The Year That Was…

As we enter the last nine days of first month of 2015 and settle into new paradigms based on resolutions and goals for another twelve month period, it may not be out of place to reflect on some of the most defining features of 2014. According to weather scientists, 2014 was the warmest year ever in planet earth’s history, with average temperature staying 1.24 degrees Celsius over the mean level in  twentieth century, and with December 2014 registering as the hottest December on record since 1880.

The signs are ominous and bode ill for our times, and, unless remedial measures swing into an aggressive course on a war footing, it may well be that every year in the current century ends up progressively adding to the list of twenty warmest years ahead. The safeguards that were reinforced as Kyoto Protocol (KP) in 2005, its applications of carbon credits and subsequent progressions thereof, do not quite seem to be delivering given that the risks of runaway emissions are continuing unabated. Extreme heat blanketed Alaska and much of western USA last year. Several European countries set temperature records, and the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except Antarctica and its environs, triggering violent storms across the Pacific. 2014 now holds the dubious distinction of having surpassed 2010 as the warmest year on a record stretching back to 1880. The ten warmest years hitherto have all occurred post 1997, a deadly indication of relentless global warming, apparently caused by emissions and environmentally destructive practices jeopardizing civilization and the natural world. The distinctive characteristic of 2014 warming is that it has occurred in a year sans the disruptive El Nino, in which the ocean releases unusually high levels of heat into the atmosphere, accompanied by changes in air pressures and temperatures, disrupting marine life and upsetting rainfall patterns. I recall the sustained discourse in the media on the El Nino phenomenon in 1998 when I was in the Middle East; it was as if all the heat and disruptive weather pattern in 1998, and in the two to seven year intervals that followed, was due to this phenomenon that was beyond human control, and the world was otherwise regulating itself into lower emission levels and disciplined production norms to control global warming. The alarming fact, however, is that 1998 is being surpassed every four or five years, establishing a pattern of warm years in 2005, 2010, and the recent 2014 even without an El Nino.

What is the way forward? The first KP commitment period was from 2008 to 2012, where 192 countries were signatories, discounting drop-outs like Canada and the non-ratifying USA; success rate was only marginal as strong performers were largely the deeply committed European countries. A second commitment period, known as the Doha Amendment, was proposed in 2012 with binding targets on 37 countries. Further negotiations were held in Paris in 2014 to agree on a post-Kyoto legal framework obligating all major polluting candidates to pay for carbon emissions but China, India and USA have refused to ratify any treaty involving legal commitment on carbon emissions. The latest indication from IMF is that India’s rate of growth appears set to surpass that of China in next couple of years. What is, however, not being highlighted is that India has already marched ahead of China in pollution levels. While Chinese cities are notoriously polluted, a recent WHO study observed thirteen Indian cities among the twenty with the worst air quality in the world; many of these thirteen cities are in northern India, including the national capital of Delhi, presently dubbed as the world’s pollution capital. The toll extracted by pollution on public health and country’s economy is heavy and beyond repair if corrective measures do not kick in on time. The smog enveloping Delhi during December to February peak winter months is one of the most readily manifesting harmful phenomena, rendering visibility down to near zero factor, trapping polluted air,disrupting air traffic and delaying flights. Adding to it the adverse impact on public health in the form of respiratory and cardio-vascular diseases completes the picture of gloom and doom.

While depleting ozone layer, increasing global temperatures and rising ocean levels continued to wreak its damage on global climate in 2014, it was more than matched on the social plane by cult of radicalism and narrow dogma spreading its treacherous tentacles in various parts of the world, leaving over hundred school children massacred in one region, thousands of humans mercilessly done away with and media personnel rounded up as hostages and subsequently finished off in other regions. In this context, the telling observation of a cosmonaut comes readily to mind. On being asked what her predominant feeling was once the shuttle blasted off and hit the stratosphere, she commented that all distinctions of nationalities, religion, language, culture, sex and other divisive barriers holding disproportionate value on planet earth ceased to exist as it simply vanished into a subsuming sentiment, and the only thing relevant in all that mattered was that she was a human, representing, not any gender, group or her country, but the entire human race in the grand infinity of outer space. What a tragic irony that such a glorious outlook does not sustain on terra-firma…!

