Posts Tagged 'environmentalism'

Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers Takes Notice of “Trash on the Tracks”

Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers Discusses Garbage Problem

Much of what I write on this bog is frivolous — but some of it is quite serious. And sometimes — just sometimes — things reach the proper audience.

I received encouraging news today from Aaman Lamba, publisher of the wonderful forum Desicritics, that my essay on the huge garbage problem on Indian Railways was been posted on the online discussion forum of Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers. (I had cross-posted the piece on Desicritics, which was where it was picked up.) Who knows if this will generate any real attention, much less action. Typical of Indian engineers, there has been much buzz about triviality and process (in this case, how to resize my photos), and no substantive commentary as of yet. But the fact that someone noticed and posted the essay is a good start.

Continue reading ‘Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers Takes Notice of “Trash on the Tracks”’

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A Lot of Environmental Thoughtlessness Can Happen over Coffee

Cafe Coffee Day - environmental thoughtlessness

One of our guilty pleasures in India is the delicious vegan shake made by Café Coffee Day – even when we are not traveling with John, who eats based on principles of compassion which rule out dairy products. Iced espresso mixed with sweetened soy cream yields an irresistibly thick, frosty, dessert-drink.

Continue reading ‘A Lot of Environmental Thoughtlessness Can Happen over Coffee’

The Shit of the Saintly is Still Reeking

Garbage on the River Ganga (Ganges)

The Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious festival, has just rounded its halfway point in Parag, near Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Occurring roughly every three years, the Mela coincides with certain astrological events, and lasts approximately eight weeks. This year’s festivities, will be attended by an estimated eight million people, including the traditional quorum of spiritual poseurs, religious exhibitionists, and voyeurs. Only the most uncritically relativistic, everything-is-beautiful-in-its-own-way, intellectually blinkered observers could possibly see the Kumbh Mela as anything other than a spiritual freak show, notwithstanding the devout piety of the rank-and-file superstitious who also attend.

The rather poor 2005 film, Kumbh Mela, depicted a small slice of the brainlessness of the event. My evidence for the spiritual vacuity of the Kumbh Mela and its participants, however, is drawn from today’s Times of India headline, “Heaps of Garbage Lie Unattended in Mela Area.”

Continue reading ‘The Shit of the Saintly is Still Reeking’

Varanasi: Shit-Hole of the Gods

Ghats on the Gnaga, Varanasi

I’m posting this from the tarmac of the airport in Delhi (I no more enjoy calling it “Indira Gandhi International Airport” than I would willingly refer to National Airport in Washington, D.C. “Ronald Reagan Airport”), on my way to the 7th Annual International AIDS Conference. India is playing host to this year’s gathering of leading scientists, doctors, and NGOs working on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the venue for the conference is Varanasi.

I am looking forward to the conference, at which I will be representing an innovative biotechnology project that provides unique sample preservation tools to enable the diagnosing HIV infection through analysis of DNA. Still, I am dreading being back in Varanasi. Rather than recount my reasons, let me attach the text of an email I sent following my previous visit in 2002.
Continue reading ‘Varanasi: Shit-Hole of the Gods’

Alang: Shipbreaking, Salvage, and Environmental Issues

Shipbreaking at Alang
Photo courtesy of Greenpeace International

We traveled to Alang, a stretch of beach on the Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat, to witness first-hand what has been described as one of the “Seven Garbage Wonders of the World.” At the moment, there are 70 large ships beached like dead whales on the sands of Alang, where they are being dismantled for the reprocessing of their valuable steel. Shipbreaking is easy on neither the environment, nor the workers.
Continue reading ‘Alang: Shipbreaking, Salvage, and Environmental Issues’

Trash on the Tracks

Indian Railways Trash

A few years ago, I was riding in open-seating on a short-haul train between major metros. The precise place doesn’t much matter; this scene could have played itself out anywhere. I was by the window, and in the window seat across from me sat an obviously affluent, middle-aged woman. She was snacking incessantly throughout the journey. As she finished each morsel, she would casually toss its plastic bag or wrapper out the open window. When she purchased a cup of chai from the passing chai-wallah, it was a safe bet that the plastic cup would also be headed out the window.

It was more than I could stand; and though it was not premeditated, when she aimed the cup out the window, I instinctively reached out and caught it, scalding my hand with the remains of the chai in the process. The woman was shocked and angry, and lashed out at me. What the hell was I doing? She was simply disposing of trash!
Continue reading ‘Trash on the Tracks’

Garbage. Shit!

Trash in the Pondicherry Canal

Fred Hsu, who has just returned to the states from India, raises an interesting issue on his blog today, when he wonders whether India will be able to “retain its rich culture” in the face of the sea of filth that its people wade through each day. It seems to me the Indian waste problem is as much a function of culture as an enemy of it.

The sad fact is: the overwhelming (OVERWHELMING!) majority of Indians are habituated to garbage in the streets, in parks — in any place that is not their private domain. No one seems to mind walking through it, and certainly none seem to give a second thought to contibuting to it.  Littering is an activity as common and casual as drawing breath.  There is an absolute disconnect here between compulsive personal hygiene and the utter lack of public hygiene. When Deepak Chopra declaims that, despite its rich, visible, and celebrated history, “India is not a spiritual country,” I think of this discrepancy as Exhibit A.
Continue reading ‘Garbage. Shit!’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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