Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Multiple Perspectives on Biodiversity

Biological diversity or biodiversity  means the variety of life on Earth.It is the variety  between all species of plants , animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact.Biodiversity and its conservation are important for economic as well as for non-economic reasons.For example , green plants  remove Carbondioxide and release Oxygen  into the atsmosphere.This helps to keep the environment  fit and healthy for human  life.This cannot be  quantified in economic units  but is extremely important.At the same time , economic arguments also provide compelling reasons for conserving biodiversity.
Different species of plants , animals , and micro-organisms provide us with food , medicines, fuel,building materials,fibre for clothing  and industrial products.Many species have cultural , aesthetic and intrinsic values.For example, Blue Whales and Giant Pandas have intrinsic values.Other services performed by ecosystems include:1.Protecting areas from soil erosion , floods and other harmful  weather conditions.2.Reducing the risk of local and global climate change.3.Recycling nutrients.4.Pollination and biological control.5.Controlling pollutants.6.Monitoring the health of environment.
 There are several threats to biodiversity , as described below:1.Over exploitation of natural resources.   2.Habitat loss and  fragmentation.3.Poaching.4.Illicit felling.5.Pollution.6.Climate change and Global warming.7.Growth of human population.8.Hunting and illegal trade.9.I.A.S. (Invasive Alien Species)10.Lack of efficient protection to threatened species.11Oil spills.12.Coastal/agricultural development.13Land diversion 14.Encroachment.15.Fuel wood removal.16.Grazing.17.Forest fires. All these threats have to be dealt with in order to conserve biodiversity at local and global levels.Under Article 51A of Indian Constitution ,it is the fundamental duty of every citizen of India  to protect and improve  the environment including forests, lakes,rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.India enacted The Biological Act ,2002 on February 5,2003 to provide for conservation of biological diversity,sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected therewith.The conflict between biodiversity and competing values are  substantial.A broader understanding of implications of biodiversity   conservation  is  needed for resource management decisions.Managers need ways to evaluate the effects of their decisions  in regional as well as in global context of biodiversity conservation .
  Education is indispensable element for achieving  sustainable development(UN , 2002).The need to  impart  biodiversity education at all levels  has been felt   at all international initiatives.As per Unesco :”Education for Sustainable Development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. 
  Education is indispensable element for achieving  sustainable development(UN , 2002).The need to  impart  biodiversity education at all levels  has been felt   at all international initiatives.As per Unesco :”Education for Sustainable Development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. Education for Sustainable Development means including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption. It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way.Education for Sustainable Development  requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practised”

   The word ‘Perspective   means  a particular  way of  considering something.   Accordingly , there are a number of perspectives on biodiversity.For example, gender inequality perspective focuses on the number of women engaged in the study of biodiversity as compared to men, and such other issues.
Multiple Perspectives   from which biodiversity can be considered for educating students  are as below:
1.Scientific Perspective.
2.Historical Perspective.
3.Geographic Perspective.
4.Human Rights Perspective.
5.Gender equality Perspective.
6.Values Perspective.
7.Cultural Diversity Perspective.

8.Sustainability Perspective.

1.A scientific perspective is based on  collecting , analysing and interpreting empirical data about  natural cycles and phenomena.A scientific perspective is assumed to be context free.
 2.A Historical perspective helps learners how biodiversity issues have been addressed over extended periods of time as well as in the present.Using evidence from past and current situations , learners can  understand how local and global communities  have made biodiversity management  decisions  and the implications of those decisions.
3.Geographic perspective:This perspective enables readers  to understand how  biodiversity issues appear and recur  across a region,country,continent  or Earth.By studying geographic scale   of a problem , we get deeper insights into the origin of the problem  and potential solutions.

4.Human Rights perspective:Learning how quality of life  can be affected by  the relative health of biodiversity.This requires that  biodiversity is understood  not as a purely  economic good  but also as a social or cultural good.All societies need biodiversity  to maintain a quality of life  consistent with universal  human rights .Projected needs of future generations should also be considered , with planning for future use  and growth as integral  components of  sustainability decisions.