Were there any bright spots in a steadily warming planet that reached a high point in 2014 or in a scenario of mindless greed and consumerism, misplaced faith and erroneously driven belief systems rapidly plunging into alarming depths of chaos and depravity? Taking an overview, there is a semblance of growth in few of the European economies and close to five percent growth in the US economy after several flat years. The counterpoint of subdued and flat growth in Asian economies, specially China and Japan, coupled with resultant erosion in oil prices, renders the situation highly unclear to hazard even a rough forecast of how global commerce is going to trend in 2015; it may well be a continuing recession that may see a recovery only after 2017. The next G20 (group of 18 major economies including countries collectively falling under European Union, plus the UK and USA totaling twenty, together accounting for around eighty percent of world trade and two-thirds of global population) summit is scheduled during mid November 2015 at Antalya, Turkey. Prior to that, it is critically important for the US, China and India to arrive at clear actionable guidelines on emission controls with due regard to historical factors and also taking on board the interests of other countries. Whereas Americas and Europe had access to resources and enjoyed unbridled growth across few centuries, starting from eighteenth century, the balance of growth has tilted to Asia only in the beginning of this century; it goes without saying that the entire burden of following sustainable production norms and controlling emissions cannot be borne exclusively by Asia while concurrently striving for growth, as it will indirectly amount to slowing down growth. Transition to cleaner fuels, non-conventional and renewable sources of energy, instituting green practices in construction and production, restoration of earth’s green cover are all capital intensive projects that may require contribution of and participation by resource rich countries in the West. In so doing, West will apparently enjoy the benefit of cost control by encouraging bulk production to shift to lower cost countries in the East so that energies of the west can be diverted to R&D and switching to higher-tech products of finer features, capable of commanding premium prices in the market place. Asian countries led the global recovery following recession of the late 2000s. These countries are geared for a bigger presence on the global stage, shaping the G20’s agenda for balanced and sustainable growth by ramping up intra-regional trade and stimulating domestic demand.

It is heartening to note that 2014 witnessed India’s successful foray into Mars orbit riding purely on indigenous technology and in the most cost-efficient manner possible, setting the stage for manned space shuttles in the near future. In the field of conservation, the latest census of elephants and tigers reveals estimate-busting growth numbers. The count of big cats shot up by 30% over 2010 and the increase in pachyderm numbers also indicate a similar trend, gladdening the hearts of conservationists and wild life enthusiasts. Due to heavy poaching, the tiger population had dwindled to abysmally low levels and was close to extinction where from, the situation presently stands restored in the tiger reserves of Rajasthan, western ghats, shivalik-gangetic plains and north-eastern ranges. The challenge now is to preserve the tiger corridors used by animals to migrate from one habitat to the other, together with other conservation measures.

If one can draw from the few but significant success stories as enumerated above of the year just gone by, the pointers are that purpose driven and closely coordinated efforts will deliver mega results, like the mission fired wild life conservationists or the rocket scientists at ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization). These models can be appropriately rigged up to encompass the bigger challenges in global environment conservation, to deliver desired results through pooled resources of countries in east, west, north and south working in consortium. The fruits of development must extend to all sections of society to avoid disgruntled groups of people uniting under the umbrella of extremist and radical outfits. The genuinely secular and centrist formations in societies worldwide must take it up as part of bounden duty to build up awareness and understanding among people to promptly foil negative and divisive forces from taking roots. There is no religion or belief system that can claim supremacy over others as these have sprung up in diverse regions of the world in different periods to signify the multiple dimensions of the Creator. We need to preserve that diversity because beauty of the divine resides in it. The Quran states “La Ill aaha Ill Allah” to mean there is no God except Allah, and there is a Jihad to be fought, not against any external enemy as erroneously believed to be, but against the Satanic evils endeavouring to gain ascendancy within every human being. We ought to be fighting that war within for any chance of getting anywhere near divinity. In true universal spirit, Krishna enunciated in the Bhagavad Geeta that ‘regardless of whomsoever is worshipped in whatever form in the name of Almighty, I am the ultimate object of that worship’. When Jesus said that ‘the kingdom of God is within you’, it is the same when I chant the vedic prayer “Om Namah Sivaaya”, as it translates to ‘I salute and honour the grand infinity, the divinity within myself and may the greatest that can be in this world be created within myself, within others, and within the world’.

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38 thoughts on “The Year That Was…

  1. Hi Raj – It’s been a succession of bad years. I made a decision to stop watching/reading the “news” late last April. Total blackout, except for the weather. I was tired of being upset and afraid. Besides, I just don’t trust the media or the people in charge anymore. I still know that things are bad, but my mental state is so much more serene. I guess it’s selfish, but I decided to work on my own happiness for a change. Maybe I’ve been doing what you suggested at the end of your post. Very nice to hear about India’s advancements! That’s fantastic and I hope they continue.

    • Insulating yourself from media may serve to keep you cocooned, but for how long? We must at least stay updated with what is happening around us and respond by creating ripples of sanity in our immediate circles to eventually swell into waves of awareness and understanding that can beneficially flow over and purge the slushy waters of destructive dogma and extremism…the journey may be long and weary but we must travel the distance Julie…best wishes… Raj.

