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WHAT’S ON TV?

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By Ransiri Menike Silva

The above innocuous question can yield a variety of answers, for there is much on TV going on all day on all the TV channels.

Though referred to as the ‘idiot box’ the TV does not carry only ‘idiotic’ stuff but caters to a wide range of interests for people of all ages, the most meaningful of which are the documentaries from which the viewer gathers extra knowledge in many fields.

On the negative side are the doleful dramas in different languages thrust upon us by Hollywood, Bollywood, Kollywood and now, Korean-wood! – and the absurd advertisements aired regularly.

I shall comment first on the latter irritant. There is an abundance of these badly produced ads that interrupt the viewing time of good productions.

This horrendous crime is committed by the advertising companies which have a tight hold on the purse strings and are labouring under the impression that the more often an ad is shown the more effective it will be. In reality it works in reverse order.

To curb extra expenses incurred by productions filmed here, these companies display cheap ones produced in India which often have no relevance to our country.

These short-sighted people appear to be unaware of our own superb film location in the south – ‘Ran-Mini- Thenna’ offering affordable rates.

On the other hand there have been some excellent advertisements produced locally that have had a positive feed-back from the public. Some of these are ‘mini-stories’ of sorts that captivate the viewer and thereby promote the product on offer. Unfortunately the producers, labouring under the moronic impression that short is sweet, have slashed down the original version to a mere snippet which is ordinary, meaningless and utterly boring. Two outstanding examples of this were the exhilarating original versions advertising Mortein Cockroach spray and a well known Ayurvedic cough syrup.

In a bid to economise the producers of bad ads, unearth untrained ‘models’ from within their own circle of acquaintances, who are enticed more by the publicity thus earned than the pittance in payment.

These specimens are inappropriately attired; bare their teeth like enraged curs – in lieu of smiles; mouth phrases learned by rote to promote products they have never used. Their unconvincing performances only drive away potential customers.

Our young models, both male and female, professional or otherwise are a feast for the eyes, but the same cannot be said of the elderly lot. Some of them are pleasant, dignified and fit snugly in to their well performed roles, others are an eye-sore.

Two elderly people, a man and a woman, appear to be addicted to screen portrayals, sneaking in to every role possible, however minor – the male especially loves to be attached to females, the younger the better!

Then there is the mimic who believes he is an accomplished actor, under the impression that stammering is a comical trait, he stammers his way through every role he can work himself into. He also promotes greed, grabbing and holding on to some food product yelling – “Bedhā ganna nevei – badhā ganna !” What a disgusting example to set for children.

The use of children even as voices in the background, to advertise products or promote even worthwhile projects is child abuse in its basest form. Both, the advertisers and the parents who ‘sell’ their children, mainly mothers with warped ambitions, should be charged in courts and severely punished, imprisoned in fact, for committing such an outrageous crime.

It has been proved that animation is a more innovative, attractive and effective alternative. So why not use it more often?

The latest trend, borrowed from Bollywood, is to insert English phrases in between — “OK amma?”; “Thank you, amma!”; “Don’t worry, amma!” ; “Surprise!!”; “I love you”; “I love you too,” etc.

Then we have actresses, long past their prime, who appear singly or in groups to advertise complexion enhancing products. Perhaps this is to supplement their low income due to their enforced retirement from stage and screen.

An enterprising sales gimmick by a marketer of spectacles was to sponsor a tele-drama which featured almost 70% of the actors wearing the actual models of the spectacles he was selling! A novel idea for which the trader should be heartily congratulated.

As a respite from grumbling I shall comment on the documentaries that are resounding in contrast. These are authentic productions that cover an unimaginable array of subjects. Even those mainly targetting children educate us adults as well. What an immense store of extra knowledge I have gathered from them. Both foreign and local productions are of an equally high standard and I offer boundless thanks to the producers, narrators and the real heroes, and the cameramen in the background who undergo untold hardship to present these programs to us.

