Monthly Archives: March 2006

Diversity and microgeneration

A friend and I had an email conversation about water recently. He reminded me that it was once each individual’s responsibility in the sense the they seeked it out and found solutions to their own water problem. And in a way this is similar to what we need to do now with microgeneration – find our own solutions.

Microgeneration is also like diversity in the sense that unique solutions must be found for each case. But govenerments in the so-called developed world have set up barriers to microgeneration in the form of controls and regulations. Whereas once we created our own solutions without restriction today everything needs approval before it can be done. Thus governments are a hinderance to our well-being “inadvertantly”.

While I understand the need for such restrictions and regulations in today’s close-knit society I still believe it might not be to the benefit of its people. finding solutions to energy – like finding solutions to water – that were once solved by individuals are now out of their hands and placed in a collective effort. And when the system fails like in the 2003 North America Black Out large sections of society are put out. But I don’t think it is such an inconvenience since the benefits outweigh the occasional ‘hickup’. However there seems to be a lack of diversity in energy generation, something that I think is important even if it is more complicated, time-consuming or troublesome to create.

This might seem like going against the ideas in my last water and the government article it does not because governments must find unique solutions for each case. What I am not satisfied with is the way governments homogenize everything and everyone. The very words “our government” blind us to the fact that not all indivduals accept the decisions it makes. In other words, the system and the people it is governing is anything but homogenous and politicians need to remind themselves of that.

Simply, diversity must be seen to be everywhere.

Water is the government’s responsibility

“Governments, not private firms, must take responsibility for getting water to their people, a new report argues.”

Why is it today we need a new report to tell us the obvious. When I was a secondary student our Economics teacher taught us that basic utilities like water, electicity, gas and telephone are the responsibility of the government. And that was the way it was and should be.

When utilities like water move from service to business profit becomes the bottom-line. But what about the farm a little out of the way who is not getting water and will not get water because the water business decided it was not profitable or not in its interest? Would this farm not get the benefits if it had been a tax payer?

A service would not think twice in making subsistance possible for this farmer. A business will see profit first over viability. But what the government does not realize is that we need people like this farmer, for diversity is a key ingredient to survival.

Diversity within any system is essential whether in nature or human constructed ones like the economy. Somehow we have come to a point where we simply have forgotten that we are part of a larger system that follow the physical and biophysical laws of the universe and that even our system must follow this.

It is a like a “good” Hollywood movie: it is so real we think the movie is the reality. How many people have you known literally bend over backwards to avoid bullets? It can only happen on film. And even if it can happen in reality the effort involved is much. So we need a reality-check. In short, we, humankind, are so good at deception that we even deceive ourselves.

So when are we going to wake up to the fact that we have been deceived by the economic discourse?

Happy Birthday, Dr David Suzuki

Today is David Suzuki‘s seventieth birthday.

The first time I became aware of this Canadian geneticist was in a children’s science program. But it was years later before I saw him again on television. This time he was talking at the Foreign Press Club in Australia. It was then I realized that he was an environmentalist. He was a passionate and articulate speaker much like David Bellamy (British botanist) or David Attenborough (British naturalist).

It was this televised speech that got me curious about environmentalism. Back then I associated this term with radical thinking, protests and trouble makers. A nuisance was what I thought of them. For this humble and concerned man talked about problems I was scarcely aware of, or worse, I dismissed as alarmist. But he made some sense and it shattered the image I had of environmentalism and environmentalists.

Then a couple of years later I came across one of Dr Suzuki’s books – Good News for a Change – when I was stuck in Calary Airport due the Big North American Black Out of 2003 . Remembering how impressed I was with his talk I bought it and read at the airport. And this is not an exaggeration: every page shocked me. The things I didn’t like about politicians, big businesses, society and culture suddenly began to make sense, as did the big outage I was sitting in just then.

Sometimes we have to be pushed over the edge before we see things that are plainly in front of us, because we choose to blind ourselves of the truth as it is simpler. It is a kind of laziness. It is a human trait to be lazy and therefore senseless. I noticed this in Buddhism about ten years ago. And I noticed how everything – like theory – seemed to point towards laziness as the cause of most of our problems.

