Four levels of interpretation of 'If Not Higher'
For your understanding:
There is a tendency among many religious communities to try to please God (out of fear/hope) despite the fact that many know serving the poor would better serve the God. In the story “If not higher”, I.L Perethz tries to convince the people that serving the poor and the needy is way more meaningful than just doing the prayers. He handles this religiously sensitive issue very carefully. In Nepal's context, this story could be interpreted as an advocacy to reject temple worship and accept people service -- believe in humanity (like Laxmi Prasad Devkota said). This could have been a very controversial story at that time, if it were handled poorly. He does not tell people to stop prayers but shows how people could serve poor and still continue their prayers. Here lies the greatness of the writer, and the story. Hence, we are still reading it today!
There was a village and they used to have prayer every morning. But during the prayer the priest, Rabbi, would vanish. One curious fellow, Litvak wants to know where Rabbi goes during the prayer time. One day he secretly follows Rabbi and finds out that Rabbi actually disappears every morning to serve the poor and the needy. He sees Rabbi going to the forest, collecting firewood and giving it to an old women. Rabbi even helps the old women in kindling fire. Litvak was surprised to see this. He was very much impressed by Rabbi and immediately becomes his disciple.
The story tries to tell us that heavenly pleasure can be found here in earth in serving the poor and the needy. This story also tries to convey the message that serving the poor and the needy is more important and meaningful than prayers. The story redefines the concept of heaven in that it shows heaven in earth and demystifies the myth about Rabbi’s “ascend to heaven”.
One of the striking features of this story is that it draws from and relates to religious texts. However, instead of preaching any religious dogma, the story attempts to challenge the traditional notion of religious duties of a religious person. Without offending the religious community, the story tries to tell that religion is for humanity and God is happy when you serve the poor. This makes the story evergreen.
Another striking feature of the story that it presents some powerful characters, such as Litvak and rabbi. While Litvak is presented as a common man (a doubting Thomas) who is cynical of rabbi’s activities and people’s faith, rabbi as a wise priest who believes in serving the poor than just preaching or praying.
[How did you feel after reading the story? It's your feelings and views. So you can write yourself. You cannot be wrong in this, as it is just your own reflection. You can say the story chanced your views, behaviour, thoughts. Or say that the story taught some lesson, if any. Relate to yourself.]
-Look and Gaze
Today, we're talking about sustainable development.
This is a crucial concept.
I think it's crucial for the world.
But what does it mean?
I think our starting point has to be, how crowded our world is today.
We're 7.2 billion people. The numbers have soared.
We're up ten times since the start of the industrial revolution.
Billions more people are likely to be added to the world's population
in the 21st century.
This is making for a very complicated world.
A world divided between great wealth and still crippling poverty.
A world facing unprecedented environmental challenges.
Sustainable development is really two ideas.
One, is a way to understand this complicated world.
How do the economic,
the social, the environmental, the
political, the cultural factors fit together?
And the second aspect of sustainable development is the idea
of sensible goals for this crowded, interconnected planet.
How do we make the world both prosperous, fair and also
so that our numbers, and our economy don't overrun the physical planet itself?
That's really the aim of the study of sustainable development.
To understand the world and of course, to help improve the world.
And we need to get into that complexity.
Any idea there's one answer, one simple, magic formula, one explanation,
one force at work; we have to put that aside.
We have to
embrace complexity, because we are talking about a complicated, interconnected
set of relations of a world economy that now spans
all parts of the world. And connects all people, all businesses,
technologies in flows of trade, finance, ideas, advertising,
production systems, but also connects us with
the physical Earth, in unprecedented ways.
Humanity actually changing the climate, changing what specie
survive on the planet, changing the chemistry of
the ocean, changing the safety of the air,
changing the access and availability of fresh water.
It's an unprecedented situation. It's a fascinating situation.
It will be the challenge of your generation.
Let's see what we can figure out of all of this
and how through that knowledge we can do something about it.
Have a look at this remarkable, the piece of technology the Maglev in Shanghai.
Which carries people at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour, more than 400
kilometers per hour, to and from the city and the airport.
It, it's a magnificent piece of technology.
A product of joint work of a major
leading engineering companies and Europe and those in China.
It's been operating for the past decade.
It is a kind of model of what sustainability can mean
in the future. Because if a electric, trains,
these, magnetic levitation trains or fast intercity rail based
on electricity are powered by, clean electricity.
Then we have a way of helping people to move helping
goods and services to move in a way that's safe for environment and
technology is exemplified by the Maglev is definitely
one way forward. But we also have to realize
that not all the world right now is in, in the
state of traveling to and from the airport in magnetic
levitation. Let's look a, another remarkable city
another great city in many ways, but crowded beyond belief, the
city of Dhaka. You see a crowds bustle,
and actually a kind of transport you can hardly find anywhere else in the world.
