Thursday, March 18, 2010

Innovation At Its Best: Peepoo Bag Comes To The Rescue Of The Underpriviledged In Using Proper Sanitation

Innovation At Its Best: Peepoo Bag Comes To The Rescue Of The Underpriviledged In Using Proper Sanitation

In response to the article “Bag and Baggage”, by Elizabeth Flock in ‘WhatIf Cloumn’ of Forbes India (Volume 2, Issue 4, February 19, 2010, pp: 20), I would like to draw further attention that its a very successful idea in a developing country like India where almost 56% of the population remains under the poverty line. Indeed with Global Climate Change on the verge of reducing fresh water resources to minimum troughout the globe, Peepoople’s credibility in launching this brave project is highly plaudible.

Elizabeth Flock’s presentation on the launch of Peepoo Sanitation bags creates a lasting impression on the reader’s mind. Indeed countries like India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many other African nations can look forward to this newer approach of healthy sanitation, albeit social taboo permits them to do so. The idea or innovation will be possible if the developing nations look at it with a wider range of anti-scepticism and broader mind to look ahead of times.

Moreover the bag not only improves the chances of safer sanitation in scarcity of water but also is a novel technology of converting human wastes into fertillizers. Professor Eric O. Odada is right in pointing out that the Peepoo bag could hasten India towards it’s Millenium Development Goal for Hygiene. He is an honorary member of UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. The organization is also in the middle of parley with organizations like UNICEF, Oxfam, WaterAid, and UN Refugee Agency to maximize the effect. The bag could also play a major role during emergencies like natural calamities, such as floods and earthquakes or droughts.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teachings of Khentse Rinpoche at Thimphu, Bhutan on November 22, 2009

Teachings of Khentse Rinpoche at Thimphu, Bhutan on November 22, 2009

On November 20 – 22, His Eminence Dzongsar Rinpoche, Jamyang Khentse gave teachings on “Wisdom”, the Nine’th Chapter of Mahayana Buddhist Text, Jangchug Sempai Chenjug (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) in English to about 400 strong Bhutanese devotees in Thimphu.

Jangchug Sempai Chenjug was originally written in Sanskrit by Gyalshey Zhiwala (Shantideva), a Buddhist monk at Nalanda University in India around 700 A.D.

Wisdom, as the Rinpoche explains, is a completely Natural Mind. The nature of wisdom is indestructible and so is emptiness. Emptiness, wisdom, nirvana, enlightment and mind are synonymous and some of the components of wisdom are generosity, patience, and honesty, he said.

There are two kinds of truth in Buddhism, and the ultimate truth is that it does not exist on its own and that itself is emptiness. Citing an example of owning a car in a dream, he said, relative truths are all illusions and therefore life is like a dream and the dreamer does not realize that he is dreaming. Relating to the dream of a car, he said, wisdom has the capacity to understand and make sense of life. Wisdom is within ourselves but we need to recognize it. Then, how do we do so? By listening to the essential instructions of the Guru (Guru Padmasabha, the man who brought Buddhism to Bhutan) and following the vows of Bodhisattva.

On the aspect of differentiating between wisdom and intelligence, the Rinpoche uttered, intelligence is being clever, smart, alert and having the capacity to understand and memorize things easily, but wisdom has nothing to do with intelligence.

He also said that it has been seen that humans do not want sufferings, but we are actually attached to the cause of sufferings. Suffering doesn’t simply mean physical pain or misfortune, but also the suffering one has to go through to get money or buy a mobile phone. Then there is suffering to take care and protect the mobile from loss or damage.

To be happy – is not the aim of Buddhism but is the aim of mortal beings. If you are looking for happiness you are also looking for sufferings, he said. Sufferings and Happiness are inseparably intertwined.

The Rinpoche also explained, dualistic minds see impermanence as permanent. We care for our body as if it will last forever. We care for our arms with moisturizing creams, but how long will it continue? Hence, wisdom is non-dualistic mind that really sees the truth. All phenomena are like a dream and subject to change. Most of us today do not realize this and go on minting money. Life is like a dew drop on the grass, no matter how we try to fight off age. We are there to die one day and it has to be seen how we lead our life rather than how we make it comfortable. Bodhisattva sees how one makes life comfortable for others. That is when we realize we have attained nirvana. What we need to do is to realize this and be truthful, honest and kind to others, said His Eminence Dzongsar Jamyang Khentse Rinpoche.

