The Earth Hour :: Does it make sense?

Had I flicked my light switches off tonight for an hour I would have done my share our commitment towards our planet. I chose not to.

The growing rate of consumption all over the world (of not just energy but also resources) is a concern we all need to address. Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi have population ranging up to 20 million. These two cities put together are more populous than Canada or Spain. Their energy consumption has grown by roughly 10% consistently since years. And as expected from Indian governance and planning the generation capacity has been more or less flat.

The recent power plant projects (which will be commissioned at least a year or two from now, and are all either Coal fired or Gas fired) will be absorbed by our never ending internal growth potential, besides adding to the growing pollution. But shutting shop is not the solution. We cannot and should not put a cap on our growth just because we appear to be caught in a “energy crunch – harmful emissions” cycle.

The problem we are facing is not as easy as it looks, or rather is made up to look. The complexity and gravity of the situation can be understood by the fact that the solutions which can be implemented to effectively counter this hydra headed monster are available and very much feasible since decades (Solar, Geo-thermal, Wind, Fuel-Cell, etc.). This explains that our world is inherently drawn towards its doom. And this inheritance is an unexplainable result of the way economics and politics are intertwined.

I see people cringe every time Petrol and Diesel prices go up. What they do not understand (and are never told in those switch-your-lights-off-for-an-hour-today websites) is the colossal effect such small changes have on our planet. The reason why the already available solutions were never implemented is Economics. And ironically if we ever get serious and implement these solutions the reason for sure shall be Economics.

Let’s see what happens when petrol and diesel prices go up… The sector hit directly is transportation, which means movement via rail, road and air becomes costlier, which further puts pressure on industries, because they depend heavily on movement of goods. This may also affect your utility if it is dependent on fuels like Coal and Gas for power generation, which means costlier electricity. It also affects service companies like ITs and ITes (think Server Farms and Air Conditioning and Office lights). Thus a rupee more for Petrol or Diesel could mean higher operational costs for everyone around. And nothing else in this world (not even this world’s doom itself) has more power to stimulate and bring about change than Money. Only when it hurts corporate balance sheets and common man’s budget is when Government Policies will change for the good.

There is no harm in creating a general awareness about the current situation. Masses should be involved if such a drastic problem has to be dealt with. But the way this has been propagated since few years is creating more problem than it is solving. It is not the message of doom anymore but a nice topic for dining-table-debates. And as Thomas L. Friedman says we are just having a “Green Party”. And this Earth Hour Gig is just another bash thrown to celebrate our Greenness, our commitment to the cause of saving mother earth. You just have to pose “Green” (Take a look at the “Green” site of one of our Indian power companies below). So much discussion and so little effort (just a flick of your light switch) are hurting the cause by belittling its gravity. I do not question the intention of the move; I doubt the understanding and sincerity of the followers.

The "Green" Us
The “Green” Us

The best thing you can do today is keep your lights switch on all night, just to prove that you are not partying any more. It is the question of our existence and is definitely not a distant condition. This is not something our kids will be facing alone; we’ll be by their side when the D-day comes.

Love of Science

This is an excerpt from an address at the Physical Society, Berlin, on the occasion of  Max Plank’s sixtieth birthday. The words belong to one of the greatest scientists that ever lived on the face of earth. Any guesses? You can see the entire address by the speaker at this link: Principles of Research

IN the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither. Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside…

..now let us have another look at those who have found favor with the angel. Most of them are somewhat odd, uncommunicative, solitary fellows, really less like each other, in spite of these common characteristics, than the hosts of the rejected. What has brought them to the temple? That is a difficult question and no single answer will cover it. To begin with, I believe with Schopenhauer that one of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from personal life into the world of objective perception and thought; this desire may be compared with the townsman’s irresistible longing to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.

The Nowhere

The beach reflects the purple sky as the waves wash our feet. I stand, accompanied by myself, watching the infinite expanse of ocean. My friends are playing in the water, small waves breaking surf around their bodies. I am waiting, for the sun to rise, for the fifth element of nature to unite with the rest four in salutation and service to the Human in me and His pleasure.

The Sea and The Sky
The Sea and The Sky

We are in Mandawa (Mandve), a small neglected town on the Konkan coast, known (or rather unknown) as a mere stop on the passage to Alibaug. People rush past it in a hurry to reach the more popular destinations further South. Yesterday, we took the most indirect route to reach Mandawa from Pune.