I've experienced it, it's astounding to ride in
a bicycle, a rickshaw or one of these buses
on this incredibly crowded path.
Thousands and thousands of people walking to and from work.
Life out on the streets. What are we really seeing here?
First, we are seeing one of the most crowded places in the world.
We are seeing an example of the incredible rise of global population.
Bangladesh is a
country now, with around 160 million people.
That's more than four times the 37 million people in
Bangladesh in the middle of the last century in 1950.
Dhaka, itself, is one of the largest cities in
the world right now but think of what's happened.
In 1965 Dhaka had about a half a million people.
Dhaka has more than 15 million people.
You can imagine how the infrastructure's been completely over run.
How transport systems, water systems, sanitation systems and all the
rest Are facing unbelievable stress with this kind of population increase.
This is also part of the reality of our planet.
How do you achieve sustainable development in a, very low income,
very, very crowded place like Bangladesh. Especially taking into account
how vulnerable low-lying Bangladesh is to the climate change ahead.
So, sustainable development for us, first, is
a way to understand these complicated challenges.
I think it's useful to think of there being four dimensions to
There's the economics, there's the societal
dimension, how our communities work, culture,
civil society, there's the natural environment
and there's our political or government systems.
How do economic, social, environmental and government systems interact?
The second way to think about sustainable
development is not only as an analytical approach, one that takes a holistic
view of society. But also as what we would call a normative
or ethical approach, identifying goals for society.
Sustainable development urges us to have a holistic
vision of what a good society should be.
say well good society is a rich society.
But we know that can't quite be it just to focus on the economics.
If a country is rich on average, but all the
wealth is held by very few people and most of the
people are poor, Think most of us would say that's not
a good society in the sense, that we would aspire towards.
So social inclusion is the second aspect of a
Meaning that economic well being is widely shared among
different ethnic religious or racial groups in a country.
It's shared between men and women.
So, there's gender equality, it's shared among regions of a country,
so that there's not just one pocket of prosperity in a sea of poverty.
A third aspect
of what we would think to be a good society is one that is a good
steward of the natural environment. We all know that if we
break the physical systems of biodiversity
if we destroy the oceans if we deforest the great rain
forests, we're going to lose immeasurably. If we
continue on a path that fundamentally changes the Earth's climate in a way
that's unrecognizable for us in the way that humanity has developed.
We're going to face grave dangers.
So from a normative perspective,
environmental sustainability certainly seems right.
If we care about the well being of our children and
And for most of us we also care very much how government functions.
People living in places with massive corruption with lawlessness.
Where the politicians are not to be trusted.
Where government services are not fair.
Where there's massive discrimination, insider dealing and
so forth. This creates a lot of unhappiness.
All over the world, people feel happier
and better when they can trust their government.
But unfortunately, many places in the world, people don't trust their
governments to be honest, to be fair, even to keep them basically secure.
So from a normative perspective, we could say that
a good society is not only a wealthy society.
But is one that is prosperous
and inclusive, environmentally sustainable and well governed.
And our fundamental question will be how
can we take sustainable development as a goal?
Use our knowledge of the interconnections of
the economy, of society, of the environment and
To think through this crowded 21st century in a world of massive
divisions of wealth and poverty and world of unprecedented environmental stress.
But also in a world of Maglevs and many, many other technological miracles.
How can we find our way through, through this century to produce property
that is inclusive, that is sustainable. And that is according to
decent governance with rule of law, transparency and accountability.
There are some very powerful ways forward to meet sustainable
development as a goal a shared goal for the planet.
One very crucial aspect of sustainable
development is economic well-being and prosperity.
There have been great gains in material well-being.
In average income per person, in other indicators of material
life, such as health and life expectancy, over the course of recent decades.
We'll see, of course, that these are not gains enjoyed by
everybody within a country, certainly not in all parts of the world.
But on average there have been very notable gains
in economic well-being achieved through decades of economic growth.
And this is a phenomenon that is
of crucial importance for those countries that are
still poor today. Perhaps their, their greatest goal is to
achieve economic growth so that they can narrow the gap in material
conditions that they face today with respect to the richer countries.
If those countries living in extreme poverty today where, that they can
hardly meet their basic needs, are aiming to live like more of
the world that increasingly has assurance of basic needs,
and many parts of the world that live with remarkably high standards of living.
Another aspect of this material change is that in a world of
greater production greater ability to grow
food greater productivity in manufacturing, in transport,
in power and in other key parts of the economy.
The population has risen alongside that from the middle of the last century
in 1950, the world's population at the time was about 2.5 billion people.
It's roughly tripled since then,
absolutely extraordinary to around 7.2 billion
people today, and the numbers are continuing to rise.
Roughly an increase of 75 to 80 million
people added to the world's population each year.
