While giant hoards of food grains remain undistributed; there is a great price we pay, in malnourished women and children across the globe. Reduction of the costs of war for just one week for example, can feed the whole planet’s poor for a year as per one UN study.
We finally have the means of production; where we can provide a healthy and nutritious diet, to every single person on this planet. The savings in health care costs and increased productivity alone, would more than offset anything we spend on these efforts. The political\economy needs to change; and each of us has our own moral responsibility, to ensure we support these efforts. Making our own lifestyle changes can go a long way in making this possible. I am not suggesting that the meats and potatoes crowd give up their diet but just saying that even a slight change could lead to far healthier outcomes. Carrying extra weight and having high cholesterol and clogged arteries is a choice we can make to live with or move away from. A sensible diet and a slightly more active life style can do wonders for our health. So next time you enjoy that juicy steak or bite into that yummy hamburger be aware of what the true costs to our environments are from this diet. We do not have to give up something we love, but as always anything in moderation is good.
Sustainability should be our prime objective if we want to leave a green and healthy eco system for our next generations. Organic farming and better use of water and other resources; could eliminate a lot of the cancer causing and sickening chemicals, our children consume every day. Also we need to conserve the bio diversity of our planet and return the earth back to its natural state, for nature to do its course. Evolution and natural selection have been perfected over eons; and man must get out of the way, else we risk being eliminated by nature’s wrath with our waste and excessive consumption. We are only a blip in the time space continuum; and some of us have an overly grandiose sense, of our own importance. If we want to leave a mark on history and the progress of man; it is extremely important that we relook at our choices, and take corrective action. After all we are what we eat; and our bodies should be treated with respect. I advise us to treat it as a temple; and offer up to it the best and cleanest choices, that we can find. A little care will make us healthier and happier and more content; and able to be more compassionate, to all our fellow creatures on this journey with us. A return to a more natural lifestyle will only be to our own benefit; and provide us energy and resources to do greater good, for all who are on this journey with us.

Mammoths of the seas

Awakening groggily I reached out and pulled the dark drapes apart in the penthouse room of the hotel and was instantly blinded by the rising sun, reflected off the Pacific Ocean. I turned my eyes away and saw the metallic arms of the loading and unloading cranes for the container ships, over the port of Long Beach. The port was piled with rows upon rows of stacked empty containers and there were not as many ships; as the rush of the incoming goods had abated, before the greatest shopping season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead as I watched I saw a mammoth ship slipping out of port fully loaded with containers; many stories high, and slowly heading out to sea. The economy must be picking up and now it seemed that exports from the US are actually on an upswing; as a fully loaded ship was rare to see, as mostly only empty containers were returned to China and the trading nations to the east earlier.
I turn my eyes back and see the triple funnels of the giant Queen Mary ship; that has found its final resting place, as a hotel on this water front. Yesterday it had been dwarfed by a far large modern cruise ship; that must have brought tourists from far away, to enjoy the sights of the city of Los Angeles. It was many stories tall and a sight to behold, and ferried people in the latest luxuries with food and entertainment, for its travelers. The scale of these cruise ships appears to be growing larger and more opulent, with each successive generation. They are floating castles that ferry people about to resorts and exotic locations; as people escape from the bitter cold and ice and snow, of the heartland. People sun bathe on the decks and enjoy the passing sceneries; as palm trees and pristine beaches await their arrival, from sunny port to sunny port.
Late last night I had been watching the waves from the breeze seem to come in from the sea; but the water from the Los Angeles river was actually flowing outward, and it was just a mirage. I had seen a black long shape swim down the river and could not make out if it was a sea lion, or a dolphin or a very large fish, that was making its way back out to the sea. These used to be the giants of the sea like the whales and the sharks, which ruled the open oceans. Now man has launched his nuclear submarines, naval air carriers, and the giants that feed the world’s commerce. Far away in the distance I had seen a giant oil tanker pull away from the large Chevron refinery; and today I saw another giant waiting patiently for its turn, to feed the inexhaustible thirst of the naphtha crackers and petroleum refinery. America is turning into the biggest exporter of refined products like aircraft fuel, diesel and other petroleum products; and these giant vessels will only increase and grow bigger, to meets the needs of the teeming billions.