At Dadar Station
At Dadar Station

Instead of driving straight from pune to Mandawa, we caught a bus to Mumbai and got down at Dadar after relishing the scenic Mumbai-Pune Express Highway. From Dadar we took a local train to reach the Gateway of India, the southern most tip of Mumbai which is separated from Mandawa by just a small stretch of water, part of the Arabian Sea. On a map these two places appear to have frozen midst an attempt to touch each other.

Last night, when we were playing in the ocean, under the moonlight, we could see the lights sparkling miles away in Mumbai. The sea was swollen in the high tide and the waves were rocking us every now and then, but the shore was absolutely inhabited at that time as well. Mumbai’s lights looked like a loud noise desperately trying to reach us, but the silence of the crashing waves shielded us from the disturbance and kept us tranquil in our nowhere. The two shores are frequented by powered boats which ferry people to and fro. We will take another ferry back to Mumbai sometime later today. It will take us barely an hour to reach Mumbai and some more time to return home, back in Pune. But we will take a long time to leave this place (and this place will take a long time to leave us).

We are staying at a small farm house, located a couple of kilometers from the beach. The Cheulkar Farm has all basic amenities and people with a splendid sense of hospitality. The owner of the farm, Mrs. Cheulkar is a gifted cook. Sea food is her forte, and for the first time in my life I regret being a vegetarian. But, I am thoroughly enjoying all her Maharashtrian veggie treats. In fact, eating was our major exertion yesterday. We had left Mumbai at noon, so the mercury was high when we touched Mandawa’s port. But the greenery and the cool breeze from the sea saved our asses. We walked to the farm and died at the swings on the patio.

On the Hammock
On the Hammock

After quick showers we came back to life at the dining table. We ate as if it were the end of the world and died again in the clean and cozy bedrooms. The food was really delicious and worth a second mention.

Hugging Nature
Hugging Nature

We got up real early today, and came to the beach immediately, to see the sun rising. The winding road to the beach is full of natural beauty, the trees and their smell, scores of birds, each chirping in its unique voice. It’s a pleasure to walk through that road, despite availability of auto-rickshaws. Last evening we had taken a wrong turn and drifted to the wrong side of the beach, but we eventually stumbled here. It was different back then, the sun was setting and the sea was rising. We all wanted to soak up in the saline water and played till our bodies ached. But today, all I want to do is to stare at the purple beach, our footprints on the sand and the ebbing sea and wait for the sun to rise. I just want to be in the moment, in an effort to preserve its sanctity and vitality. It is a matter of just few more hours before we go back to the sea of human beings waiting to engulf us and steal our identity.

Footprints
Footprints

All six of us who went for the above trip are thankful to Smita Dhavale for suggesting this amazing destination. We are also thankful to Mrs. Cheulkar and the entire staff at the farm for making the trip extra special.

Dispute Settlement

There’s a constant noise, but its meaningless to me. A constant hum of my classmates, low treble – high bass, and a varying note of the lecturer. He is talking about something related to Human Resource, is elaborate at times and normal at others. But there’s a constant noise, an incessant chatter. I am not complaining. Though I can’t even do that.

The Blackboard has an eerie figure. Some kinda flowchart. The heading reads ‘Dispute Settlement’. Don’t wanna read any more. Don’t wanna strain my eyes and push my inertia. No I am not lazy. But I don’t wanna waste my time and energy. How can they teach me life in a classroom?

– Mundane

Do read the article Mundane, for a reference to the pen name used above. I wrote this short piece while my Lecturer (the HoD of Mechanical Engg., Respected Khumani Sir) was delivering an instruction, sometime in the year 05 or 06. He is the strongest techie I ever met in my life. He did his masters in pneumatic controls at a time when the technology was in. But it lost to elctronics by the time he graduated. Nevertheless he didn’t stop. He worked with India’s major research and technology firms like HAL, CVRDE, etc. to name a few. And when he felt like giving it a break he became a teacher. I am sure it is not in his volition to stop himself from investing his grey cells into something productive. He used to deliver his lectures in several languages and dialects together, and the switch from one to another used to be rather unnoticeable. We loved him for his maturity and awed him for his intelligence. This particular lecture was actually good but I, apparently, was in a cribbing mood. And the grudge was definitely with the entire curriculum  not with this specifc instance. Whatever.