5.Gender Equality perspective:Learning how gender roles ,social and cultural  practices affect decision making  at different levels  and  in using and protecting  biodiversity at different levels.How technology may have changed the context for  gender related roles .For example,technology has replaced  the need for  physical strength in  completing many tasks.
6.Values perspective: learning   about  biodiversity across different values , with the goal of finding  a consensus  position or action .
7.Cultural Diversity Perspective:Biodiversity issues may  be interpreted through unique world views  that are created through aesthetic  or cultural ways of knowing.A cultural perspective  is often a unique perception  associated with  a particular  community.A cultural diversity  perspective considers  the role of biodiversity  in the cultural  community’s world view

8.Sustainability perspective:We consider the interactions  between  the biodiversity , economics and society  to ensure sustainability for ecosystems and people  today and for future generations.
The above are eight different perspectives identified by Unesco , through which students can effectively learn an important subject like biodiversity.We can use various methods to educate students about multiple perspectives on biodiversity.
1.Viewing a documentary film  through different perspectives and sharing insights gives the entire class a multiple  perspective of the issue.
2.Reading the same case study  focusing on a particular biodiversity topic.The students can analyze the case through the lens of a specific perspective, and then share findings with their peers.
3.The students  may  take up a  local community biodiversity project, investigate it deeper  into what it means at  global level through a variety of perspectives.Using their own community as a case study  is likely to  help students fully grasp the concept of biodiversity

In the absence of widespread agreement  on a philosophical approach  and measurable results that  describe the values of  natural systems  , resource managers have  turned to public participation in their decisions in an effort to reach some sort of public consensus.Partly because of the  requirements for  public participation   under the  Environment Protection Act,there is now a substantial  literature  on ways to  improve this participation .Analysis of alternatives, including economic valuations , might help to reduce  the gap between  contrary perspectives.Structured deliberation  that involves  stakeholders in these  decisions and is supported by analysis will be useful in defining  boundaries and directions.For such a  informed decision making , it is important to catch citizens young and teach them the important subject of  biodiversity from as many perspectives as possible.In Uttar Pradesh,it can help us understand and find solution to the problem of pollution of Ganga river water , especially by  over 400 leather tanneries at Kanpur.We may understand better the global implications of declaring Pilibhit forests as Tiger Reserve.We may also analyze and decide better the Eco-sensitive Zones  around different Protected Areas, especially the one around Okhla Bird Sanctuary near Delhi.
(This article was published in the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow in its issues dated May 15,2016.)

Monday, 13 June 2016

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I  first read this slim (118 pages)  classic novel(first published in 1899)  in May ,2005.I read it again  recently in June ,2016.The reason for reading again was that when I tried to remember the  remarkable character of  Kurtz   from this book ,I  could not .I found that it was completely  erased from  my memory  . And it was worth it because I realized for the first time how brilliant and great   Joseph Conrad was as a novelist. The book   is a peep in the interiors of human psyche.It is set  during the era of imperialism  when the Company with offices  located in Brussels(Belgium)  controlled  the ivory trade  and ruled over the natives in Africa. Darkness is real unknown of the jungle   as well as the darkness that hides within the human heart and also pervades the society.
               It is the story of   Mr   Kurtz, a first class ivory agent in the forests  on the banks of Congo in  Africa. He was   an exceptional man in many ways   , of the greatest importance to the Company.” His soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it   had looked within itself   , and by heavens! I tell you   ,it had gone mad. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith and no fear   , yet struggling blindly with itself.”
But Mr Kurtz had another   side of his identity. I quote   :” Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint  in the gratification of his various lusts.  .  . .Whether he knew of this deficiency himself  I can’t say .I think the knowledge came to him at last-only at the very last. But the wilderness had found him out early , and had taken on him  a terrible vengeance  for the fantastic  invasion. I think it had whispered  to him things about himself which he did not know , things of which he had no conception  till he took counsel with this great solitude –and the whisper had proved  irresistibly fascinating .It echoed loudly within him  because he was hollow at the core . .  .”
The wilderness helped him to know   the darkness inside him   , more so because he was hollow at the core. Many exceptional people   , what to say about the ordinary folks  , are hollow  as well as dark inside .Conrad   tells us about the nature of evil. How fragile civilized behaviour can be  , how  sometimes civilizes persons easily slip into  brutality. Even persons with  excellent motives and apparently unblemished character  can fall into evil ways. But Conrad is not sure  if this falling into brutal behaviour  is  because their soul becomes corrupted , or because  there is some supernatural  source of evil.Quote1:”The belief in supernatural source of evil  is not necessary ;men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. Quote2,( which contradicts quote 1) is as follows: ”I saw on the ivory face  the expression of sombre  pride, of ruthless power , of craven terror—of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again  in every detail of desire, temptation and surrender  during that moment of  complete knowledge ?He cried in a whisper  at some image , at some vision –he cried out  twice , a cry that was no more than a breath :’The horror!The horror!”
The news of the sudden death of Mr Kurtz reaches Marlow through a boy.Suddenly the manager’s boy  said in a tone  of scathing contempt—“Mistah Kurtz—he dead”.
T S Eliot in his poem the hollow men    quotes this line and  says: ”Remember us –if at all-not as lost, Violent souls ,but only ,As the hollow men ,The stuffed men”.Joseph Conrad   shows a remarkable understanding  of life as also of  Mr Kurtz. That is why this book  is a masterpiece .