I take a walk along the river and as the wind shifts I can smell the familiar smells, and am transported back to exit 13 of the New Jersey turnpike decades ago; where I had first smelt the fumes of the giant refineries. Now I am a continent away on the west coast; but the smell remains the same, and reminds me that this is the bedrock of our modern economy. Fuel is what we need and energy from petroleum is overtaking the energy from coal; as carbon dioxide continues to build unabated into our atmosphere, at a scale where Al Gore had to use a mechanical lift to show, the extreme rising graph of the current century. Now scientists are saying that there are giant rock formations; where we could easily sequester the carbon dioxide and store it away safely, and help to reverse global warming. The oceans make up the vast surface of our dear Earth, and have turned our planet blue and they are the next frontier.
Will we be able to convert the oceans into the next habitation and source of food; just like we have done as sources of energy with deep sea drilling, and massive wind farms, which will supply our future needs for a hungry population? Will tidal power be harnessed for energy and will we have giant conversion plants that turn sea water, into fresh potable water to meet future human needs. There are mammoth projects that can be built for living and aqua culture, on a scale we cannot imagine today. We are confined to land for now; but the oceans await our quest for sustainable living, and all we need are the new technologies for harvesting the giant spaces, as Dubai has done with its sprawling palms housing developments. We are only limited by our imagination and our resources, to make great strides into developing these resources.
Already the giant tankers, container vessels and the development of ports and facilities for them; have unleashed a cheap and easy transportation system, that link the greatest economies of the world together. The more ecofriendly and economical we make these modern giants; will in the end show how well we can better utilize resources and labor effectively, for the betterment of man. The ability to move vast quantities of raw materials from mining and agricultural producers; to the modern processing plants, and then the finished goods to the hinterland for consumption, are required on ever larger scales if we want to meet the projected population of 7 – 8 billion, in the near future. Great strides continue to be made in technology and construction with new materials that are revolutionizing our capabilities.
The Queen Mary is a stately ship and as I walk by in its shadow in my after dinner walk; I am reminded of a gentler age where all the gentlemen and ladies that sailed its luxurious furnishings and trapping, lived in a different world. It was a world of formal dinner ware and music and dancing under the moonlit skies, to live bands and entertainers. The privileged few enjoyed the trans-Atlantic voyages between the great cities of London and New York, bringing the old and the new world together. A week at sea; was not hurried by instant communication, and 24\7 information overloads. The mammoths of today’s seas are of a different breed and a different technology. GPS systems navigate them and people spend more times on their personal devices, than staring at the palms floating gently by. I feel suddenly very small against the hull of the ship towering over me; and turn back to another restless night, of wondering where these mammoths will take us next.

Challenge of the future in south Asia

The daily word from the web: pogrom Meaning: noun: An organized massacre, officially tolerated or encouraged, against a particular group. ETYMOLOGY: From Yiddish pogrom, from Russian pogrom (destruction). Earliest documented use: 1891. NOTES: The word is usually applied to the massacre of Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My earliest memories do not go back so far, but I do remember another such chapter in human history and my parents anguish at becoming refugees in their own land. The mass movement in 1946-48 of the Partition of South Asia into new nations hopefully will remain unprecedented; as millions left their homes on bullock carts, trucks, trains or just walking along the roadways to safety. The slaughter that happened between the communities; as the division was along Muslim and Hindu divide demanded by Jinnah and the visionaries of Pakistan, as the first new Muslim nation. A cancer of communal violence; that eats away at its soul even today, where poor communities are destroyed and war is threatened over Kashmir every few decades. The neighbors cannot live or trade in and harmony and peace with open borders. The divisions run deep now; and petty hostility prevails. that stops commerce and prosperity from spreading across these regions. They are soft states that struggle from political crisis to political crisis in an unending circle.