Meaning that it won't be long, probably around 2024, 2025, when another
billion people will be on the planet when we'll reach the 8 billionth person.
Let's look at what growth really means and there has been no,
exemplar of economic growth more remarkable than China.
Of course, it's the world's most populous country, with 1.3 billion people.
So anything major that happens in China is earth shaking.
But also China has been among the fastest growing
economies in world history. Since China undertook
some basic market reforms, after 1978 until
just about the last couple of years when growth has begun to slow a little bit,
China was averaging roughly 10% per year economic growth.
Absolutely astounding, and it's very handy, you know, something that I'll refer
to many times to use what we call the rule of 70.
Take the number 70,
divide it by the growth rate in this case 10, 70 divided by 10 is 7.
It means that China has been doubling it's national income every seven years.
The rule of 70 says 70 divided by the growth rate gives
you the number of years to double the size of the economy.
Well, what does that mean? Take a look at Shenzhen China.
Shenzhen is a city very close to Hong Kong in
southern China. And in 1980, or so, when you receive this
picture, Shenzhen was a small village, mainly rural
not very many people perhaps 30,000
people living in Shenzhen. Now, take a look at Shenzhen
today, nearly 10 million people, Shenzhen has become a
modern metropolis, it's a major manufacturing hub for the world.
Not only did populations rise, did incomes per person soar,
but also, how people live has clearly, fundamentally
changed. From rural agricultural livelihoods
to modern urban manufacturing and services and in a matter of three decades.
While most of the world's not going to experience a Shenzhen like change.
But that basic pattern of economic growth a transition from poor, small-holder
farming to modern manufacturing, especially modern service economy,
is part of the normal pathway of economic growth.
And while very few places grow at the rate of 10% per year
with a seven year doubling time, it's still is the case that many
parts of the world, even many of the poorest parts of the world
today are experiencing significant economic growth, and
with that a significant transition to urbanization.
Any significant transition from agriculture,
to manufacture and especially to services.
If you look at the next graph, you see something also, absolutely
astounding that we really need to keep in mind, and that's demography.
In other words, change of world population.
Now, this is a graph that shows you the long, long haul
over the last couple million years, even before there was the modern
But let's just take the human part of this and what we call the neolithic
era, that's since the age of agriculture began around 10,000 years ago.
Well, the human population for a long time if you look
at the picture from 10,000 years ago, maybe 7 or 8,000 years
BC, was less than
a half a billion people. Of course, nobody knows but
maybe, 300 million people of all the people on the planet.
That number did not change very much for a very, very long
time the graph is quite flat numbers rising, and
maybe to 4 or 500 million people in 1AD.
And that tells you that over much of human history since
the beginning of agriculture, human population did not change very much.
But take a look at the right hand side of
the graph, all of a sudden, the population begins to soar.
Just about the time
of major breakthroughs in technology around the industrial revolution
the beginning of the era of the steam engine in
1750 or so, we see the population curve turning up and turning up
remarkably steeply. Around 1830,
humanity reached the great milestone of a billion people
on the planet. So for thousands and thousands of years,
the population was under 1 billion. Then from 1830 to
1930 just in one century, the second billion was added.
But then the numbers really started to soar, because from
1930 to 1960, just 30 years, the third billion
was added. We're on track to go from 7 billion,
reached in the year 2011, to 8 billion,
probably around 2024 or 2025, 9 billion sometime in the 2040s.
So this change of population is absolutely astounding.
Our age is an age of economic
growth combined with rapid population growth, and together, those two
dynamics have meant a massive expansion of economic activity, of total
output produced on the planet each year, and of course, alongside
that, a massive increase of humanity's impact on the planet.
And that is one of the great challenges in sustainable development.
Now, another bright spot of recent
development, is that alongside that economic
growth, and alongside the rise in
population numbers, has also come improved health.
Around 1950, for every 1,000 children who were born, an estimated
134 out of the 1,000 would not survive till their first birthday.
That number 134 per thousand is the infant mortality rate.
It tells us how many children won't make it to the first birthday.
What's very heartening is that that number is coming down, and coming
so that 134 per thousand IMR, or infant mortality
rate, is down to an estimated 37 per thousand today.
37 children still don't make it to their first birthday,
dying of malaria or, pneumonia, or other preventable diseases.
Millions of children, dying before their first birthday,
still of preventable and treatable causes. We'll talk about that.
We'll see what can be done.
We'll see how even more progress can be made, and can be made rapidly.
But taking the historic trends, to drop from
134 to 37, is a real accomplishment.
And one that has improved the quality of life and certainly eliminated
a lot of the tragedy and anguish that was part of humanities
existence until the improvements of public health, and modern medical care.
With more children surviving and with health improving at older ages as well,
the good news is that our life expectancy is also rising, and rising
Take a look at what's happened to what we call life expectancy at birth.