         “  …. .Destiny .My destiny! Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement  of merciless logic  for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it  is some knowledge of yourself –that comes too late –a crop of unextinguishable  regrets .I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in  an impalpable greyness ,with nothing underfoot , with nothing around , without spectators, without clamour, without glory , without the great desire  of victory , without the great fear of defeat , in a sickly atmosphere of  tepid scepticism , without much belief in your own right , and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom , then life is a greater riddle  than some of us think it to be.”
          “This is the reason why I affirm that   Kurtz was a remarkable man .He had some thing to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself ,I understand better the meaning of his state, that could not see the flame of the candle , but was wide enough to embrace  the whole universe , piercing enough to penetrate  all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up –he had judged “The horror!”
               “ He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the   expression of some sort of belief, it had candour, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note  of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling  face of a glimpsed truth-the strange commingling of desire and hate.”
               “   And it was not my own extremity  I remember best-a vision of greyness without form  filled with physical pain , and  a careless contempt for  the evanescence of all things-even of this pain itself! No! it is his extremity  that I seem to have lived through. True, he had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge  , while I had  been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot. And perhaps  , in that is the whole difference, perhaps all the wisdom , and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into  that inappreciable  moment of time  in which we step over the  threshold of the invisible. Perhaps!”
  “  I like to think my summing-up would not have been a word  of careless contempt. Better his cry-much better. It was an affirmation , a moral victory  paid for by innumerable defeats, by abominable terrors, by abominable satisfactions .But it was a victory !That is why I have remained loyal to Kurtz  to the last , and even beyond when a long time after I heard once more , not his own voice , but the echo of his  magnificent eloquence thrown to me  from a soul  as translucently pure  as a cliff of crystal.”
               At places  , Conrad  has left the crucial information unstated. For example  , between Marlow’s rescue of Kurtz and Kurtz’s death ,  the two had many significant conversations .But Conrad has not cared to inform us of those conversations.
              In a world  getting increasingly dominated by  multinationals and international organisations  , sending  their  officers in developing countries , we need to realize that every one of us  has  some darkness in our hearts  and every one is susceptible and fallible to corruption and evil. Conrad warns us to protect ourselves from such horrors. Though he said it in 1899 , his words are still relevant today .That is what makes this book a masterpiece .Please do  read it , if you have not read it so far.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