There is of course a better way and that is by breaking down these religious and cultural differences, and to rather embrace the modern reality that we live in a common world; and all of us are in this together. We rise and fall with each other; so it is much better to trade and expand commerce, across the area. If India is to go from 1.5 Trillion to the $ 15 Trillion by 2020, predicted by an economic research team’s recent projections; we will need a radical change is cooperation and openness across the nations. We should build the highways of the future through gas and oil pipelines from the best sources as that is what the third largest economy in the world will need. We need to ensure that Energy from solar, wind, biogas and all renewal forces like hydro, nuclear are utilized to their max, while cleaner coal continues to pay a great role in the mix. We need to build modern transportation hubs of railroads, highway, container ports and international airports that can facilitate the movement of goods and services so badly needed in this region.
There is a lot of thought leadership and entrepreneurial skill in the region; that is mainly held back, due to political considerations. Artificial constraints remain on the stock markets; and there is no mobility of resources, across the region. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank and other NGOs do commendable work in the region; and they can be leveraged to become the future ambassadors, of cross state endeavors. The ancient Grand Trunk Road at its imagined best; would become a true corridor of communication and logistics from Asia Minor, to the Indus and the Gangetic plains. From Tehran, Samarkand to Calcutta and Chittagong could be the land links. Then with their safe harbors in the Sundarban Delta of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra into the Bay of Bengal great waterways and river transports could bloom connecting the land to the oceans. Just like the mighty Mississippi is the artery of moving bulk goods through the heart of the US we could build waterways that link the south and the north. The energy and resources from land trapped nations could flow down giant pipelines; providing the needs of industry, that would serve the needs of billions across the region. For such a large bay and larger Persian sea and the expanse of the Indian Ocean; we should have a flourishing trade with container ports, railroad lines and highways servicing the interiors. We have the access to the fastest growing continent of nearby Africa; and are allowing China and other nations to overtake us in influence and trade, when we should be leading it.
The infrastructure build out required; would keep the region busy for the next century, if someone had the guts to envision the cross state proposals, that will truly transform the region. There are trillions of dollars just being wasted on a daily; basis because of crony capitalism and feudal living, which befuddles the villages and countryside (pheasants) which are the ones who need to transform themselves into the future. Let the people trade and just provide the means to do it efficiently, and the people will pay for it with their own effort. There is enough capability and knowledge as shown by the launch of the recent Mars mission and starting of the Russian plant in Tamil Nadu. There are enough natural resources in the region to provide for the next century if we only take the steps to harness them and share them with each other at an economical price. Greater education of the masses and the liberation of women can have a transformational impact on breaking barriers of ignorance and poverty.
The question remains that in a region where the huge Bamiyan Statues from ancient Buddhism could be callously blown away, and mosques and temples reduced to pages of history and destroyed since time immemorial; can a region of peace and civility be restored. It is said that the establishment of safe passage and open trade with towns and markets along a broad and smooth highway with no restraints; could truly transform the region into an urbanized miracle. This from the region that brought us the Indus Valley civilization, one of the earliest development of urban living. One could travel safely across the GT Road from Kabul to, Karachi, Tehran, New Delhi, Kathmandu, Dacca and Colombo in a matter of days and hours. Civil society and the rule of law is essential for this; with free trade treaties enforced, so no hiccups come in the way. Safety and speed should be the main points of effort; and the ability to scale massively, for the new urbanized population. Economies can only grow when savings can reach safely and quickly into investments, that better the investors. . The infrastructure for communication through use of satellites and towers and new wireless technologies; should connect the people, as information is a great equalizer.
The ideological dream would be to move away from decades of destruction into a world of reconciliation and progress. The passing away of Nelson Mandela could light the way to show how we can rise above our basic hatreds and build a new nation; where race, color, ethnic background do not divide, abut are used to build a better world. After CHOGM we could try for a new era of development between the Commonwealth nations; hindered by the narrow views of the sub-continent. UK, Canada and Australia would all gladly increase their trade with their traditional partners, if we can stop our petty squabbling. As nations of equals; there is far more to be achieved, than as nations of dividers, and regional destruction can at last become regional creation. Let us be creative and magnanimous; for our very own development is at stake, and that of the greater humanity. An economic miracle can unfold, or we can continue to plod along at our Hindu rate of growth. We could finally work on realizing Nehru’s Tryst with destiny speech “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance…..Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?”