      • I see your point, but I’m not really cocooned. I know in a general sense what’s going on, I just don’t listen to the media tell me what I should think about it. Traveling to some places that were portrayed in the media as being one way and finding out that they were totally different..this was the last straw. I don’t trust their “information” anymore. The media are owned by people who promote their own interests. For example – CBS news in the US is owned by Westinghouse, a defense contractor. Therefore, they, like most mainstream media who are also owned by corporations with dubious intentions, make the case for going to war. Yes, I’ve taken my awareness back, and if that’s selfish, then so be it.

  2. So many emotion’s after reading your post. I read it three time’s over. Thank you Raj. I am delighted that you have mentioned your chant and I am excited as to what it stand’s for so I shall be chanting that with love in my heart this evening. I look forward to your next post.

  3. Hi Raj, I enjoyed the way you ended this post by sharing the common prayers of human beings. It’s good to move forward in a positive light. Thank you for your many thoughtful comments on my poetry blog. I hope your new year is beautiful 🙂

  4. Hello Raj,
    I turned off the television news and quite reading newspapers, as LaVagabonde has, many years ago. I don’t want my mind filled with the constant negativity, violence and doomed view of mankind. I can come up with enough of that entirely in my own mind. And, I don’t trust the sources. I am old enough to know that millions of people believe what is on the news, no matter if the telling of the story is correct or not. Of course, one can’t help but read the news on the Internet and, at least, the Internet affords one a view of both sides.
    I am worried about future space travel and wonder why a country like India (any country) would allow money to go into programs that don’t benefit the earth and it’s people directly. As if there aren’t enough problems on this planet, where we need to pay constant, immediate, and direct attention. I don’t understand the thought process behind it and I view all space exploration as a vile idea. It will be just another area to fight over and another vehicle for war. And, if I might add, another place for human beings to destroy in greedy possession.
    Ginene

  5. Appreciate your disenchantment with the media and contrarian view on space exploration. Fatigue with the media, arising from manipulated information, distorted presentations, affiliation with political groups and vested interests, is a worldwide phenomenon. In India, we have close to 500 TV channels with extremely stiff competition. The negative is highlighted and exaggerated to create sensation for capturing viewer interest. But cutting off the media may not be the solution in an information driven world. The prudent thing to do would be to stay updated by viewing select channels and figure out the truth between the lines, instead of blindly following any single presentation or totally cutting oneself off. As for exploration of outer space, it may be pertinent to recall Edmund Hillary’s statement; on being asked as to why he scaled the Mount Everest, he famously answered, “because it is there”. Swami Vivekananda put it differently, when he exhorted people to push for the new by taking calculated risks; if you succeed, you can lead, if you fail, you can guide, so either way, it takes life forward. Hence the urge, to conquer new frontiers and explore mysteries of the universe, is what drives enterprise and progress. The global population in the early 1970s was four billion, and, today, forty five years later, it is seven billion, compelling the need to look for options in outer space to which humanity can migrate to should life become unsustainable on planet earth. Efforts in this direction that commenced in the late fifties and early sixties have now advanced the world by way of faster communication, more accurate weather forecasts, identifying locations vide satellite imaging and opening up possibilities of setting up habitat in Mars. Even though there may be continuing problems on earth that may need to be addressed, we cannot be limiting our options to this planet, given the pressure of increasing population and pollution levels. And the compulsion to push and conquer frontiers, as long as it exists out there…best wishes, Ginene… Raj.

  6. Dear Raj, I so enjoyed reading this excellent post my friend.. So many points you touch upon, and yes even though we each know deep down the damage being done to our Planet Mother Earth, it seems so many are still so blinded to the future.
    Each year statistics record and document the results of our consistent polluting ways, and yet despite the technological advancements we are not learning through our past mistakes.. Instead we plough on, creating mountains of waste products, Landfills running out of space… Our consumerism habits demanding more pre-packaged rubbish to be discarded the moment the product is unpacked..

    And as a race of people, we call our selves Human.. yet still have to learn what it is to be Humane… As we still can not find peaceful solutions within families, so is it any wonder Nations with all their differences are still at war?..

    Third World Nations rise up as manufacturing helps promote better life styles, and yet still the divide is prominent as the Rich get richer while still there are those who starve and have to rummage among rubbish tips to live..

    You said ” I am worried about future space travel and wonder why a country like India (any country) would allow money to go into programs that don’t benefit the earth and it’s people directly.”…… This often baffled me too Raj, why governments pumps so much money, and energy into projects for Mars, and Space.. And yet can not pour the resources into manageable projects which could help alleviate great suffering here on Earth..

    What gives me hope is that more of us are opening our eyes to these issues, and while we may only be a small voice, we add to the collective.. Our collective prayers are the same Raj, And I join you in yours….

