Armageddon, Apocalypse and US
Realisation is dawning globally that extermination of our World, as we know it, and extinction of humankind is a real possibility. Scarcities of the three basic requisites of life – air, water and space are beginning to pinch. It is not only a quantitative diminution, but also a qualitative decline that threatens. Unbridled increase in population and the simultaneous rise of ambitions and expectations, characterized by unchecked demands for finite resources, and reckless pollution of what remains, loom menacingly. A redefinition of progress, presently measured by consumption, seems necessary. Global discourse on development often includes words like “limits”, “sustainability”, “equity,” and “millennium goals”. What would have been condemned as irrational, doomsday fears, and alarmism yesterday, looks like reality today. Even a decade or so ago, who would have imagined that the Coronavirus or similar widespread viral pandemics could ever occur and spread so rapidly? Can it show up again in an even more virulent form?
It seems quite plausible that Nature is fighting back. Its benevolence and bounty have lulled us into (ungrateful) complacency. All comfort and sensual satisfaction too, are fleeting and impermanent. We have been warned. The occurrence of disturbances such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis and forest fires have now become more frequent and severe. And then comes Covid-19. Perhaps Spanish Flu, EBOLA, SARS and MERS were pre-warnings, which we loftily ignored. After all, are not humans we thought, the ultimate in Evolution and Viruses the most rudimentary? David has emphatically subdued Goliath. Worse, any triumph may last only until more and more violent forces are unleashed.
Global Warming, melting of Arctic Glaciers, Sea Level Rise are there for all (except Trump), to see. There seems little that the World could do in response to the pitiful and desperate calls from the Maldives and other inhabited Low Elevation Islands. How much longer before we and many others too are flooded out?
Only about 3% of the water on Planet Earth is potable, the balance 97% is locked up in the Oceans. Of the 3% too, the bulk is in groundwater, much of it inaccessible. It has been remarked that World War III will be for water – not for oil. Solar might be the sole option for Energy. Coal and oil are projected to also be exhausted. Disasters like Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima accidents, show that the costs and duration of recovery times that can be decades or even centuries, illustrate the ever present perils of nuclear power.
Solar Power as presently conceived, is a virtually inexhaustible source. Photovoltaic cells which are presently based on highly purified silicon – the second most abundant element on earth. Batteries of such PV cells, suitably connected, make up the familiar solar assemblies (panels). Theoretically, the energy locked into the sun’s rays received on a single sunny day, if captured, amounts to several thousand times the annual requirements of our earth. Hence, this seems a virtually inexhaustible resource. The major problem is to develop appropriate methods for the storage of energy harnessed during sunlight hours, for use during the night. This is achieved by using appropriate storage batteries or by arranging to feed into the national grid.
The natural mechanism for entrapping (a small part) of incoming Solar Energy, is plant life. The steps are most elegant. The molecule of chlorophyll in green leaves, has as its nucleus, the element Magnesium. Its Atomic structure is such that an electron in an outer orbit is displaced to an even more outer orbit. At the first available opportunity, it leaps back to join its former partners. In this process, the energy entrapped in its displacement is released, in a form (chemically entrapped) usable for the process of building its body mass. This in essence is similar to the functioning of hemoglobin in blood – (only here the function of Magnesium in chlorophyll is performed by Iron in blood). As we know, green chlorophyll in leaves absorbs Carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, while hemoglobin absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. Destroy plants and you destroy Man by asphyxiation. It is often not appreciated that a very large part of photosynthesis is in the Oceans, trapped by the millions of microscopic organisms and by Green Seaweeds. Thus, preventing Ocean Pollution is no less important than controlling deforestation.
We are in Sri Lanka, very much in default in managing our Forests and Mangroves. We also display a callous disregard towards the perils of ocean pollution. The persecution and harassment (reported), of the commendable schoolgirl who courageously exposed the criminal devastation of part of Singharaja, as seen from her home, is deplorable. The young Pakistani girl Yousafzai Malala, was the recipient of The Nobel Peace Award (2014) – the youngest ever recipient – for her role in pressing for educational opportunities for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taliban shot her in the head and nearly killed her for her brashness! The young Scandinavian girl, Greta Thunberg, drew World-wide acclaim for her efforts in highlighting environmental issues.
