Saying it straight on climate change

The latest contretemps was sparked by a comment in Nature by Oliver Geden, an analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. In it, he made a simple argument. Politicians, he says, want good news. They want to hear that it is still possible to limit temperature to 2°C. Even more, they want to hear that they can do so while avoiding aggressive emission cuts in the near-term — say, until they’re out of office.

Now models routinely show 4 or even 6 percent annual reductions, a rate of emissions decline that has never been achieved by anyone, anywhere, ever, much less consistently over 50 years.

It’s “possible,” yes, but at a certain point that term loses much meaning. Something that would require human beings to quickly and fundamentally change their collective behavior may not violate the laws of physics, but it is unlikely, given what we know about human beings, path dependence, and political dysfunction. This is what I once called the “brutal logic of climate change.”

Lots of things are physically possible that nonetheless require heroic assumptions about collective human behavior (like, say, aggressive mitigation policy, in the face of powerful vested interests, harmonized across the globe, sustained for decades … and also many gigatons worth of BECCS). The question is not whether 2°C scenarios violates laws of physical science, but whether they are reasonable given what we know about human beings.

No branch of science, certainly not climatology, can tell us what the humans of 2050 are capable of. We are all, on that score, making educated guesses, and a knowledge of history, politics, and economics will be just as important to that judgment as any knowledge of the physical sciences.

Humans are subject to intense status quo bias. Especially on the conservative end of the psychological spectrum — which is the direction all humans move when they feel frightened or under threat — there is a powerful craving for the message that things are, basically, okay, that the system is working like it’s supposed to, that the current state of affairs is the best available, or close enough.

To be the one insisting that, no, things are not okay, things are heading toward disaster, is uncomfortable in any social milieu — especially since, in most people’s experience, those wailing about the end of the world are always wrong and frequently crazy. [Link]

These are extracts from a long article in http://www.vox.com. I liked the article for many reasons.

(1) It shoots straight. It does not mince words. It puts it across as bluntly as possible. The core of the issue is that climate change is happening and the evidences are becoming too pervasive and too frequent to ignore. The politics of burden and cost-sharing comes later.

(2) It deals with behavioural aspects of how humans would deal with it and are dealing with it. I liked the point about how politicians would love to postpone making adjustments until they are out of the office. Let the deluge be after me.

(3) When dealing with complex subjects, we tend to avoid, deny and postpone. Climate change is too complex for humans to grapple with.

Chopped-off tree

Li Yimei, who travels to the classes from Shanghai with her husband Du Fu, studied yoga in India. She said she was eager to know more about the Indian culture because Yoga and Indology were inseparable.

“An excellent Yogi must thoroughly understand the way of thinking of ancient Indian philosophers,” she said.

For instance, the Chinese idiom for prostration, a submissive pose undertaken to show reverence for buddha, Wu Ti Tou Di had long been defined in Chinese dictionaries as a salute to Buddha requiring hands, knees and head on the ground. But a comparison study of the original Sanskrit and Chinese scriptures showed whenever the word appears in the Chinese version, the corresponding Sanskrit sentence is “throwing oneself down at Buddha’ s feet like a chopped-off tree” [Link]

So, what is the exact Sanskrit expression to throw oneself down like a chopped-off tree?

Arrived at Non-identity

The blog was supposed to be a journey to non-identity. I did not know that the journey would be over so soon. Tonight, at around 9:24 PM Singapore time, the journey got over. We have a fibre broadband at home and it has two frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz. They were named ‘ananthahome2.4′ and ‘ananthahome5.0′ respectively. Tonight, at the time mentioned above, they were changed to ‘Dhanyahome2.4′ and ‘Ramyahome5.0′. I have removed my identity and the journey to non-identity is completed. I have arrived!

Response to ‘Between Bhagwat and Bhagwati’

Two learned Indians have penned a response to Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati’s article in MINT. If Bhagwati’s article was disappointing, the response is distressing. Their specific ‘complaints’ are seven. They are listed below. I provide responses to each of them.

(a) six or more churches have been attacked or vandalized

Response:

Anand Ranganathan of News Laundry had written on this on March 18th:

“Delhi Police admitted to a spurt in crime against religious places but mostly of the Hindus and Sikhs. Data since 2012 indicates 36 and 69 theft cases at temples were reported in 2012 and 2013. Similarly, only 19 theft cases were registered against gurdwaras in 2012 and 2013, which substantially rose to 30 cases in 2014.  Three mosques were targeted by burglars in 2012-13, increasing in 2014 to 14 thefts. The 325 temples were looted by thieves between 2013 and 2015 in Delhi.”