Some recording nature have yielded ‘seeing is believing’ occurrences – water from the waterfall being blown back upwards (!) both here and abroad, and a wild boar contentedly grazing on its bended knees and covering on extensive area in that same position!

Fascinating was the perfectly timed instant upward swing of a hanging bat for a momentary defecation and a similar performance by pigeons and doves roosting on the ledges of building.

I have swum through sunken ships; ridden on the backs of whales; been high up on mountain tops; trudged through snow; trekked through dense forests; and gazed direct into the eyes of a leopard – merely – by sitting comfortably in front of the TV.

Handicraft; traditional music and dancing; authentic indigenous healing that even mended fractures; the superstitions connected to each subject, have made inroads into my brain to be lodged there permanently.

Now to the dramas aired regularly.

There should be a restriction on the number of episodes for each drama. Some that are being currently aired have been going on non-stop for several years. The first child actors are now past their adolescence and the current storyline has deviated much from the original.

In contrast there are some excellent ones produced and directed by well known dramatists that are meaningful, short and attention-holding. Regretfully, viewing them is a hassle, the incessant stream of repetitive ads in between hindering enjoyment.

Over a decade ago I was vacationing in Australia and found that they had perfected the art of ‘ad control’. Each advertisement is permitted only once during any particular program, with not more than four between each episode. At the end of the month viewers are invited to rate on the quality of the ads. The best is awarded appropriate rewards while the worst is struck off permanently from all forms of media, in addition to fines.

How gloriously effective it was – a superb example for Sri Lanka to follow.

Now back to Sri Lanka.

There are many tele-dramas and even films that are a downright insult to humanity, which have been produced even by established directors.

It is considered imperative that a disabled person be a part of the show, either in a central, major or minor role. Often it is some trifling bit – player in the back-ground who has nothing at all to do with the story.

So there is a plethora of imbeciles; deaf-mutes; blind people; stammerers; dumb people; victims of facial tics and body contortions. In order to accommodate them, crutches, and wheel chairs galore.

The most fancied of these deformities are that of the teeth, with an unimaginable array of badly constructed dentures, protruding or otherwise, their unfailing close-ups being particularly repulsive.

Another ‘must’ – the long loose tresses of women, in the office; ambling along the highway; in buses; or in the case of ‘village’ damsels, performing innumerable domestic chores like eating; drinking; cooking at an open fire-place; sweeping the compound; chopping firewood; climbing trees and hills; harvesting paddy fields; flirting; and perhaps in the loo as well.

Women supposedly living in villages deep within the country are unfailingly draped in ‘Lungis’ not ‘reddha’ that reach down to the feet and artistically arranged ‘frill’ at the waist. These are topped by expertly tailored ‘blouses’ – not ‘hattey’ – often black in colour with uplifting brassiers underneath and revealing underskirts as they mince around instead of walking normally.

Authentic village women wear no underskirt but wear an undercloth beneath the outer one. The “reddha” is worn well above the ankles as they walk daily through grass, mud, water and paddy fields.

The hair is knotted tightly into a ‘kondey’ with a few unkempt wispy strands framing the face, while their arms and necks are shone of glittering jewellery.

The pseudo village woman is at a loss as to what she should do with her hands – so she keeps meddling with her hair or undoing and re-tucking her ‘lungi’.

The absurdity of these depictions was highlighted on my discerning, very distinctly, the outlines of a panty beneath the tightly draped cloth of a wiggling bum!

In happy contrast are our male actors who are quite comfortable in whatever they are attired in – trousers, sarongs, loin cloths, and they know exactly how to use their hands ‘in natural gestures’

The only tragic sight is to see them forced into striped pyjama suits at bed-time, when even our local ‘Suddhas’ wear sarongs to sleep in !!

We also have no Ammas and Thaththas – only Daddies and Mummies. !

And where oh where has the Middle class gone? Vanished beyond the horizon.