So this very page – I guess you could say it is on our problems – wouldn’t be here if it was not for Dr Suzuki. So I thank him and I pay homage to him. And I pay homage to all human beings out there who are trying to make this world a better place, whether it is through environmentalism, Buddhism, theory or any other honest means. But remember it is possible to get lazy in any of these things also, just like any human endeavour. It is possible to be misguided no matter how good our intentions are. It is possible to be not honest even in environmentalism, Buddhism or theory. That is something I learned from this great man. You need to be rigourous and with scrutiny, always.

Happy 70th Birthday, Dr Suzuki.

Woking the Green Path

Woking, England… remember this name. Because this town of 90,000 is showing us that it is possible to cut carbon emissions by 77 percent.

Related Posts:
Micro-generation

Buddhist practice may help spread the bird flu

In a recent article entitled “Bird Flu Puts an Element Of Peril into Buddhist Rite” Alan Sipress points out the possibly of a link between certain Buddhist rites and the spread of bird flu in Asia. In countries like Cambodia Taiwan and Thailand the practice of “releasing” birds as a way to gain “karma points” is widespread. And it is because of the nature of caging a large number of birds together for a length of time that concerns environmental groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Environmental issues aside I am more concerned of the Buddhist practice itself. One Cambodian monk interviewed in the article recounted the story of Shakyamuni (the Buddha) helping an arrow-wounded swan. He nursed it back to health before releasing it. And it is on the basis of this story that the practice became widespread.

Yet the birds used for release in these countries are neither sick nor injured. They are captured for the sole purpose of the “act of release”. Children apparently attempt to recapture the birds as soon as they are released in order to resell them (I guess this could be called recycling). One bird vender even boasted that she sells one thousand birds on most days.

Mr Sipress pointed out that the practitioners and bird-sellers seldom remark on the contradiction of trapping of the birds for release. But this comes as no surprise to me as I often talk about the difference between the Buddha’s teaching and Buddhism. And this is just one good example of what I dislike about Buddhism as a social organization.

If the Buddha were to see this practice today he would no doubt be saddened by the empty gesture. Practice is not about acts like this. It is about sincerity and rigour. From the article Mr Sipress did not come across as being Buddhist, so he was rather cool about it all. But I feel, as a buddhist, the bird-act cheapens the “religion” of Buddhism.

Mara’s Dictionary – government; politics

government [s] – (n) a hinderance to the well-being of its people. (see also politics)

politics [s] – (n) a hinderance to the well-being of the people of other nations. (see also government)

See the rest of Mara’s Dictionary.

Nature+Youth=Environmentalism

A new study has shown that exposure to nature at a young age may lead to environmental awareness. But it stresses that freeplay with nature, rather than controlled or organized exposure, to be the key. One of the authors of the study, Nancy Wells, wrote:

“Participating in nature-related activities that are mandatory [like the scouts or other forms of environmental education programs] evidently do not have the same effects as free play in nature, which don’t have demands or distractions posed by others and may be particularly critical in influencing long-term environmentalism.”

And all the more reason we should worry when The Economist warns us with an article on rural and urban population in its The World in 2006 magazine. It said for the first time in the history of humankind there will be more people living in the city than the country. Put another way it means more children are seeing and interacting less with nature, and they have no choice.

This reminds me of one of my favourite sustainability jokes, Most people in the city have come up from the country to make enough money to leave the city and live in the country. Joke aside, the above humour has two flaws to its attitude. Firstly, it suggests that that it is hard to make a living in the country. But that really it all depends on how much you make and spend. Quoting my father, who is a fountain of wisdom, he said, “it doesn’t matter how much you make, three-thousand dollars or three-million, if you spend one-dollar more than you earn you are in the red”.

So in this case, country living does not necessarily equate to poverty – country life can be comfortable but not extravagant. It is only when the city glitter blinds you that you are made to feel inadequate. Which brings me to the second flaw: after being blinded by the city glitter and you return to country living you are all but unprepared for its frugal, but sustainable, lifestyle. And this is why you need that money – to bring with you the luxuries and convenience of the city that you are now so used to.

So why not just not get blinded by the city glitter? Why not feel adequate and proud of your frugally sustainable country life? City people are really just deluded and insecure. Someday they will realize their iPods don’t make them a better person, but hearing the music in nature will. It seems that people like Ms Wells and the guy who wrote The Economist article (and the thousands of other people who write on environmentalism) are saying most of us need to get to know nature before we forget how to live within it.