Everything in life is determined by views. Views establish values. Bad views cause war, inflation and disharmony, while good views lead to Buddhahood. Of the nine views in Nyingma tradition, shame and fear of wrong-doings is the foundation of all Buddhist values.

The teaching of the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life was started in 2005 on the request of Bhutanese devotees. The ten chapters of the text were completed on November 22 and I was a lucky one to listen to these enlightening lines from Mahayana Buddhist texts.

At the conclusion, the Rinpoche said his dedication was for the wellbeing of the earth, its beings and the leaders of Bhutan and the Bhutanese.

Reproduced with permission from “Kuensel Corporation, Thimphu, Bhutan”. Written by Arunava. Note: The article has also been published in the online version of American Chronicle and Riverside Chronicle

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Researchers find out a different perspective of Global Warming

Researchers find out a different perspective of Global Warming
Most of us tend to think of global warming in terms of the greenhouse effect produced by CO2 emissions. While it may be partly true that CO2 emissions interfere with the radiation of the heat from sunlight back into space and thus warm up the atmosphere, the main culprit could be the amount of energy we produce and use; and the heat energy that is let out into the atmosphere in this process. Anyone familiar with thermal power plants would know that the efficiencies (ratio of electrical energy output to fuel energy input) are on average around 35%, with the cooling water taking away the bulk of the heat when steam is condensed into water. Even the useful energy that is produced is ultimately lost in space in the form of heat produced in various processes in which this energy is used.

Researchers Bo Nordell and Bruno Gervet of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Lulea University of Technology in Sweden have calculated the total energy emissions from the start of the industrial revolution in the 1880s to the modern day. They have worked out that using the increase in average global air temperature as a measure of global warming is an inadequate measure of climate change. They suggest that scientists must also take into account the total energy of the ground, ice masses and the seas if they are to model climate change accurately.
The researchers have calculated that the heat energy accumulated in the atmosphere corresponds to a mere 6.6% of global warming, while the remaining heat is stored in the ground (31.5%), melting ice (33.4%) and in sea water (28.5%). They point out that net heat emissions between the industrial revolution circa 1880 and the modern era at 2000 correspond to almost three quarters of the accumulated heat, i.e., global warming, during that period.
The researchers also point out a flaw in the nuclear energy argument. Although nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide emissions in the same way as burning fossil fuels, it does produce heat emissions equivalent to three times the energy of the electricity it generates (using the thermal cycle of steam turbine) and so contributes to global warming significantly.
Their calculations suggest that most measures to combat global warming, such as reducing our reliance on burning fossil fuels and switching to renewables like wind power and solar energy, will ultimately help in preventing catastrophic climate change in the long term. But the same calculations also show that trapping carbon dioxide, so-called carbon dioxide sequestration, and storing it deep underground or on the sea floor will have very little effect on global warming.
Source: International Journal of Global Warming-July 2009 Issue

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Action To Save Our Climate

Action To Save Our Climate
Action to save our climate is happening right now in Italy: As you read this our activists are scaling chimneys, chaining themselves to conveyor belts and blocking coal shipments at multiple locations in Italy.

They will be occupying coal-fired power stations during the G8 Summit beginning in Italy today and demanding that world leaders gathering for the summit make serious commitments to reducing world greenhouse gas emissions.

You can take action with them. You can demand that world leaders take personal responsibility for averting catastrophic climate change. You turn the Earth.

Follow our activists here:
Thanks for your support.
Mr. Arunava Das
Greenpeace International

Climate Project Presenter and Connector ACF 591
Senior Secondary Biology Teacher, Royal Government of Bhutan

# + 91 033 2683 1456 (Kolkata, India, Residence)
+ 91 9748804959 (Kolkata, India, Residence)

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Solar Powered Plane

Fig: The HB-SIA

Based in Switzerland, a team of over 50 specialists from six countries is working on the Solar Impulse project: a solar-powered airplane capable of taking off autonomously and maintaining itself in flight for several days, entirely propelled by the energy stored in the photovoltaic panels contained in its wings.

The HB-SIA prototype is currently under construction and the round-the-world flight is programmed to happen in 2012, on a flight over land near the equator. Five stops are planned during the route, in order to change pilots and present the adventure to the public and authorities. Each flight leg will last from 3 to 4 days (considered the maximum endurance for a single pilot).