Everybody lives in multi-storeyed mansions with fretwork balconies set amidst sprawling landscaped gardens.

Inside are curving stairways, glittering chandeliers, ornate furniture, carpets and professionaly arranged flower vases.

The women are invariably dressed as if to go out, in gorgeous sarees, glittering ornaments, with the hem and the ‘pota’ sweeping the floor and hair coiffured by a beautician, if not falling loose.

To exhibit there familiarity with the Anglo-saxon tongue a few phrases like – ‘Please’, ‘Thanks’, ‘Okay’, ‘Hi!’, ‘Bye’ – are thrown in for good measure.

When going to sleep they jump into bed fully clothed in lacy transparent negligees complete with bra and panty underneath!

Mealtimes are hilarious.

The family and guests sit around the dining table talking earnestly. After serving themselves they start mixing the food on their plates.

 

They continue to keep mixing as they talk, never pausing to sample even one bite. Then the head suddenly grabs a glass of water, washes his hands in the nearby bowl, stands up, pushes back the chair and strides off. The others immediately follow suit leaving their plates still untouched. Meal time is over!

Most comical are the scenes in restaurants and hotels that involve the use of cutlery, when the diners are confronted by strange utensils. It is not possible to comment further on this, as one has to actually view it to believe it – scenes straight out of a Punch and Judy show.

And the makeup! Close-ups reveal the thick layers of whitening cream plastered on wrinkled furrows; artificially blackened hair on ancient faces and fancy streaks and splashes of white hair on the youthful plucked eye-brows; artificial eye-lashes; reddened lips and cheeks even on men and beggars. The beards, the moustaches, and their wigs are in a class by themselves, and there is little doubt that Rajiva Senaratne patronised this make-up artist before his infamous appearance on TV!

Sipping tea, in both ads and dramas constitute lifting an obviously empty cup to the lips, tilting it a wee bit and immediately putting it down without even a pretence of sipping or swallowing. In one of the most recent ads the cup and the saucer were both lifted and tilted together, perhaps they were glued together – no other explanation is possible.

In contrast enormous tumblers of water are downed in one great gulp, while each gulp of liquor involves much slobbering and wiping of the mouth.

Tea is rarely served in cups or mugs to visitors, on a tray. Instead a tray tottering under the weight of tea- cups, tea-pot, milk- jug and sugar bowl are carried or trundled in on a trolley. Then the tea is poured out in formal ritual like it is done among the British aristocracy. Oh my!

Spectacles. These are worn to correct weak eye-sight the only exception being sunglasses . But in dramas donning dark glasses is an indication of villainy!

Be-spectacled actors keep taking them off when under stress. As a regular spectacle wearer from my adolescence I can assure the viewer that we take them off only for a wash, to sleep or occasionally to give a brief respite to the eyes over-tired from close work. Even as children we indulged in boisterous physical activities with them on except in the case of boys who removed them before a fight as a precaution against severe punishment from home if the spectacles were damaged!

Valuable time is wasted on time-consuming shots that follow the progress of an individual or vehicle, first around the curving drive-way, then the side-lane, followed by the main lane and main road until a turn shuts out the scene .

Unrealistic deceptions of life at every level is rampant mainly regarding the elite and dwellers exposing the total unfamiliarity of the producers and directors with life outside their own close privileged circles. As a freelance journalist who has crept into hidden places with my ‘nose to the ground’ so to speak, it repulses me to see these monstrous depictions on screen.

Drama training is a must for aspiring thespians along with proper speech. Mispronunciation and inaudibility should be corrected by a speech therapist and should also include the proper presentation of lines.

Speech plays a very important role in everyday life, not only on stage and screen, but also among public speakers, lecturers and newsreaders.

Our Sinhala newsreaders make their presentations in a sing-song intonation, rising and falling alternately, the English news is ‘elocuted’ in a bizarre dialect concocted by Sri Lankans.