Source: http://www.newslaundry.com/2015/03/18/media-or-modi-sarkaar-whos-the-bigger-threat-to-christians/

Original source : http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/Stealing-Communal-Advantage-Leaves-Cops-Fuming/2015/02/15/article2668964.ece

(b) a nun has been raped,

Response:

Investigations have now revealed this to be a case of a larger plot from across the border, from Bangladesh. The authors fail to mention that and take cognisance of that.

Sources:

http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Ranaghat-nun-rape-case-CID-probes-conspiracy-angle/articleshow/46648991.cms

http://www.newsroompost.com/180416/accused-nun-gang-rape-bangladesh-nationals-cid/

(c) the Union government has declared Christmas day as Good Governance day and the ministry of human resource development has asked students to sit for an essay competition on the subject,

Response:

The Union Government announced that Dec. 25 would also be a Good Governance Day. It must be a matter of satisfaction to Christians that 25.12 has been picked for reminding Indians of something that is essential for India. The authors would have been justified in feeling offended had the Government announced that the day would also be celebrated as ‘Sisupala Day’ or ‘Narakasura Day’.

It is both wrong and mischievous to state that MHRD had chosen that date for an Essay competition to be held. One, it was an on-line essay competition. The deadline was by Dec. 25. Students could have submitted the essay earlier too. The last date of submission was timed to coincide with the observation of ‘Good Governance’ Day. It was extended by a day to Dec. 26. It was a voluntary on-line essay competition with submission possible on any day up to Dec. 25.

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mhrd-extends-good-governance-day-essay-competition-till-december-26-2047017

(d) the Chief Justice of India has called a meeting of state chief justices on Good Friday, a gazetted holiday which on the calendar is no less significant a day than Diwali or Bakr Id,

Response:

Assuming that the above news is true, the question is why should this be lumped together with other items? The authors must be well aware that the Government cannot and does not interfere with the decisions of the Supreme Court – administrative or otherwise.

The only common element between this item and the rest is that all of them are unjustified and factually incorrect.

(e) Mother Teresa has been charged with being in the business of conversion by no less a person than the head of the RSS,

Response:

Mr. Bhagwat said that the late Mother Teresa was interested in proselytising and evangelism. It is a statement of fact. It can be rejected or accepted, based on argument. Many Hindu Gurus too have been criticised. None is above scrutiny for their work as mortals. ‘Spreading the faith’ – whatever it means and by whatever means – was a legitimate goal of the late Mother Teresa.

(f) the Sangh Parivar is on a concerted and systematic campaign of ‘ghar wapsi’ across the country from Kerala to West Bengal to Uttar Pradesh, etc., and

Response:

They cannot have it both ways. If conversion is legal and legitimate, so must re-conversion be. Why this hue and cry over ‘Ghar Waapsi’? If the hue and cry were justified, then the hue and cry over conversion activity, in the first place, is more than justified too.

(g) the government took a long time to condemn the attacks.

Response:

Since when the Government of India had responded to acts of vandalism, theft and arson. As mentioned earlier, did the Government of India condemn the theft and vandalism in Hindu temples and Gurdwaras?

In fact, successive Governments in India have done nothing to stop the theft of Hindu idols and sculptures; not made much effort to retrieve them while they are brazenly displayed in Museums in Western countries; successive governments in India have not done anything to make it safe for Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homeland. They have taken a very long time.

In these instances, the government was right to wait for police investigations to be over, for facts to be established before responding, if these events needed a response from the Government of India, at all.

The truth is that the PM spoke at a conference organised by the Church to celebrate the beatification of two Indians in February. He gave categorical assurances on the protection of minorities.

The authors fail to mention the efforts that the Government made, with remarkable alacrity, to rescue an Indian priest taken hostage in Afghanistan.

The authors fail again in acknowledging the rescue efforts of the Government of India in Yemen. Most of the Indians being rescued from Yemen are Christians.

Final comments (not necessarily only with respect to the article in question):

If supposedly educated and learned Indians can deliberately distort truth, omit facts, conflate issues and fail to acknowledge contrarian evidence, what does it tell us about their scholarship or intent or both?

What is the agenda here – intended or unintended? Why is paranoia being whipped up? Is it to paint India as an unsafe place to do business in and business with?

Is it to stop India’s economic recovery and revival and to ensure that the Modi-government is eventually judged politically and socially dangerous and economically incompetent?

What is the government’s response?

Shloka No. 7

Good friend Krishnan had sent me the link to a lecture by Swami Sarvapriyananda at IIT Kanpur on Shloka No. 7 of the Mandukya Upanishad. That shloka leads the student to an answer for the most important but difficult question of defining the Self. In his ‘Wisdom of the Upanishads’, Shri. M. characterises ‘Turiya’ as the fourth state. But, Swami Sarvapriyananda, in his lecture, says that ‘Turiya’ means fourth. It does not mean that it is the fourth state after ‘Jaagrata’, Swapna’ and ‘Sushupti’. It is the consciousness that acts in and through the other three states. He keeps the example of bangles, ring and necklace and gold in view, as he goes about explaining ‘Turiya’.