That is statistically the, the average length of a life span
taking into account the risks of death at each age.
In the middle of the last century in the period 1950 to 1955,
the average life expectancy you know, for people on the planet was
around 47 years.
As of today, the estimated life expectancy at birth is more than 70 years.
Or roughly 71 years. And in the high income countries,
around 80 years. This is another example of economic
growth and material progress, and an example of the kind of progress that is
being achieved in most parts of the world. What's the lesson?
The lesson is that this first
pillar of sustainable development, economic well being,
is something that's achievable, and being achieved in large parts of the planet.
fewer tragic deaths of young children, and greater health
and longevity for most of us, with life expectancy rising several decades
from what was experienced in the middle of the last century until now.
This shows, while economic development can improve lives, lives in
which one can have the confidence that their children will
also grow up healthy, survive, and have good prospects in life.
But what we need to do, is to ensure that, that economic growth is inclusive,
that it's not leaving millions and millions of people behind,
and that it is environmentally sustainable.
So that the progress itself doesn't cut our natural
life support systems of biodiversity,
food productions, safe climate productive oceans.
Because if we do that, the gains that we've made will turn
out to be fleeting and evanescent, that could lead to real tragedy.
So it's that holistic approach of ensuring, that
economic growth and material improvement, is socially inclusive and
environmentally sustainable, that is the great challenge.
In many ways we live in a world of plenty.
Economic growth has produced incredible wealth.
Many parts of the world have escaped from economic hardship.
Countries like China, which were once very
poor, are now solid middle income countries.
But sustainable development calls for prosperity
that is broad based. And, despite living in a world of plenty,
there are still large numbers of people, more than a billion, more
than one out of every seven persons on the planet,
living in extreme poverty. What is the face
of extreme poverty? If you look at this
small [UNKNOWN] farmer At this peasant living in Northern Ethiopia.
There's no modern transport around you
don't see electricity grids in the distance.
You see a pretty parched environment.
That's not a complete coincidence. A dry land area.
Of, poor farmers,
eking out a living, trying to ensure
enough annual food production to feed themselves their families.
Maybe to get that surplus to bring to market for a little bit of
[SOUND] Another part of poverty?
Have a look at a street in a slum of Nairobi.
Millions of people live in
the slums of African cities like Nairobi hundreds of millions of people
live in urban slums around the world. This is another face of poverty.
While it remains true to this day that
more than half of the world's population living
in extreme poverty lived in rural areas, of
course, the urban poverty is known to us.
Often the urban poverty is living right next to a great urban
wealth, and what do
we see in this street in Nairobi. You see an unpaved, muddy road.
People living without modern power, probably
without any modern sewerage or sanitation.
In other words,
even though these are people living in an urban area of several
they're also like that peasant in Northern
Ethiopia, unable to secure basic needs. Access to
emergency healthcare. Access to basic clean
power in the form of electricity or natural gas
Lack of access to safe drinking water
and sanitation, and barely eking out a monetary
living that can meet even the most basic
of minimum needs of clothing and safe shelter.
When we speak about poverty, therefore, we're
necessarily speaking about a many dimensional concept.
Poverty is usually viewed as lack of adequate income, but I
want us to think about it as a lack of income, a lack
of access to basic health services. A lack of access
to basic amenities that most of the world takes for granted.
Safe water, sanitation, electricity,
access for children to, a decent education.
People living in extreme poverty are people who cannot meet these
basic needs. And while proportions of
the world living in extreme poverty have been shrinking
markedly in recent decades, the numbers are still staggering.
Depending on one's estimate and one's exact categorization
of extreme poverty, it's fair to say, that between one and
two billion people in the world are struggling to meet basic needs.
And probably fair to say, that around
one billion people struggle for daily survival.
Will they have enough to eat?
Will polluted water cause a disease that threatens their lives?
Will a mosquito bite carrying malaria carry away
their child because they can't get access to the $0.80
dose of medicine needed to cure the disease.
That's the struggle of daily survival for people
living in extreme poverty. Where is this poverty?
Well, one place to look is the average incomes in different parts
of the world.
Take the national production of the economy,
divided by the population so that one gets
the amount of income generated per person,
per year, in different countries of the world.
And if you put them
in a color code as you see here. You can see a
huge variation in income levels around the world.
Those dark blue areas, there aren't too many of them.
Canada, and the United States.
Western Europe. Australia and New Zealand.
Japan and South Korea.
Those are the high income parts of the world.
And by and large, extreme poverty has been eliminated from those countries.
But take the bright red or beige parts of the world.
There you'll see the greatest poverty. And what you can see very, very
clearly in this world map, is that extreme poverty today is concentrated
mainly in two regions of the world. The first is in tropical Africa.
That's the part of Africa in between the
northern African countries and the countries at the
very south of Africa, and you see on
average, a lot of poverty within those countries.