Realising the vital need for a drama school at least first in Colombo, a well known talented actress once opened up her own drama school, which was dedicatedly attended even by politicians and aspiring school children. Unfortunately severe health problems called a premature halt to her work. It is our fervent hope that she resumes her abandoned project soon.

It is time our ‘celebrated’ producers and directors opened their eyes to the real world around them and climbed down from their own elevated stage to tread the raw earth with bare feet. It is only then that they can refrain from committing horrendous mistakes highlighted above.

Swallow your pride and become human – but don’t depict yourself as corpses in coffins with moving eye-balls and heaving lungs as seen by us in close ups !



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Sat Mag

Notes on a not-so radical class

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By Uditha Devapriya

A little over a year ago, Devani Jayathilaka, the Gampaha Division Wildlife Officer now on a crusade against the government, stood up to a State Minister and got away with it. Objecting to Sanath Nishantha’s proposal to build a children’s playground on forest land, she stood her ground even as the Minister and his acolytes attempted to intimidate her.

Videos of Devani retorting to Nishantha and those acolytes gained supporters across social media. Public opinion being very much with her, the government quickly began feting her: Bandula Gunawardena said that the Cabinet took her side, and S. M. Chandrasena regretted the incident while half-heartedly exonerating the Minister.

Devani Jayathilaka’s courage was seen at the time as a symptom of the President’s resolve to make the bureaucracy more independent and efficient, free of bias and politicisation. As such, supporters of the government jumped on the bandwagon. The Daily News dedicated an entire editorial to her, calling her “the toast of all environmentalists, nature lovers and generally all those who cherish our country’s legal and constitutional integrity.” Hopefully, the laudatory piece concluded, “this signal act… will be a beacon to others in the public service to do their bit in fulfilling their public duty while resisting the pressures of politicians.” The subtext was unmistakably clear: the President’s reformism had empowered the officer’s activism.

A year later, and here we are: the premature love affair aborted, the feeling of celebration dampened. Yet could one have expected otherwise? At no point here in living memory have environmental concerns permeated every layer of society, from Colombo’s civil society to Sinhala nationalist outfits, as they are now. A broad conjuncture of oppositional forces, some drawn from organisations that fuelled the ideology which brought the government to power (such as the Sinhale movement), has pitted itself against that government’s apathy over the environment, while social media continues to enthrone activists: environmentalists and state officials. The President’s men, meanwhile, seem to be resorting to a policy of either ignoring or retorting to these voices. In both cases, it’s the government that has lost out.

It is hard not to side with the activists. They have a point: no regime has engaged properly with the environment. Between 2017 and 2019, forest cover reduced from 29.7% to 16.5%. It was the yahapalana government, remnants of which are tweeting against the present regime’s environmental record now, that held

the reins of power then. Yet the administration before it was no different: in 2012, to give just one example, roughly 1,585 hectares of primary forest land were lost, the biggest annual loss in a decade. The numbers for 2020 and 2021 have not been released yet, but there’s no doubting they are as big as, if not bigger than, these figures; according to the Rain Forest Protectors of Sri Lanka, forest cover stands at 17%, above what it was in 2019, but well below the 30% promised by the president.

The politics of the campaigns against the government, however, goes well beyond a simple dichotomy between political representatives and wildlife activists. Frustratingly enough, it’s not easy to put a finger on the dynamics of these protests, to draw a line between protagonists and antagonists within them, not least of all because a simple twofold division – government versus us – has been replaced by a threefold one in them: the government (high level officials included) on one side, activists and officials on another, and us on yet another.

Led by a mostly Sinhala and Buddhist lower middle-class, including the clergy (no less than the Sinhala Ravaya), these campaigns, which have mobilised activists and officials, appear to have unearthed a rather interesting contradiction from within that middle-class: a distrust of political representatives, and an ambivalent attitude towards lower level officials. To identify this contradiction for what it is, and explore it, is not easy: that requires research, the mettle of an anthropologist or ethnographer, and I am neither. Yet from what little I have been able to gather, it appears that this recent spurt of activism has facilitated a shift in the character of anti-state activism, particularly in its class composition. How so?

