Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stern warning!

OK, someone sooner or later would 'play' on the name. But the points raised by the recent economic report on global climate change commissioned in the UK is not a joke.

Ignoring global warming may & some say will result in an economic nightmare. The report scientists, politicians and economists have been giving their reactions to the report by Sir Nicholas Stern. For example, the former World Bank chief economist has warned that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%.

An important statement and one that sends some spinal shudders has been made by Professor Bill McGuir from the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, he says, 'The scariest thing about the Stern report is that it may not be scary enough. If we lose the Greenland ice sheet in the next few centuries, leading to a 7 metre rise in sea level - as well we might - then Stern's £3.68 trillion will be a drop in the ocean compared to the ultimate cost of climate change'.

Of deep concern is the lack of co-ordinated global effort. As many of us know the major contributors to pollution (especially industrial/commercial and domestic) have refused to sign-up to the Kyoto agreement.

Worrying still is the continue denial that they are contributors, stating that statistics may be wrong.

Although there are some that continue to state that regardless of the effects of pollution, the Earth is changing anyway, I would have thought that it would be better not to make things worse.

Renewalable energy sources and harnessing natural systems requires commitment and investment. It is awful to see wastage too, for example, office lights left on in empty lifeless buildings for hours on end.

Satellite evidence – What more do we need to change our ways?

Satellite Pictures show that Greenland is currently losing about 100 billion tonnes of ice a year and that much of the ice is being lost from southeast Greenland.

US space agency (NASA) scientists have undertaken a new assessment of the rate of melting occurring on the great ice sheet that covers the region.

Their data comes from satellites that detect changes in mass by monitoring tiny fluctuations in the pull of gravity as they fly over the Earth. The results indicate that Greenland lost about 100 billion metric tonnes (or gigatonnes, Gt) of ice per year from 2003 to 2005. Other estimates for the same period have been close to 240 Gt of ice.

Although some figures show stabilization over certain years and also centralized snow fall, the common denominator is that change is happening.

Interestingly, NASA – An institution is clearly showing evidence of change, yet the politicians of the day, refuse to keep their own house in order. I really hope that it is not to late for the world. Collectively we should be proactive in wanting to save lives and anything we can do as a world community to assure our current and future survival has to be worth investing in - rather than taxing us on past oversights!

Ironically, the world continues to import massive shipments from China, comprising of our love for consumer goods, yet it finds difficultly in understanding that associated industrial processes WILL add to a possible nightmare for all.


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Monday, October 23, 2006

Cycling for health and Charity

A couple of parallel thoughts this week.

1. A couple of week's back I attended the annual charity evening for those that have completed the annual Birmingham to London Cycle ride, held every July and organised by the Sikh Arts and Cultural Association. This year £15,000 was raised for Whizz Kids, a national charity that helps disabled children.

2. With this week being reduce wastage week. I also thought about how important it is to respect our environment - For example, often school runs and short trips are performed by car. Although one could argue that the road network makes it increasingly difficult to walk, run or cycle, the path to change has to come from us alone.

Apart from the environmental benefits, there is an enormous health benefit too. Getting on your bike regularly not only gets you where you want to go faster than a car, it is good for your heart and health.

Cycling everyday is an effective and enjoyable form of aerobic exercise. This is the type of exercise that is most effective at promoting good health. For example, cycling reduces the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and the most common form of diabetes.

One rough calculation suggests that new cyclists covering short distances can reduce their risk of death (mainly due to the reduction of heart disease) by as much as 22 per cent. Cycling can be part of a programme to lose weight because it burns the energy supplied by a chocolate bar in an hour (about 300 calories). A 15-minute bike ride to and from work five times a week burns off the equivalent of 11 pounds of fat in a year. That kind of cycling pattern also meets the Government's latest target on exercise: that we should take part in some mild to moderate physical activity ... five times a week*.

Cycling can have positive effects on how we feel too. Moderate exercise has been found to reduce levels of depression and stress, improve mood and raise self-esteem, and has also been found to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

*NB Always consult your Doctor, before you start any form of exercise regime, especially if you are not performed any exercise or physical activity for a while.

How cycling improves fitness
A study carried out for the Department of Transport found that 'even a small amount of cycling can lead to significant gains in fitness'. The study found that aerobic fitness was boosted by 11 per cent after just six weeks of cycling 'short distances' four times a week. According to the study people who do not exercise who start cycling move from the third of the population who are the least fit, to the fittest half of the population in just a few months.