I have not seen or heard a more lucid explanation of ‘Turiya’ than this lecture. It is about an hour long. Time well worth spent. I am yet to listen to part 2 of his lecture.

The implications of understanding this in our daily life are enormous. After we listen to the lecture, it is clear as to why separating the form and substance is so difficult for us and why we lose ourselves in form, symbols, labels and identities. It is because reality is so much intertwined with these that it is virtually hard to separate the reality (truth) from these and since reality (truth) expresses itself through these forms, we mistake the form for real. So, realising and retaining the idea that much, most and all of our lives is ‘maya’ (illusion) is not easy at all. That is why very few get it.

But, in the waking state, the dream state is not real and in the dream state, the waking state is not real. Both are not enduring realities. The more we keep reminding ourselves of this, slowly, slowly and steadily, we may be able to achieve a certain sense of detachment, objectivity and shed various false identifications one by one. It may take many, many births too, for it to happen. But, a beginning has to be made somewhere.

This lecture is a good place to start.

As I found out that he teaches at the RK Mission’s Vivekananda University, I checked out the website of the University. Some of their lecture materials taught in Vedanta classes are available for free download.

 

India’s daughter – second post

Late on Sunday night (08.03), I circulated the following link to my mailing list with a strong recommendation to read. It has elicited some reactions with the number of those who disagreed with that post exceeding the number who agreed, by one. The total number of responses received is 5.

This is my response to the naysayers. It is possible for me to hold the following thoughts/views simultaneously in my head:

(a) Having allowed the documentary to be made, the ban is a big a self-goal. Should not have been banned.
(b) India has a law and order problem and a male attitude problem towards women. Probably most other societies do. But, that is besides the point.
(c) The Supreme Court is grossly derelict in its duties for having sat on the appeal of the convicts against their death sentence, for more than a year, especially considering that it has heard several relatively less important petitions at very short notice. Simply put, India has a big problem here.
(d) That there is mischievous western propaganda and there is hypocrisy in their attitude towards India and India’s weaknesses over theirs and inconsistency in the treatment of Indian issues compared to that of other societies.
(e) With (d) having been said, India and Indians should not come across as too touchy and sensitive to western gaze at India but find a way to respond intelligently and craftily. India and Indians are a long way off from finding that magic formula of ‘responding without appearing to respond directly.’
My sense is that R. Jagannathan shares some or all of the five above. Hence, my appreciation for his article.

India’s daughter

The moment a filmmaker – with a cultural superiority and racist attitude – decided to make a movie on this, India already had a problem, regardless of whether the UPA Government gave or denied permission.

If the UPA government denied permission to her to interview the rapist, she could have made that into an ‘Embarrass India’ event. Of course, that India could and should ride out in future, simply based on reciprocity. Indian filmmakers do not even think of making films on systemic racial bias in American police or bigotry in the society or on British society’s ills. Of course, Indians in the film industry would not even dream of them. That is a different tragedy.

So, the first-best options are that India has far too few rapes to be talked about, that foreigners look at India with objectively or finally, Indian governments know how to deal with foreigners and their agendas politely, promptly and professionally but firmly.

Now that the permission was given and the movie was made, India was left only with second and third best options.

One is to ban and give the movie and the producer more publicity and more brownie points. That is the third best option

The other option is to let the movie be aired and just ignore it totally – from the government point of view, that is. This is the second best option and I prefer this.

In order to get the first best situation, what the government can do and should be doing are these:

Continue with actions to improve law and order, street lighting, education of young males and their parents (as the PM did in his Independence Day speech) and employment opportunities for men. This is a multi-pronged approach to the issue.

Discussions on Indian male patriarchy, misogyny and prejudices are neither here nor there. If one walked down that path, one gets needlessly defensive. There is no way to generalise these things.

All of us have our prejudices. A civilised society keeps them private. In all interaction with others – small or big groups – if all our thoughts are visible or audible to others, societies will grind to a halt or tear apart.

Hence, there is really no need to get defensive about prejudices nor is it correct for others to feel smug about their lack of prejudices. That simply is not true and in any case, unproven or unprovable.

By banning the documentary from being aired in India, the government chose the third best option. That is unfortunate.

The government, in the meantime, has to work on the first best options:

(1) Reduce incidences of rape (see some non-mutually exclusive approaches outlined above)

(2) Learning to deal with the West. Well, this one is a long story and has a long history.

Here is the link to a good and reasonable piece on the documentary by Smita Barooah.