Devani’s message resonates profoundly with a section of the country’s upward aspiring middle-class, educated mostly in Sinhala but idealising a better life: one to which they feel both government representatives and private interests are obstacles.

They hold contrasting views regarding the state. As far as the government proper – Ministers plus high level officials – is concerned, they are against it. It’s a different story with officials, not least because of the latter a great many hail from the milieu they do: Sinhala educated and upward aspiring. This is the demographic Patali Champika Ranawaka is targeting through his “43 Senankaya”, a demographic parties have not tried to court until fairly recently.

What explains their relationship with the state? Regarding government representatives, their opposition is easy to rationalise: most of these representatives are seen to have risen to where they are now by foul means, not fair. That irks an educated middle-class bereft of political or economic power; simply put, they feel hard done by, left out, unrepresented.

Such feelings of distrust cut through parties; indeed, a defining characteristic of the middle-class is the absence of a unifying political ideology. Any Opposition which believes that by coming to power on the strength of their convictions it can expect support from them forever is therefore walking on water, for this lower middle-class happens to be adamantly protean. It is their protean character, incidentally, that explains their response to state officials.

Their view of the latter is borne out by two main considerations: that they hail from the same class background, and that, since of late, these officials have taken up arms against political authorities, a group whose actions are seen as burdening the lower middle-class.

Indeed, far from berating officials like they berate political authorities, the lower middle-class rebelling against the regime share a desire to enter the bureaucracy as either professionals or administrators, though through education attainment, and not political backing. This desire is essentially a retread of the demand made by unemployed graduates: they want to fill a post in a state institution as soon as they leave university. Under Gotabaya Rajapaka their integration into the bureaucracy has been remarkably rapid: by September last year, for instance, around 60,000 graduates had been absorbed into the Public Service, as part of his “Rata Wenuwen Weda” programme. Yet even this rather modest realisation of lower middle-class aspirations has failed to dampen, or stunt, lower middle-class opposition to his government.

To sum up, what we are seeing here is a division between state officials, assumed to have entered the government through merit, and political representatives, assumed to have entered it through influence. That Devani Jayathilaka continues to be idealised by this class therefore points at the consolidation of a uniquely petty bourgeois consciousness, which at once aspires upward in the bureaucracy, and pits itself against the government overseeing the bureaucracy. Gravitating to meritocratic ideals, they have become a huge floating electorate.

This raises another point: their disavowal of party politics. Let’s not mistake karawala for mallum here, however; the line this milieu touts, that they lack party ideology, should not mislead one into thinking that they can’t be co-opted into any party ideology. For those who believe that a non-political middle-class rebelling against an elected government, even one infringing every other norm in the book, is incapable of political manoeuvring, the case of Anna Hazare offers a counterargument: opposed to political groups, what Hazare achieved in the end was an electoral landslide for just such a group, Narendra Modi’s BJP.

By no means am I saying that Anna Hazare was/is to India what officials crusading against political representatives are/will be to Sri Lanka. Yet not unlike Hazare, these officials have given what little of an Opposition that’s there in the country some much needed ammunition (with which to topple the government). Far from welcoming such a state of affairs, I see two problems with this: the lack of a proper policy on the environment from the Opposition (apart from a few perfunctory protests), and the risk of letting what environmentalists are combating continue under a future administration led by that Opposition. As environmentalists and Left activists have pointed out only too clearly, much of what is being protested against, including the Sinharaja debacle, can be traced back to the yahapalana period. How wise would it be to trust the party that held the cards then so much as to return them to power now?

To these two problems one can add a third: the contradiction between the social conditioning and the activism of the middle-class. That contradiction translates itself into another: between political ideals that pit this middle-class against political authority, and social aspirations that orient them towards personal achievement in education and employment.