In sharp contrast, our young nineteen-year old Bhagya Abeyratna, is being subjected to menacing visitations by those officers whose neglect, (or worse), has led to the present catastrophe! This is an utter disgrace. To cap it all, a Senior Minister who should know better, discloses that two reservoirs are being built within Singharaja to provide water to Hambantota! My gosh, what a toxic brew when political opportunism amalgamates with environmental unconcern!
Armageddon in Greek mythology is a mountain range where in the final battle, the forces of God engaged the demonic forces of evil. An apocalypse (also a biblical term), is a catastrophic disaster heralding the end of the World.
As I witness the heroic and laudable efforts of tree planting, Mangrove rejuvenation and cleansing beaches, (and growing damaged coral reefs), a thought crosses my mind. Years ago, Mr Sam Popham, a retired tea planter, bought some 18 acres of degraded Dry Zone land (not far from Kandalama) and conducted a novel experiment in restoring the land to natural forest, from the unsightly coarse shrub land that he had acquired. He worked on the simple proposition that “Nature knows how best to grow forest if allowed to, than Government Agencies could”. First, he identified four hazards. These were fire, choking weeds, grazing cattle and humans. He strategically located fire-gaps, used labour only to regularly uproot invading and choking weeds, fencing to exclude cattle and minimizing the entry of humans. There was no irrigation of seedlings and importantly, not a single tree was “imported” or planted. The results (although seemingly slow) were spectacular. Dried up riverbeds began to flow, fish, birds and small animals returned, the water level in his well rose and an altogether cool ambience, akin to a Temperate meadow developed. (Interestingly, the local monk was initially unfriendly towards this “White Imposter”, but when he saw the results, enmity disappeared to such an extent, that he even set aside a plot within the temple premises for a grave, if Popham were to die in Sri Lanka!). Popham made a precise record of his observations and wrote a most readable book titled “Dambulla – a Sanctuary of Tropical Trees” (He held an MA, (Cambridge) degree) and retired to the UK some years ago. The “Popham Principle” that he bequeathed to his Foster Home is a classic tribute to simplicity and perseverance.
Soil Conservation Acts specify that lands above an elevation of 4,000 (?) feet should not be cultivated. Tea was the major offender, going up to over 6,000 ft ! In this instance, the Law has to be respected and the tea left unplucked, and allowed to grow to its normal height of 6-10 metres. The natural forest will re-establish and Wildlife will return. In fact, Rohan Pethiyagoda showed this in practice, on a tea land at Agrapatana, for which he won the prestigious “Rolex Award”.
The past century has been one of unbelievable advancement. We can launch spacecraft on interplanetary journeys spanning years, sending back to land thousands of pictures of remarkable clarity. Digital Technology has wiped out traditional photography (where now are Kodak or Agfa?). Hand-held Smart phones or wrist-watches can perform the tasks of bulky Computers. Telecommunications permit us to speak to one another across the globe with an intimacy as if they are just across the table – with cameras which also give the visual content. Driverless cars, Auto-pilots on Aircraft and robots doing household chores and many other developments would tend to make us humans ‘redundant.’ Short of answering questions such as “When did time begin? Where does space end? “Man has to be pardoned for knowing it all. As usual for know-alls, we may have painted ourselves into a corner from which there is no escape. Mankind may have out-smarted itself.
A hopeful feature of current environmental concerns, is that the youth generation is increasingly involved.
As one worthy is reported to have remarked “You cannot eat oxygen”. He was dead right, but we need to breathe it! Asphyxiation would act faster than hunger could!
Ven Ajahn Brahmavamso visits Sri Lanka in May
by Nanda Pethiyagoda
The next month, soon to be upon us, is of special significance to the majority of Sri Lankans since we Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate our New Year, with festivities continuing for a week or more in mid-April. The month of May is significant to Buddhists as the three major events of the Buddha’s life are commemorated at the Vesak full moon poya. This year, May carries another significance, joyful and to be grateful for. Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso arrives here towards the end of the month for about two weeks. The Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka (ABS) has completed all arrangements for the visit which is full of great good happenings.