    Guru Dev Namo – I bow to the divine teacher within…

    Blessings Sue _/\_

  7. Thanks for your comments, Sue. It is gratifying to note from your observations that there is a fully aware audience in the US, as conversant with third world issues as informed people here are, and together we can, hopefully, look forward to a sustainable world order…love and blessings to you too… Raj.

  8. Hi Raj, Your newest post here is truly a memorable one, outlining the highs and lows of the previous year. While humans continue to weave destructive ways on the planet, warming it with every year that passes, I am calmed by your prayer shared at the end of the post. I am glad you ended on a positive, spiritual note. After all, if we have no faith then I fear many people will give up on the world for all the issues that surround us. What I think I worry for the most is what people living over the next few hundred years will have and whether certain natural resources will still be available to those people. It is a scary time on many levels. But faith, prayer and hope will help us get through it all and lift us up. xx Thank you for such a quality post here.

  9. Hi Raj, You have a written a powerful post and one that needs to be taken note of. Unfortunately such climate warming will continue while governments around the world consider the economic factors involved in making changes that will benefit the planet, flora, animal life and humans. The warming of the planet is cyclic, yet the constant barrage of pollution has hastened the process. In the next hundred or thousand years, air and water will be a scare commodity and no longer renewable resources. A massive change to the way we think and act is needed to preserve the one place we have taken for granted.
    best wishes
    Luciana

    • Thanks Luc… The outlook, as you rightly point out, is very scary. Situation demands conservation measures on a mission footing, while looking out for options that will sustain life elsewhere…

  10. Raj,

    When you say: “There is no religion or belief system that can claim supremacy over others as these have sprung up in diverse regions of the world in different periods to signify the multiple dimensions of the Creator”, my heart is with you. These “multiple dimensions of the Creator” mean that humans are capable to unite forces in all educational and technological fields to trace new paths of understanding and meet everyone half-way. Enough of national pride; ecological matters concern everyone alike regardless of religions and politics, among other things. I tend to think that we are “visitors” on earth, although we inhabit it, the planet was already here before we arrived. Why do humans continue to think that we “inhabit” the earth, is beyond me. Since we are “visitors” or “guests”, what gives us the right to think we “own” the planet? Didn’t the planet “invite” us, in the first place? There’s just not enough humility.

  11. You have hit a philosophical and scriptural plane, Maria, with the thought that we are mere visitors on planet earth; indeed we are, never mind our illusory notions of possessiveness, nationalism and other divisive beliefs. Buddhism defines this concept very clearly when it says that the the human soul, on a continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth, can be reborn in several other worlds, signifying that the sojourn on earth is in the nature of a transit…

  12. Raj, What an educational post! I can’t help but think of my late father who wrote and spoke like this post. A mensa mind, always thinking and informed! I am also happy to hear the tiger population is headed in the right direction. I will be sure to inform my big cat loving daughter. – Lisa

    • Thanks very much Lisa; it feels so nice to know the post brought in memories of your father, also duly enhancing your awareness of environmental issues. By the way, your ‘big cat’ loving daughter must visit India (if she has not already done so) as India is home to the world’s largest tiger population…best wishes… Raj.

  13. Great post Raj ! ⭐
    “What a tragic irony that such a glorious outlook does not sustain on terra-firma…!”… I found that sentence highly eloquent and your article is thought provoking…
    I hope that governments raise awareness on these tough topics and act in consequence… There is still a long path ahead… but little steps can make a difference!… Thank you very much for sharing!. All the best to you!, Aquileana 😀

  14. It was certainly the warmest in Seattle. We had 50 days with heat over 80 degrees during the summer and the Seattle norm is probably 2 or 3 days. This winter has been shockingly mild as well. Since I came back from India in January it has been in the 50’s for the most part. Unheard of. It even reached into the 60’s for several days. While it is nice that it is already spring, although it may not last, the reason that is happening is not.

  15. Loved the astronaut’s words you quoted. And couldn’t agree more with “The fruits of development must extend to all sections of society to avoid disgruntled groups of people uniting under the umbrella of extremist and radical outfits.” We are all in this together.

  16. What a great and informative post, Raj! I can only hope and assume more eyes are open nowadays and if we all did our little part, things might improve in years to come. Do I believe that? Well, I have to hold onto hope and faith or I’ll crumble. It’s all about staying positive and hoping for the best. I have to admit though that there are so many more scary things to add fear to our lives now than when I was younger (or at least, this is my perception). It could be that the media and social networks simply magnify it all. It’s so easy to fall into a paralyzing state worrying about everything. So one has to take a deep breath and keep moving forward and for me, saying prayers, too…take care of yourself! 🙂

  17. This post brought out a lot of good comment Raj.
    I will visit the posts that impressed me.
    I liked your final comment God with in you.
    I am aware I am subject to ideological amplification, but
    my thought is, mortal man has declared war on infinite nature, the out come is obvious._/\_

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