Often half or so of the population, living in extreme poverty.
And the other concentrated
part of poverty in the world is in south Asia.
India, Pakistan, Nepal,
and Bangladesh, nearby countries that are
sometimes experiencing economic growth but still with vast numbers
of people, often in rural villages, living without
security of their basic needs. Thank goodness, in both Africa.
And in South Asia.
The proportions of households living in extreme poverty are coming down.
Thank goodness for the world as a whole, the numbers have been coming down.
But clearly, we still have a very serious
challenge, a moral challenge and a practical challenge
people living in extreme poverty, face risks of survival.
Often countries where poverty rates are very high, succumb to violence,
to terrorism, to epidemic diseases, to mass migrations, to
environmental disasters, that not only are tragedies for them, but
can trigger unrest and instability among their neighbors and in
other parts of the world as well.
We see in the next map another aspect of extreme poverty.
People living in extreme poverty face a burden of disease and shorter lives
as a consequence. That make their lives distinctly
more difficult, often more painful and tragic than lives of people in
other parts of the world.
Once again, where is the concentration shown in
this map of high mortality rates of young children?
In this particular map.
What's shown is the mortality of children under the age of five.
For every 1,000 births, how many children won't survive til their
What's called the under five [COUGH]
Once again we see that Africa is really the epicenter and
tropical Africa is where the highest burdens of disease still reside.
It's a stark fact that even in countries where there's a
tremendous amount of
economic progress, there can still be very
significant pockets of poverty that are unrelieved.
A lot of inequality,
lack of social inclusion, and major gaps between rich and poor.
And sometimes the starkness of that is right in front of our eyes as
in the view of Rio de Janeiro that you're looking at right now,
where in the foreground, you see the low lying favelas, the slum
areas of Rio.
And in the background, of course,
you see the, high rises, the, the modern,
very high quality of life, of, the wealthier people of Rio de Janeiro.
While there are some parts of the world where most of the
population is poor.
There are a number of countries that have
reached what we call the middle income status.
Countries like Brazil where there still are important
pockets of poverty that need to be releived.
As always with sustainable development, there's hope.
There are things that can be done to help people meet
their basic needs, to help them overcome that daily struggle for survival.
One of those opportunities that I find most exciting is shown
here in this picture of this valiant young woman a community health worker.
Working, with her backpack of medical supplies, to make
sure that if an illness does strike one of
those very poor, small holder farmers, one of their
children, that there's a cure, a remedy on the way.
And through that we can extend the benefits
of modern health and medical sciences to
reach everyone in the world. Well, we've already noticed that
the degree of poverty has a kind of geography to
it. On this fascinating depiction
of income on our globe, shown not as a maps, but as
a globe where the height of each
point on the globe measures the economic output
of that point. You can see those startlingly high levels
of GNP on the islands of Japan. You
can see that in the east coast
of Australia the very high levels of development shown
by the markers, but you can also see the low lying areas
in England, China, in India. And the point
that I want to emphasize in looking at this alternative depiction,
of the world economy, is that geography of
wealth and poverty is complex. Not only broad regions.
Say, Europe versus Africa.
Or Japan versus India, show stark differences.
But even regions within countries, the coastal areas versus the
interior of countries show very, very big differences.
When we analyze
in depth the nature of extreme poverty, the causes of why
it continues to this day even in a world of plenty.
We'll spend a lot of time looking at some of these geographic features.
Is the county, or the, city on a coast where trade is easy?
Is it in the interior where it might be more economically isolated?
Is it in
a good climate zone where food production is easy?
Or it is, is it in a dry land region as we saw in Karo, Ethiopia where
food production is a lot more difficult because
of the low level and the instability of rainfall.
Is it a healthy climate, where, disease burdens are naturally low?
Or is it a place
where killer diseases like malaria are more easily transmitted?
Geography still today plays a big role in shaping wealth and poverty.
By understanding the role of geography, we'll
make a big advance, not only in understanding
why extreme poverty continues in a world of plenty, but what we
can do about it.
One of the most important messages of sustainable
development is that we've become a threat to ourselves.
Economic production has become so large, our productivity in many
ways so high, and the numbers of us on the planet so
vast, that the effect of all this economic activity on
the physical Earth itself has become overwhelming.
For the first time in human history, for the first time in the
one species, that would be us human beings, are threatening the fundamental
parts of the Earth's own dynamics: the climate system, the
water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the ocean chemistry.
Think about the basic arithmetic. There are 7.2 billion of us on the planet
now. On average, each individual is
producing around $12,000 of output
per year, rough number, averaged over the whole year.
But with 7.2 billion people, an average of $12,000 per person,
it means that the world economy as a whole, has an output of between
80 and 90 trillion dollars per year. Many times
larger than ever in the past and continuing to expand rapidly.