The last time Ven Ajahn Brahm was in Sri Lanka was 2017. I well remember the day long sessions of his speaking to the audience in the BMICH, delivering so easily and absorbingly the Word of the Buddha and conducting meditation. 7000 persons were present to listen to the venerable monk from Australia, spreading themselves in all the BMICH halls and a few even seating themselves in the corridors. The sessions, with Ven Ajahn Brahm moving from hall to hall, with of course TV presentations in them, were deep in significance and of immense benefit to us. However, as is his manner of presentation, the gravity of what was being imparted was tempered by Ven Brahmavamso’s informality and constantly smiling, benign face. One indication of his informality is shortening his religious name to Ajahn Brahm.
This time it is one session on May 30 that the monk will conduct at the BMICH. Passes were available at announced venues from the 15th of this month. I am certain they were all snapped up, so eager are we to listen to this great teacher.
His programme, most efficiently arranged and made widely known by the ABS under the guidance of Ven Mettavihari, includes a resident meditation retreat from May 22 to 30 in Bandarawela for 150 participants inclusive of bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay persons.
A singularly unique forum will be held exclusively for professionals and business persons at the Galle Face Hotel on May 29. These sessions are by invitation, sent out well in time by ABS.
The much looked forward to Dhamma talk and meditation instructions for the public will be at the BMICH from 7.00 to 11.00 am on May 30. Anticipatory of the large crowds that will flock to the BMICH on that day, the ABS has organised sessions with the venerable monk moving from the Main Hall to Sirimavo Halls A and B so all can see and hear him. He will speak in English, followed by summarizations in Sinhala.
More information could be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For WhatsApp messages the number is 0720735837. The filled applications are to be submitted before 10th April 2023.
It seems superfluous to give details, even brief facts on Ven Brahmavamso, as he is well known in this country of ours. However, it appears pertinent to mention facets of the life of this very blessed Bhikkhu.
He was born in London in 1951. Having read widely on Buddhism, at the tender age of 16, this promising student and keenly interested teenager considered himself a Buddhist by conviction. When in the University of Cambridge following his undergrad course in Theoretical Physics, his strong interest in Buddhism and gravitation to meditation went alongside his studies. After earning his degree he taught for one year, He then decided to follow his greater interest in Buddhist philosophy and practice and so proceeded to Thailand. He followed meditation under a couple of Thai masters. Convinced of his future as a Buddhist Bhikkhu, he was ordained a monk at the age of 23 by the Chief Incumbent of Wat Saket. He then went for further training to the famous meditation teacher – Ajahn Chah. He spent nine years studying and training in the forest tradition. In 1983 he was invited to help establish a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia. Within a short period he was Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth. He is also the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia and Spiritual Patron to the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore. These are but two of the spiritual responsibilities he undertakes. His pragmatic approach and his deep conviction in Dhamma have made him a much sought after Buddhist teacher throughout the world.
We Sri Lankans are truly blessed to have him visit our land and share his knowledge, his conviction in the Buddha Word and his encouragement to meditate.
The team that calls itself the Ajahn Brahm Society Sri Lanka of multi-talented and multi-skilled men and woman are all deeply dedicated to helping us, the public of Sri Lanka, benefit from Ajahn Brahm, acknowledged as an excellent teacher and exponent of the Dhamma. We are most grateful to them and Ven Mettavihari who guides the ABS.
Aragala in US
It was recently reported that Philadelphia would pay $9.25 million to a group of protesters over police use of tear gas and rubber bullets during 2020 unrest in which lots of hardships were caused to the protesters who quite rightly protested against the brtual killing of the black youth, George Floyd.
That is is how the social justice or the democracy are respected in the US. The American authorities are answerable for injustice caused to the general public.
I don’t have to elaborate on the gloomy and undemocratic situations prevailing in this country at present. Two persons have been killed and many others injured in protests during the past several weeks. According to the media there were doubts about the quality of the water and tear gas used on the protesters.
The whole world is well aware of the present state of affairs in our country.
The rulers’ undemocratic actions make use wonder whether ours is a “Democratic Socialist Republic’.
One of best development administrators SL ever had
Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.
During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.
Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.
The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.
KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.
In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.
After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.
Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.
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