Friday, September 02, 2005

Of Deepak Chopra, tsunami's, New Orleans

[Link] Follow the link to Deepak Chopra's post on the New Orleans tragedy. He makes a lot of comments that I had problems with. I have reproduced his entire post here for convenience along with my comments.

The blog "Intent Blog" is great source for 'food for thought' kind of posts with Deepak Chopra making bulk of the contributions along with many other celebrities such as Shekar kapur, nandita Das, Anil Dash etc. Check it out!

Deepak Chopra says -
New Orleans is a monumental and heart wrenching tragedy which maybe impossible to comprehend and come to terms with.

Our hearts go out to all those that suffer while life goes on as normal for the rest of us. Let us do everything to help those in need in whatever way we can, because the immediate need in the face of a disaster like the New Orleans flood is to offer every form of aid and compassion that can be mustered. But in the back of many people's minds is a lurking apprehension that grows larger every year.

The annual floods in Bangladesh have always seemed far away, as did the torrential monsoon last month in Bombay that crippled the city and killed hundreds. Hurricanes come closer to home, and the destruction wrought by Katrina is almost beyond comprehension, for it occurred with the same fury as the South Asian tsunami. Whole communities have been wiped out of existence, and the prospect of a major American city being under water for weeks or months feels as if Third World calamity, like those faraway Turkish and Iranian earthquakes that kill thousands without causing a ripple in America, has suddenly arrived here.

Both Katrina and the tsunami are forcing us to globalize our thinking under crisis conditions. Instead of approaching global warming positively, we are facing it the hard way, by enduring droughts, floods, and extreme natural disasters in general. No one knows to what extent any of these events is connected to human activity. It seems that global warming is playing its part in the increased force of hurricanes; one cannot find a similar connection to tsunamis, which are more like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but devout believers in the Gaia hypothesis have conjectured that perhaps our war against Nature is causing these responses from the planet.

I have no interest in metaphysical explanations here, and I would never join those religionists who will inevitably begin to mutter about God's retribution and premonitions of the End Time. But the fact that we are at war against Nature seems undeniable.

Katrina, we are told, would have been less devastating if local developers had not been destroying the marshlands that protect New Orleans from the fury of storms. But this ecological barrier was deemed unnecessary, and wetlands have been disappearing around the city at a rate of an acre every 24 minutes.

The war against Nature has been launched on many fronts:

--Abolishing native plant species in favor of overplanting the same few crops: wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans.

--Exploiting fossil fuels without regard for their environmental effects.

--Polluting the ocean to the extent that half the world's coral reefs are immediately in danger.

--Diverting and damming rivers without regard to the ecology or human needs downstream.

--Eliminating wild lands and forests by stripping them of all vegetation.

When Thoreau made his famous comment, "In wildness is the preservation of the world," he had no idea of the alarming rate at which human beings would mistake short-term gratification for successful living. The environmental argument has been well addressed in hundreds of places, and perhaps the stridency of ecological alarmists has numbed the public to what's going on, leaving an opening for President Bush and other anti-environmentalists to deliver the reassuring message, "Nothing's wrong. Go back to whatever you were doing."

I think New Orleans will stick indelibly in our national consciousness as stark evidence that the war against Nature has to be ended. The choice is more clear cut than ever, and one only hopes that international cooperation is in the offing, since we are no longer apart from the so-called Third World in enduring intolerable calamity.

My comments are below -

1. we, as you have, extend our heartfelt wishes to the affected families.

2. maybe I didn't catch your drift when you talked about "third world disasters" but it seemed to me that you did so with an air of a "we are a developed nation, we are above all the riff raff and nothing can touch us, better than the best" attitude that makes small of hundreds of people dying elsewhere as it doesn't mean anything to american interests. And now, disaster of such colossal magnitude (as the tsunami) has brought home death and destruction akin to the afflictions of the "third world" and you feel victimized by it? I disagree with the whole tone of your argument - "the prospect of a major American city being under water for weeks or months feels as if Third World calamity, like those faraway Turkish and Iranian earthquakes that kill thousands without causing a ripple in America, has suddenly arrived here.". Your closing argument is more humble but I still find an elitist element to it - "The choice is more clear cut than ever, and one only hopes that international cooperation is in the offing, since we are no longer apart from the so-called Third World in enduring intolerable calamity". I am confused and would like you to explain yourself better. As I said, maybe I misread you here but I would live to have this sorted out.

3. Though I agree with you and note with appreciation the thought that disasters are forcing us to globalize our crisis management, I fail to see the validity/applicability of the sudden inclusion of global warming into your case for war against nature especially when global warming is not the only consequence of unbridled human expansion and exploration.

4. "Instead of approaching global warming positively, we are facing it the hard way, by enduring droughts, floods, and extreme natural disasters in general." By approach positively you must mean corrective measures to counteract eons of our destructive way of life? Even in the case that we go about our lives destroying nature's fabric with impunity, your argument seems to suggest that we are running into hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis etc as a matter of choice between being good or face hardships if not. Then you go on to say that you will never take up rank with dooms day religionists (a view that I share) and the rest of your argument seems to suggest that you subscribe to the viewpoint of the Gaia principle though you haven't explicitly sided with that school of thought

5. I second your notion that the general public has been numbed by the continuity of dire predictions by environmentalists and may not fully appreciate our destructive way of life.

1 comment:

Z said...

liked your comments! agree with most of them.