One can ask why this is a problem, why it’s so problematic. In matters of political concern, so the idealists say, personal matters are of no relevance.

But that’s precisely the issue. How pertinent are one’s personal aspirations to one’s political inclinations? Not pertinent, some would say; pretty pertinent, in my book.

That leads us to a crucial issue, the most important to crop up from what we’re seeing today: the extent to which those leading the protests are willing to own up to how class aspirations, and not just state complicity, have contributed to environmental degradation.

Let me reduce this to a simple query: how much do you attribute everything wrong with the environment to the government’s doing and non-doing, and how much do you attribute it to, say, our propensity to import, a major factor in environmental degradation?

To be fair, of course, it’s not only imports. The truth is that degradation of the environment is linked inextricably to an economic model rooted in consumerism and urbanisation.

But that merely reinforces my point: consumerism is promoted by the private sector, and urbanisation by the public, because both have an audience: the same middle-class blaming the government for what’s happening to our forests, our rivers, our way of life.

To restate this as simply as I can, then, the problems of environmental degradation today are the result of a decades-long experiment with capitalism and neoliberalism that has failed. The crisis is thus a crisis of a consumerist and exploitative model based on a capitalist framework. Now no critique of what is happening to our forests can evolve without taking this model into consideration. As perhaps its biggest beneficiaries, the middle-class must hence recognise the need to formulate an alternative model to it, in line with their activist inclinations.

However, in continuing to ignore if not marginalise this need, those taking the government to task over the environment are offering an inadequate response, radical enough to question the regime for its failings, yet not radical enough to question our embracement of an acquisitive, consumption-led economic model that has contributed to the quagmire we are in. Now I hate gazing into crystal balls, but if this is what will continue in the future, then these protests, no matter how laudable, will someday, somehow, fizzle out. That would be a pity.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

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Sat Mag

CELEBRATING EARTH DAY: THE VOICE OF THE NEXT GENERATION

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Our world needs transformational change, and it is time for us, those of the present generation to hold ourselves accountable for our role in the environmental crisis while also calling for bold, creative, and innovative solutions. This year marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day and this Webinar is designed to commemorate the occasion and to support the worldwide efforts to conserve and revitalize the environment of the blue planet that is our home. If we are to succeed, we must listen to the children who will link hands from around the world during this webinar and voice their concerns and ideas to preserve a pristine environment for their generation.

This is the 17th of a series of virtual zoom panel discussions hosted by the America-Sri Lanka Photographic Art Society in Los Angeles California, USA (ASPAS); Member of Photographic Society of America (PSA) and The International Federation of Photography of Art in France (FIAP). The objective of the series is to showcase the beauty of world fauna and flora and promote environmental conservation in the context of nature photography and tourism, with a special focus on the grandeur of Sri Lanka’s natural habitat. The upcoming programme will commemorate World Earth Day 2021.

At a previous ASPAS Webinar, Dr. Peter H. Sand, former Secretary-General of ICUN, stated, “Pandemics, such as coronavirus, are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature, the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, as well as the devastation of forests and other wild places, are the driving force behind the increasing number of diseases leaping from wildlife to humans.” The ASPAS Webinars are intended to offer a platform to discuss a more balanced relationship with these ecosystems and the tools that can help us reach this objective, so that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from them sustainably and responsibly.

Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 which gave voice to an emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet. Our planet is an amazing place, but it needs our help to thrive! That is why each year on April 22, more than a billion people celebrate Earth Day to protect the planet from pollution and deforestation and environment related issues. By taking part in activities like picking up litter and planting trees, we are making our world a happier, healthier place to live.

In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, the world was consuming vast amounts of leaded gas through massive and inefficient automobiles. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of the consequences from either the law or the press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Until this point, the world remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health. Since, the great challenge for the environmental community is to combat the cynicism of climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent policy makers, and a disinterested public. In the face of these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and established itself as a major movement for global action for the environment.