And the result of all of that, in the water we are using,
the energy that we are burning, the land that is being devoted to feeding
the planet, the chemicals that are being
produced, and the pollution that results from
that poisoning the air and the waterways,
it's leading to an unprecedented environmental crisis.
One of things that's notable about this crisis,
is that it's felt by rich and poor alike.
Have a look my own city, swimming for survival
during this super storm that we experienced in October and
November, 2012, what we
called Hurricane Sandy. But halfway around the world the
same year, Beijing experienced massive flooding.
Or take a look at Bangkok, in the astounding floods of October, 2011: again
a major world city underwater, deluged by
unprecedented rains and as in all of these
cases, a huge setback for the economy, loss of life,
massive loss of property, billions or tens of billions of dollars of damage,
and an unsettled global economy,
because a disruption in one part of the world, in a world of
interconnected production of supply chains that stretch across the world.
Mean that a flood in Bangkok can
disrupt automobile production, or computer production, all over
the world, because of components or factories
that can't get to market during these disasters.
The kinds of disasters that are being felt are varied,
but what is clear, is that they're rising in number.
What we call hydrometeorological shocks or disasters: water, and weather
related, whether it's deluges, extreme storms, hurricanes and typhoons of,
huge, impact, storm surges and floods, as
swept over Manhattan or Beijing, or, Bangkok,
massive droughts, droughts that lead to, the
remarkable and shocking phenomenon you see here, of, terrible
forest fires that spread across the American West in 2012.
These kinds of varied storms, shocks, heat waves,
droughts, floods have become the new normal for the world.
In fact, it's part of a world that is so new, and so stark that
notably the geologists, have given our age even a new name.
They call it the Anthropocene. A new word that comes from
its Greek roots, anthropos and cene, anthropos meaning human
Cene meaning epoch or age of the Earth. And what the
scientists are telling us is that this is the human age of the planet.
They don't mean that in a good [LAUGH] way.
They mean it in it's uniqueness and in a very
dangerous way that humanity is changing the water cycle, the
climate is warming the temperature is melting the
glaciers is threatening the great ice sheets over Antarctica
and Greenland, is causing the oceans to become more acidic,
is threatening other species with survival in such a fundamental way
that the planet behaves differently now, even from
a geologic point of view, hence, the Anthropocene.
One of the main drivers of these changes is humanity's massive use
of coal, oil, and natural gas, the three energy sources we call
When we burn coal, oil, and gas to move our cars, heat our buildings,
drive our industrial production, produce electricity, we end
up with carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.
And carbon dioxide in the atmosphere changes the climate.
This stark graph, which we will revisit, later on,
shows the cycles of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere,
shown here, over the last 800,000 years.
Well, by natural processes mainly changes of, the
earth's, orbit, and the effects that that produced, carbon
dioxide in the Earth's history has gone up and down in kind of a
wave like manner.
But look at the recent few years, the, the blink
of an eye in terms of the Earth's history.
Carbon dioxide has suddenly soared to levels of 400 parts
per million in of CO2 in the atmosphere, something not seen on the
planet, not for
800,000 years, indeed not for 3,000,000 years.
And this is causing massive disruption of the climate system,
global warming, and more extreme events like droughts and floods.
We'll be talking a lot about this and what could be done about it.
But it is a stark illustration of
how humanity is changing the basic Earth processes.
A group of scientists got together a few years ago.
And noted that it's not only the carbon dioxide in the air, but
many other things
that we're doing.
The way we're using water the way that we're putting
nitrogen based fertilizers into the soil to help crop productivity.
But putting it on in such large
amounts that the nitrogen cycle, itself, is effected.
The way that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
affects the ocean chemistry, making the ocean more acidic.
The way we're chopping down trees
to make room for new pasture land and farmland.
In other words, all the varied effects of a big crowded
planet and a lot of economic activity, threatening the planet systems.
And so this group of scientists said we
are trespassing, boundaries that are safe for humanity.
So these scientists said we need to identify
the safe operating limits for the planet, we
need to understand what those planetary boundaries are.
And around the circle you see here
is their visualization of those planetary boundaries.
Have a close look: climate change, ocean acidification, ozone
depletion, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorous cycle, global fresh
water use, changes in land use, loss of biodiversity,
driving other species to extinction, that is, aerosol
loading, the particles we're putting into the atmosphere through industrial
processes, and chemical pollution, poisoning air and waterways.
These are planetary boundaries that we trespass at profound
risk for ourselves and for our children.
A core goal of the science of sustainable development is to
understand these risks and most importantly to determine what we can do
so that we stay within the safe operating limits of humanity, we honor
and respect these planetary boundaries, as we continue to improve
our well being. It's the combination of economic
prosperity, social inclusion, ending poverty, and ensuring environmental
sustainability, that is the holistic objective of sustainable development.