Who can cycle?
There are no real age barriers to cycling, and people of most fitness levels can cycle, slowly and gently if necessary. Anyone with heart disease or other conditions affecting their activity should, of course, consult their doctor before starting any exercise programme. Those of all body shapes and all but the most extreme body weights can ride a bike.

Getting Started
Most cyclists are 'utility' cyclists where the bike is a way of getting from A to B, and getting some exercise is an added bonus. Nearly three-quarters of journeys people make are of five miles or less, and these could be achievedby most people.

Further information.

There are some great resources to read-up on cycling:

Cycle Touring Club www.ctc.org.uk
London Cycling Campaign www.lcc.org.uk

Now is also the right time to start thinking about the annual Birmingham to London cycle ride organised by the Sikh Art and Cultural Association. Run over 2 days during the 3rd weekend of July, you can work towards completing your centennial mile on the first day and finish the final 40 on the second. Every year over 240 riders take part and The Sikh Times also wonderfully sponsor the event too. Visit: www.charitybikeride.com

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Monday, October 16, 2006

The Miniature Earth

You must have recently heard of the merger between Google and YouTube.
Being interested in developing new media, I came accross the following video on You Tube, just by chance.

It is called The Miniature Earth and in my view both awesome and a reality check.

Based on a report entitled: The Village Earth, it adapts some of work by Donella H. Meadows, a professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College. Her research looked at viewing the Earth in the context of consisting of just 1000 citizens.

Her research shows that if the world were a village of just 1000 people:

584 would be Asians,
123 would be Africans
95 would be East and West Europeans
84 Latin Americans
55 Soviets (still including for the moment Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, etc.)
52 North Americans
6 Australians and New Zealanders

The people of the village would have considerable difficulty communicating in :

165 Mandarin
86 English
83 Hindi/Urdu
64 Spanish
58 Russian
37 Arabic

This list accounts for the mother-tongues of only half the villagers!

In the village there would be:
300 Christians (183 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 33 Orthodox)
175 Moslems
128 Hindus
55 Buddhists
47 Animists
210 all other religons (including atheists)

Sixty of the thousand villagers would be over the age of 65.

Just under half of the married women would have access to and be using modern contraceptives.
Each year 28 babies would be born.

Each year 10 people would die, three of them for lack of food and one from cancer.

One person in the village would be infected with the HIV virus; that person would most likely not yet have developed a full-blown case of AIDS.

In this thousand-person community, 200 people would receive three-fourths of the income; another 200 would receive only 2% of the income.

Only 70 people would own an automobile (some of them more than one automobile).

About one-third would not have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Of the 670 adults in the village half would be illiterate.

The woodland would be declining rapidly; the wasteland increasing; the other land categories would be roughly stable.

There would be five soldiers, seven teachers, one doctor. Of the village's total annual expenditures of just over $3 million per year, $181,000 would go for weapons and warfare, $159,000 for education, $132,000 for health care.

An associated video has been developed that uses the ratio of 100 rather than 1000. It can be viewed at my blog site at: http://drsavi.blogspot.com. Alternatively, you can enter the following link into your computer to get direct access to it.


Interestingly, since the Miniature Earth project was started / published in 2001, the video has been seen by over 2million people and linked to more than 20,000 websites. It shows that there is some heart in humanity. It is now up to us to make the change happen.

When you look at the world, it is really just a small blob in the universe - we really do need to give it and each other more respect.


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Monday, October 09, 2006

The thought behind?

This week the press went crazy over a statement made by John Straw (Leader of the House of Commons (UK)):

I was not tempted at all to call this article, 'behind the veil' as I considered that it would be inapproriate.
Over the last week the national press have become very close to the issue of the veil and muslim women.

The issues that came to mind were:

1. What is the history of the veil?
2. Do we really know enough about what muslim women that adhere to it actually feel/experience?
3. Does the whole issue not skim or link to feminist arguements about self expression ?
4. There appears to be little mention of the element of modesty deployed by other religions, for example items worm by Nuns or Monks?
5. Although there are different types of veils, do we really understand its adoption or applicability, especially in the context of Islam being followed in different cultures and regions?
6. What did Jack Straw actually mean by requesting? What about when he worked with the blind minister David Blunkett ?
7. Why has this come to ahead as an issue right now? Especially as there appears to be a press frenzy on yet another topic concerning muslims?
8. What is the impact on a multicultural society?
9. Is religious education extensive enough in todays schools?
10. Is there a risk of complicating this issue and potentially confusing it with other religions, i.e:
It appears that the veil is not essential whereas in other religions items are be spirtually essential, for example Turbans for Sikhs is a completely different issue.