This is certainly a technology many of us have been waiting for, and which seems a natural step in the aviation industry.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Extraordinary Animal Stories

George the 140-Year-Old Lobster

Extraordinary Animal Stories

© Sara McGrath

Jan 10, 2009

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals championed for George the 140-year-old lobster's freedom, and won! He was released back into the ocean off the coast of Maine.

A tank in the City Crab and Seafood restaurant in New York had been home to George, a 140-year-old, twenty-pound lobster, for about two weeks.

City Crab and Seafood purchased George the Giant Lobster for $100 after he was caught off Newfoundland, Canada. He was adopted as the restaurant mascot as a tourist attraction and was made available for photos with patrons. It was a restaurant patron who notified PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) of the lobster's confinement.

PETA estimated George's age based on his weight, calculated by multiplying every pound he weighed by seven. If the estimate is correct, the lobster would have been born around 1869, the same year as Mahatma Gandhi.

In PETA's press release regarding their petition for George's release, they made note of a similar incident involving Bubba, a 100-year-old lobster who was caught off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts in 2005. Bubba died after only one week in captivity in an aquarium in Pittsburgh. Bubba had been destined for a tank in a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum.

The City Crab and Seafood restaurant initially denied PETA's request to release George, the elderly crustacean, back into the Atlantic Ocean. However, the restaurant had a change of heart and agreed to release the lobster in an area off the coast of Maine where lobster trapping is banned. George was released in a rocky cove in Kennebunkport near the summer home of former President George H.W. Bush.

All states in the US impose a minimum legal size for keeping lobsters, but the state of Maine also imposes a maximum legal size of five inches carapace length. The carapace is the main body section of the lobster excluding the tail.

According to PETA, because a lobster has a sophisticated nervous system and high sensitivity to pain, live lobster boiling is illegal in some cities, such as Reggio, Italy. PETA also pointed out that lobsters are sensitive to water quality and easily die if too much waste is secreted in their environment. Therefore, tank life for a lobster can be precarious.

"We never intended him to be sold," said Keith Valenti, manager of City Crab and Seafood, "just draw attention to the restaurant, and he did." However, he added that it was a "no brainer" to return the giant lobster to the ocean.

"We applaud the folks at City Crab and Seafood for their compassionate decision to allow this noble old-timer to live out his days in freedom and peace," said Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of PETA.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Study Confirms Amphibians' Ability To Predict Changes In Biodiversity

Study Confirms Amphibians' Ability To Predict Changes In Biodiversity

Biologists have long suspected that amphibians, whose moist permeable skins make them susceptible to slight changes in the environment, might be good bellwethers for impending alterations in biodiversity during rapid climate change.

Now two University of California biologists have verified the predictive power of this sensitive group of animals in a global study of species turnover among amphibians and birds. The study appears this week in the advance online version of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our study supports the role of amphibians as 'canaries in the coal mine'," said Lauren Buckley, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the first author of the study. "Amphibians are likely to be the first to respond to environmental changes and their responses can forecast how other species will respond."

"Amphibians are much more tuned in to the changes in their specific environments," said Walter Jetz, an associate professor of biology at UC San Diego and the other author of the study. "They are much more sensitive to differences in environmental conditions as you move geographically from one location to another."

The two scientists used maps of the environment and amphibian and bird distributions to answer the question of how the environment - as well as the distribution of birds and amphibians - changes as one moves from one place to another around the globe.

The researchers found that if the environment changes rapidly as one travels from one location to another, the amphibian and bird communities also change rapidly. However, the species of amphibians would change more quickly than species of birds. This confirms that amphibians are particularly sensitive to changes in the environment, the researchers conclude, and that this sensitivity is particularly acute given their narrow distributions.

Whether one is traveling through a tropical or temperature region also influences how quickly the types of animals change. Given a mountain of a certain size, the researchers found, the amphibian and bird communities change more quickly if one is climbing a mountain in the tropics than in a temperate region.

"There are more species in the tropics and the species are generally more specially adapted to particular environmental conditions," said Jetz. "This suggests that tropical species may be more severely impacted by a given temperature increase as a result of climate change."

For the study, he and Buckley produced a series of global maps of environmental turnover and the associated changes in amphibian and bird communities that reveal that the identities of birds and amphibians change particularly quickly in mountainous regions such as the Andes and Himalayas.

"Understanding how environmental changes over space influence biodiversity patterns provides important background for forecasting how biodiversity will respond to environmental changes over time such as ongoing temperature increases," said Buckley.

The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, UC Santa Barbara and the State of California.

By Arunava Das