[Excerpts form Sustainable Development Lecture by www.SDSN.EDU]
working on disaster preparedness have called for timely efforts to set
up effective early warning systems and plans to manage the risks posed
by various disasters recurrent in Nepal.
In a Dialogue Series organized by UNDP and Society of Economic
Journalist of Nepal (SEJON) on Tuesday the speakers revealed that
Nepal's growth rate is at stake due to disaster risks, which has led
to annual average economic loss of around Rs 1 billion. Key note
presenter for the programme, Mr. Amod Mani Dixit, Executive Director
of Nepal Earthquake for Earthquake Technology (NSET) cited facts from
his recent study that Nepal suffered a loss over Rs. 40 billion due to
disasters while 32,802 individuals lost their lives and around one
third of the country's population (6.95 million) were affected in the
period between 1971 to 2013. The financial loss alone speaks volumes
about why we should worry about natural hazards and disaster risks,
In her opening address, Sophie Kemkhadze, UNDP Country Director, a.i.
shed light on the importance of disaster risk management and its
inherent linkages with human and economic development. She said that
the concurrent discussions on Post-2015 frameworks on Disaster Risk
Reduction (DRR) and the Sustainable Development Goals provide us a
unique opportunity - To firmly link development with understanding of,
and reducing disaster risks, and also to ensure that disaster risk
reduction is a key component of development and not an afterthought.
"Development discussion in Nepal cannot be complete unless the
discourses integrate on disaster risk management. As Nepal is aspiring
to upgrade to the status of developing nation by 2022, this is a high
time thoroughly focus on this agenda as economic prosperity is not
secured unless disaster risk management is strengthened," she said.
Speakers also noted that of other many indicators the country needs to
meet the economic vulnerability index is the one which is closely
associated with disaster risk management and this matters
significantly when it comes to Nepal's graduation to developed status.
Speakers stressed on the need for putting equal emphasis and priority
in mitigating risks associated with extensive disasters which account
for 81% of the total deaths (19% associated with intensive disasters)
and other impacts so far since 1971. They pointed out to the fact lack
of a legislation on disaster risk management should not be a pretext
for inaction. "What we need today is awareness at all levels that
disaster preparedness, such as building code implementation is not for
the purpose of revenue generation but for safety," said Dixit.
The audience had pointed questions for the panellists. President of
National Network of Community Disaster Management Committee Nepal
Jagannath Pd. Kurmi asked the panellists whether they could guarantee
that the disaster victims would be provided with relief irrespective
of their links with the political leaders and ministers, which, he
said, was the case in recent disasters. "Where the victims have not
even received basic relief, the provision of early warning system and
preparedness is a big challenge," he said. Bhakta Bahadur Shahi from
Surkhet asked why the disaster victims have not been provided with
relief even months after the disaster. He pointed out that many people
are still living in tents in the flood affected district.
The panellists had in their deliberations recommended a coherent set
of guidelines for relief and response which could address such issues.
One of the panellists, Bishnu Kharel form Care Nepal had presented on
the lessons learned from the recent disasters and recommended some
concrete actions to ensure better preparedness plans and
Other speakers during the interaction include Honorable Mr. Resham
Bahadur Lama, CA Member and Coordinator of Chure Conservation
Sub-Committee and member of Environment Conservation Committee
(Parliamentary Committee), Mr. Shanmukesh Amatya from Department of
Water Induced Disaster Prevention (DWIDP), Mr. Bishnu Kharel from Care
Nepal, Ms. Sarah Blin, Country Director, Handicap International, Ms.
Ritva Lahti, Country Representative, Nepal, International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Dialogue Series is part of UNDP's attempt to generate debate on
development challenges facing Nepal. We have been collaborating with
local partners in organizing the Dialogue Series since early 2013.
New poll results published today show clear public support, in both India and the USA, for US corporation Union Carbide to face an Indian court over the Bhopal gas leak disaster which left more than 20,000 people dead and poisoned more than half a million in 1984.
Marking the 30th anniversary of the disaster, the poll, carried out by YouGov for Amnesty International, finds that a massive 82 per cent of Indians surveyed want to see Union Carbide attend the Indian courts about its role in the gas leak at the Bhopal plant. While fewer US respondents expressed a view, of those who did, almost two thirds (62%) agreed with that call.
The corporation has consistently refused to answer charges of culpable homicide in the Indian courts.
“This poll shows that the verdict in the court of public opinion is clear. Justice has not been delivered for Bhopal, and people will not stand for it,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, speaking from Bhopal after a visit to the site of the leak.
“It is an ongoing outrage against the people of this city that a foreign company charged with serious crimes has never faced justice in an Indian court.”
Union Carbide faces outstanding charges of culpable homicide in India over the gas leak. In 1992 a Bhopal criminal court declared Union Carbide an “absconder from justice”, after it failed to appear to answer the charges.