With regard to the latter point I was disturbed by the attempted link to Turbans in simply the title / sub-headline of a Sunday Times (UK) article. This link is incorrect.

As a society we now collectively enter this debate with further confusion added by the implication by some of the potential impact that this issue can have on possibly contributing to the separation of society.
Suddenly we all seem to have forgotten diversity.

Disturbance continues to haunt me as I read over the weekend from a passing tabloid headline that '97% of those polled wish to ban the veil'. Who are these 97% ? What do they really think? Does it not make you wonder that if someone smiles at you, is the smile geniuine? If they (?) have issues with the veil what else do they have issues with?

Another justication point made has been the expression by some about the need of an open debate with the need to consider what is 'acceptable'. Again, I'm confused.

Take the British occupation of India. If we consider that in the early days of occupation, many British settlers, 'went native' - until it was deemed during the latter part of the Victorian era to be unacceptable.

Interestingly, India still suffers from some complexes..

* Childeren from rich households speak English as they deem it to be 'advanced'
* Some of the best schools are considered to be Catholic based

Regardless of the issue of 'to veil or not to veil', there is a danger that a lack of understanding about people and their cultures can lead to mischief by some to instigate agitation.

This lack of education is ripe. Take for example, the ignorant attack on a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) just after the 7/7 attacks in London. Let us make it clear, any attack on any religious place of worship is a crime.
We certainly do not want the media to establish an environment of civil war!

This whole issue raises the point that due consideration should be given to the sensitivities of others. A private discussion or request is often better than complicating and concerning people with confusing statements. This is not to say that there is not a place to debate such issues. In the case of the veil, it appears to relate to personal choice rather than religious essentials. Those that represent muslims from a policy / religious guidance perspective should be consulted - instead of sensationalism there needs to be sensible dialogue.

The current situation reveals a possible hidden sentiment which could potentially create a dangerous aura of paranoia.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Why just for a day? Why not forever?

I recently attend a wedding where the groom from a Sikh background, who incidentally had been growing a beard for the last few weeks put on a turban over his knot less head and went with his bride through a Sikh wedding ceremony. After the ceremony he headed for a hotel where at the reception he emerged clean shaven.

It has been said when you emerge and depart from this world it is with nothing. I believe that we have one item that does travel with us. It is called our soul, spirit or sense of presence. These elements or attributes enable and contribute strongly to our uniqueness and ability for independent thought. What we take with us is good deeds. We also have the potential to leave behind our integrity through honest living and treating everyone as equals. When we enter the world our religious path is in front of us. A sense of morals, mutual respect and love for each other are great personal goals – they are all ahead of us and something to strive for.

Last week I had a glimpse of the new satellite channel that features Punjabi culture. It aims to celebrate and illuminate cultural aspects of the Punjab for both an Indian and international audience. A few days back they had images of turbaned Sikhs walking through a village as part of a religious march. The segment was part / formed part of an insert congratulatory section by Dara Singh (clean shaven & the ex Champion wrestler/body builder/actor (?). He declared his support for the channel. During the freeview pre-launch days, programmes on astrology where being shown?! Combine this with Bollywood’s continual and damaging portrayal and emphasis of mixed Hindu and Sikh marriages being normal, everyday and common. Some people communicate in coarsely spoken Punjabi deemphasising the sweetness of this language. Is it not about time that we had a channel for Sikhs not what we have today, channels that are a mix, mesh and make-up of all things potentially from the northern part of India. Hey! We have so much talent in our community we have the potential to assemble some effective and educational media. We need more media to communicate the importance of all the elements of Sikhism which is not exclusive to Punjab. Sikhs are spread out all over the world and we have local links too that can help closer ties to all communities.

In the case of the ‘Just for a day’ person, everyone is different. The latter implies that he has created his own ‘pick-n’-mix’ situation. We need to remember that religion is not like a shopping trip to a super market. A road, path or given way of life (religion) is not thought controlled, it is clearly mapped out and the route presented when followed properly will lead to merging with God.

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