Over the decades, it has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteers in 193 countries. Earth Day engages more than 1 billion people every year and has become a major steppingstone along the pathway of engagement around the protection of the planet.

Now, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day. As the awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization, which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Digital and social media are bringing these conversations, protests, strikes and mobilizations to a global audience, uniting a concerned citizenry as never before and mobilizing generations to join together to take on the greatest challenge that humankind has faced.

It is quite apparent that the youth of our world should also be engaged in this vital conversation as an absolutely indispensable partner.

Governments have recognized this for decades and many have introduced some level of climate and environmental education into their education systems. But the truth is that impact of climate and environmental education is in some cases week, cursory, and still in many countries non-existent. In the decades since the launch of the global environmental movement, it is estimated that more than 3 billion young people have graduated from high school having learned little or nothing about one of the greatest issues that will shape their lives and their livelihoods for decades to come.

The time is now, indeed it is long overdue, for a massive environmental literacy campaign that can create a generation of citizens, workers and leaders who really understand why and how to stop climate change and environmental degradation, ensuring that every student around the world completes their formal education as an environmental and climate literate citizen. A citizen who is ready to take action and speak up for change and build knowledge and skills for the growing green sector of clean energy, efficient transportation, sustainable business and making themselves competitive for new jobs.

The youth must also equip themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to build a better future and be stewards of this planet. They must learn that to sustain a functional society and economy, natural resources must be used wisely and efficiently while protecting the ecological systems to ensure clean air, clean water, and food security for all.

But just as vitally, we need to equip future generations with the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to survive and indeed thrive in the decades to come. And that begins in school. Even world leaders recognized that pivotal role as far back as 30 years, when the countries that forged the original United Nations climate change treaty in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit enshrined climate education as an essential part of a national response to a global emergency.

Educationists believe every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component. They have also pointed out that the onus for developing environmental consciousness in youth could not be the sole responsibility of schools as the young people need the help of adult allies. There is a role for everyone, parents, relatives, and society to support youth voices and stand alongside them.

It is in that spirit that the America-Sri Lanka Photohtaphic Art Society Los Angeles, led by its President, Suriya Jayalath Perera, has organized this Webinar to bring together 10 young people from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Sri Lanka to voice their concerns and present their ideas on the occasion of Earth Day 2021. Youth from ages six to 18, will address the entire gamut of environmental issues from climate change to plastic pollution. It would be a truly ground-breaking event, and you can be a part of it by virtually joining them on Sunday April 18th, 2021. The webinar will be moderated by Medini Ratnayake.

More Information: www.usacaaspas.com

Join us live on Sunday April 18th, at 8.30 P.M. 2021 https://www.facebook.com/aspaslausa/live Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana, Former Deputy Director-General, United Nations

 

 

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Sat Mag

How to flush cholesterol out of your body

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Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells in your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need. The cholesterol in your body that you do not need comes from animal bodies.

If you have more cholesterol in your body than you need, then you are heading for heart disease and heart attacks. A build-up of cholesterol narrows arteries, causing a restriction of blood flow to the heart. Very often a person with high cholesterol levels has no symptoms until he has his first heart attack.

This is even more problematic if you are overweight – which you will be, because the food that causes an increase in cholesterol also increases your weight. Though some cholesterol components are stored in the liver and gallbladder, the main storage area is in fat cells called adipocytes. When you have too much cholesterol, these cells swell up and you gain weight. Too much cholesterol can be caused by eating too much fat or carbohydrates.

 

There are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL

High density lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol which protects you from hearts attacks, and strokes, by mopping up excess bad cholesterol. It takes the cholesterol that you don’t need back to the liver. The liver breaks it down so it can be passed out of your body. LDL is bad cholesterol. This blocks the blood supply and causes strokes and heart attacks. Non-HDL take cholesterol from the liver to the cells around your body. Too much bad cholesterol (non-HDL) can be harmful because it sticks to the inside walls of your arteries. This can lead to fatty material (atheroma) building up – this process is known as atherosclerosis.