It was the first of many attempts to evade justice. Dow Chemicals, which has owned Union Carbide since 2001, has failed to show up for two court hearings in Bhopal in the last six months.
Calls for US government action
The poll of 1,011 Indians living in urban areas and 1,000 US adults reveals strong support in both countries for the US and Indian governments to ensure that Union Carbide is held to account for the Bhopal disaster.
Seventy per cent of Indians and 45 per cent of US nationals surveyed believed that the US government should play a role in holding the corporation to account, against 24% and 30% respectively who disagreed.
“This result should act as a wake-up call to the US government, which has until now effectively provided a safe haven for Union Carbide,” said Salil Shetty.
“While the USA would never stand for a foreign-owned company evading accountability after wreaking havoc on its soil, it seems to be less concerned when the tables are turned.”
Clean-up of the site
Sixty-six per cent of Indian and 45 per cent of US respondents believe that the companies who owned and operated the Bhopal site should pay for the clean-up of the contamination.
Pollution from the abandoned site has contaminated the local water supply, posing a serious ongoing threat to the health of surrounding communities. Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals refuse to pay for a clean-up.
Paltry compensation for victims and survivors
The only area of disagreement between Indian and American respondents came over compensation for the disaster.
Union Carbide agreed to pay US$470 million (equivalent to around $900 million in today’s money) in 1989, around 14 per cent of the US$3.3 billion figure that the Indian government had initially demanded. The Government of India is now seeking additional compensation from the company.
Half of Indians surveyed said that the compensation package should be reopened, with only 27 per cent believing it to be a just settlement. In the US sample, by contrast, only 21% believed the 1989 settlement should be reassessed, with nearly half – 47 per cent – believing it should stay as it is.
“The terms of the 1989 agreement were completely egregious and almost completely in Union Carbide’s favour,” said Salil Shetty.
"It has been a major disappointment that legal technicalities have obstructed basic justice. The law has to be an instrument in service of justice for victims, not a web of processes that shields the perpetrator.”
“$470 million amounted to around $1000 per person affected by the disaster, including people who lost their livelihoods completely. Compare that to the $20 billion that British oil giant BP was made to pay in compensation for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the southern US coast in 2010.”
In a significant development last month the Indian government bowed to pressure from campaigners and promised to rely on scientific data, medical research and hospital records and accordingly revise the numbers of deaths and injuries for which it is seeking compensation. The move was widely welcomed by Bhopal survivors and prompted five women campaigners to end a nil-by-mouth hunger strike.
“We salute the determination of the Bhopal survivors who have bravely and stubbornly continued to fight when the decks have been completely stacked against them,” said Salil Shetty.
141128 Australian Embassy Press Statement on handing over of Australia Awards Scholarships to Nepalese students
Government awarded 44 Australia Awards Scholarships and two Australia
Awards Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships to 46 Nepali candidates
to pursue postgraduate studies in Australia commencing in 2015.
Australia is one of the largest providers of scholarships in Nepal.
More than 484 development-focussed scholarships have been awarded in
Nepal since the 1960s.
The farewell ceremony was presided by the Australian Ambassador to
Nepal HE Mr Glenn White and the Chief Secretary of the Government of
Nepal Mr Leela Mani Poudyal. Congratulating the awardees, Ambassador
White said "You join the many hundreds of Nepali scholarship holders
who have studied in Australia over the decades and applied their
experience to Nepal's development. In doing this you also further
strengthen the ties between our two countries." He wished the awardees
well for their studies and noted that the Scholarships would help
strengthen Nepal's capacity in key sectors such as education,
livelihoods, public policy and governance.
After distributing certificate to the awardees, Chief Secretary
Paudyal congratulated them for their achievement. He also expressed
his thanks to Australia for its valuable support and
cooperation. The awardees of this year come from diverse backgrounds
and are employed in the civil service, development sector and private
enterprise. Twenty-two of the 46 awardees are
women and 10 are public servants and they will pursue studies in
priority development sectors for Australia and the Government of Nepal
which include education, livelihoods,governance and water resource
management. The areas of study for two awardees will focus on meeting
the learning needs of Children with Disability including autism.
Through the Australia Awards the Australian Government provides access
to high quality education to promising Nepalis from all walks of life.
Eight of the Australia Awards Scholarships this year are offered to
candidates from remote regions of Nepal and traditionally marginalised
groups and more than 50 per cent of the Australia Awards are offered
For many years, scholarships have formed an important part of
Australia's bilateral aid program for Nepal. The Australian Government
offers these Australia Awards Scholarships annually in Nepal.
The next round of Australia Awards Scholarships will open for
applications between 1 February 2015 and 30 April 2015. Please visit
the Australia Awards website: www.australiaawards.gov.au or
www.australiaawardsnepal.org for further information.
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