The book is divided into 40 brief chapters.The reader has been asked to read only one chapter a day.She is also asked not just read the book but underline it  and write  readers' own thoughts in the margins.This is the best way to clarify thoughts.There is covenant which reader is asked to sign .It says that:" With God's help , I commit the next 40 days of my life to discovering God's purpose for my life."
 Bertrand Russel ,atheist  is quoted;"Unless you  assume a God , the question of life's purpose is meaningless".
  It says that we exist because God wills us to exist.Our purpose can be revealed by our creator.Life is really about living for God , not for ourselves.God planned our birth , how long we will live, the exact places where we should live.We discover the purpose of life only when we make  God the reference point of our lives.Real security can be found in our relationship with God.
                 This life is a preparation for the next.You will spend more time on the other side of death,in eternity .There are eternal consequences of every thing that you do on earth.This life is a preparation for the next..
               Remember that your days on earth are numbered.Do not get too attached here, to the things of this world.Never focus on material success.Adopt eternal values.Stop acquiring material wealth and start appreciating spiritual things.We bring glory to God  by worshiping Him.Worship is to be motivated by  love,thanksgiving  and delight,and not as duty.It is your responsibility to love other believers.The more you develop Christ like character , the more glory you will bring to God.Serve others with all your strength,energy and all your spiritual gifts.Tell others about God.Live the rest of your life for God's glory.Don't have your own goals.Live for god.God made you for His purpose.
          Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it  with awareness of His presence.Do the following activities as if you were doing it directly for Jesus:
Talking, sleeping , bathing , getting ready , working , walking , listening to music,reading , writing and meeting people.
  The smile of God is the goal of your life.Love God,know God , spend time with God.Suffer and sacrifice for good change.Surrender is intense warfare against our  self-centered nature.Surrender to God and not to any one else.Include God in every activity ,every conversation and every thought.Prayer lets you speak .Meditation lets God speak.Have a desire to know God above all else.
 Relationships must have priority in your life above every thing.Invest time in relationships.Care for their practical needs.Do not write people off.God wants you to love real people, not ideal people.
       Real community takes place in small groups.Carry each other's burden.Do not let people give up in despair.Forgive them.Never hold grudges and bitterness.Forgiveness must be immediate.Forgiveness is letting go of the past.
Do not gossip about  your fellow members.Meet together regularly and as a habit.Spend time with people.Share meals.Pray about your relationships.Take the initiative to resolve a conflict.Do not blame .Do not condemn , insult ,and don't be sarcastic. Emphasize reconciliation and resolution .Bury the hatchet.Restore the broken relationships.
  Focus on the growth of one another's character.Confront those who gossip. Do not listen to gossip about third person .
You were created to become like God.God wants you to be Godly.God’s goal for you is character development.God is much more concerned about your character than about your career.Take your spiritual growth seriously.
                 Replace lies with truth.Read scriptures for at least 15 minutes daily.Apply principles into practice.Have a discussion group and discuss your applications in the group.Keep on doing what is right. Do not give up.
            Attraction becomes lust when you begin to dwell on it.Monitor your media intake.Have a friend  or a small group as your accountability partner.
              To give up a habit , you have a lot to unlearn.Keep a spiritual journal and record spiritual insights in it.
               You were put on earth to make a contribution  and to serve God.When you serve others , you serve God.Service is not optional.Stop making excuses for not serving.Serve others unselfishly.Serve with passion. Serve even when it is inconvenient.Service is an attitude.
            Do things for which you feel passion.Do not waste your life doing a job you do not like.Keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding.
               Be a servant , not a servant leader.Be content with obscurity.You cannot serve both God and money. Do not flaunt your connections , don’t namedrop.
    You were made for a mission.      
Share your story .Your story is unique.If you don’t share it , it will be lost for ever.Write  the story of all your important experiences, lessons  and insights.Insights about God, relationships, problems and  temptations .Spread the Good News.
                    Keep a balance between the five purposes of life:
1.Love God with all your heart.
2.Love your neighbour as yourself.
3.Go and make disciples.
4.Have fellowship.
5.Grow to maturity through discipleship.
Serve God’s purpose in a contemporary way.
                      In short , it is a religious book  but written for the  contemporary world.Though  mainly written for  the followers of Christianity, it can be read with profit if you follow any other religion , or are even an atheist.