Cholesterol is found in animal foods, meat, milk, butter and cheese.

There are only two things that raise cholesterol in the blood: saturated and trans fats.

Saturated fats are found in meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods like biscuits and popcorn, margarine, deep-fried, and processed foods, basically junk food.

Trans fats occur in some fried and processed foods, also in junk food.

In adults, total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered healthy. 200 – 239 mg/dL is borderline high. 240 mg/dL and above is high. LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.

How do you know that your cholesterol levels are high? You usually don’t. There are no typical signs if you have high cholesterol, which is why it is so important to get it checked. It is a hidden risk factor, which means it happens without us knowing until it is too late. Some people get soft, yellowish, growths or lesions on the skin, especially round the eyes, called xanthomas. If you are lucky you develop left-sided chest pain, pressure, or fullness; dizziness; unsteady gait; slurred speech; or pain in the lower legs. Any of these conditions may be associated with high cholesterol.

How do you flush cholesterol out of your body?

Stop eating meat or drinking milk. Avoid ghee, butter and paneer, and seafood like crabs, shrimps and lobsters. Don’t smoke. Exercise. Eat fewer refined grains such as maida. Foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol levels include white bread, white potatoes, and white rice, highly processed sugars. Fried foods should be avoided, as well as foods high in saturated fats.

Eat fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, every day.

A report from Harvard Health has identified foods that actively decrease cholesterol levels: Oats, barley and whole grains, beans, eggplant and okra, nuts, vegetable oil (canola, sunflower), fruits (mainly apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus), soy and soy-based foods. Eating just one and one-half cups of cooked oatmeal a day can lower your cholesterol by 5 to 8%. Oatmeal contains soluble and insoluble fibre – two types that your body needs.

In June 2020 a report, led by Imperial College London Majid Ezzati, et al.​ and involving dozens of universities, “Repositioning of the global epicentre of non-optimal cholesterol” ​was published in Nature. It said that while cholesterol levels have declined in high income countries, particularly Europe, since 1980 , they have increased vastly in lower and middle income countries, with Asia, specially Southeast Asia, now being the centre.

The reason for this is the consumption of animal-based foods, refined carbohydrates (maida) and palm oil. In short, the heart attack and stroke risks have been globally repositioned with the shifting of a high cholesterol diet.

A group of nearly 1,000 researchers, from around the world, analysed data from 1,127 studies comprising 102.6 million adults, to assess global trends in cholesterol levels from 1980 to 2018. This is the largest ever study of global cholesterol levels.

Previously cholesterol was considered a problem in high income Western countries.

The report said that Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland (the centre of the milk/meat diet) and Iceland (meat) had shown the steepest declines in cholesterol, going from the highest to the lowest. There has been a sharp drop in LDL cholesterol in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.

China, which had the lowest levels of cholesterol in 1980, was among the highest in 2018. India, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand have not covered themselves in glory either.

In 1980 Australian women ranked 32nd highest in the world in cholesterol levels. Today they are 146th . Australian men have fallen from 31st highest to 116th. 

Dr Avula Laxmaiah, National Institute of Nutrition, one of the authors of the research paper, said LDL cholesterol among Indian men ranked 128th in 1980 and remained the same in 2018.  Women are 139th in the global line-up.

Other conditions, that can lead to high cholesterol levels, include diabetes drugs that increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol, such as progestins, anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids. India is one of the highest users of steroids – not directly, but through these being fed to chicken.

The authors have suggested that each country in Asia set into place prices, and regulatory policies, that shift diets to non-saturated fats. But, at the end of the day it is not prices that will decide – meat/chicken and milk are already expensive but it doesn’t stop you from eating them. You will have to take a personal decision, depending on how much you value your life or the lives of your family.

(To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org)

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