Cars and Climate Change

The term ‘climate change‘ is parodied around by current global media outlets at a mind boggling rate. It’s become so frequent that it mostly bounces off the collective mindsets of commoners like me. However, it does affect the lives of billions of people on our planet. The issue is that we can’t link this up to our individual scale of existence and often pass it up. 

What is climate change ? To a layman like me it’s the mother term encompassing global warming*, CO₂ emissions**, air pollution and other such ills. Climate change extends over a longer period of time. Its the climate, dummy ! Not weather. It means disruptions in climate patterns caused by human factors such as CO₂ emissions.

So, here we go :- CO₂ emissions cause Global Warming and this leads to Climate Change. These are all intertwined together in a death like grip.

I would dare say that a lot of people make a living by foisting climate change and related issues on international forums. This is not bad per se, but action at the ground level remains woefully short of promises. One wishes otherwise, rather than the same old meaningless and drab summits with people vying for media photo ops. 

What is the trigger for this rant of mine ? I have plenty of beef spinach in this. Go vegan ! For starters I am very sensitive to vehicle emissions and to add to my woes, my nose can smell out the difference between clean and polluted air. That’s what our noses are for, isn’t it ? My troubles started during the nineteen eighties when I was a teenager living in various North Indian metro cities, but mostly New Delhi .  I remember going down with severe allergy symptoms almost regularly, usually worsening further into full blown severe cold and cough. Of late I have discovered that this was due to increasing levels of vehicular and industrial air pollution particularly from coal fired thermal plants which releases CO₂ and other harmful elements into the air. 

There is data to support this :-

The CO₂ emission data is now quantified in terms of per capita, and you can see from the chart in the link above that the per capita emission zooms off after 1978-79, with every Indian contributing nearly 2 tonnes of CO₂ emission as of 2016.

To cut a long story short, most of my life was spent in dealing with allergy and cold issues, till I discovered Ayurveda*** in Kanpur, my present city of residence. It wasn’t hard to link my condition to air pollution. By this time Air Quality Index statistics are available online for most of our Indian metros. We are now regularly crossing the hazardous air limit indices in metros of North India, with the rest of the country averaging poor or below average air quality.   Here is the latest addition to my cluttered room :- 


testAn air filter used with the filter already blackened after a few hours of usage. Seems like carbon soot formation on the filter, not sure. My city has air pollution levels that are well above the norm.

Air pollution to me then, is what ties us as individuals to climate change. Air pollution in my part of the world is mostly due to transport emissions, since industrialisation here is not significant. Thanks to our corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy, business and industry growth remains stunted in India. The result is that heavy industries which pump major pollutants into the air are few. For once we can credit our babus ( a term used here for bureaucrats ) to keep some pollution in check.

There are no large industrial units near my city, but we do have millions of vehicles plying our roads on a daily basis. Regarding other modes of transport, we don’t have a heavy duty airport nearby, and most of our railroad traffic runs on electrified power lines. So, I am going to narrow this down further to road transportation.

That brings us to the revised contribution chain in the context of my region, Road Transport pollution –> Air pollution –> CO₂ emissions –> Global Warming –> Climate Change i.e. road transport contributes to air pollution and that contributes to CO₂ emissions and so on.

Transportation is a major source of air pollution as well as that of climate change. This has been stated by environment agencies around the globe.****

Coming back to climate change, a major cause — global warming, results in rapid ice cap melting around the Poles, consequently rising sea levels threaten vulnerable sea island nations like Maldives and sea delta inundated ones like Bangladesh. Climate change has also impacted agriculture globally.^ There are national level data sets available online to study this impact.

The solution is to go green, reduce our carbon footprint^^ and chose lifestyles that lessen this downward spiral of worsening climate change. As for me, I have started shunning petrol/diesel driven cars/SUV’s as much as possible, with my multi terrain bicycle being a constant companion and a major source of transport. The influx of battery driven electric rickshaws here has been a welcome change and I often use these to move around. 

My best guess is this, if each one of us does make a modest effort in cutting back our carbon footprint, we will be making life much easier for ourselves and for our future generations. 



*Global Warming :- Gas emissions like that of CO₂ act like a blanket, trapping heat in the atmosphere contributing to a rise in global temperatures.

**CO₂ emissions :-  Happen from burning oil, coal and gas for energy use. 

***Ayrurveda :- An Indian medicine system that lays emphasis on diet, healthy living and medicines derived mostly from herbs and plants.

**** Carbon Pollution from Transportation :- via @EPA


^^Carbon footprint :- The sum total of Carbon emissions caused by our individual activity.

अंडमान — धर्ती पर स्वर्ग

अंग्रेज़ शासकों की क्रूरता इतिहास के पन्नों मे समा गयी है — यह वाक्य अतीत के पन्नों मे से होकर अंडमान द्वीप के पोर्ट ब्लेयर स्थित सेल्युलर जेल मे जैसे झूठा सा हो जाता है। अगर आप अंडमान-निकोबार ( संक्षेप मे अंडमान ) के रमणीय टापूओं को पर्यटन की दृष्टि से देखें, तो यह कहना अनुचित न होगा कि अंडमान भारत का एक अनमोल मोती है। सामरिक सुरक्षा की दृष्टि से भी अंडमान का महत्व बहुत बड़ा है। पिछ्ले वर्ष समुद्री गोताखोरी के सिलसिले मे मुझे अंडमान घूमने का अवसर मिला था।

अंडमान द्वीप समूह केंद्र शासित प्रदेश है और इसकी राजधानी पोर्ट ब्लेयर किसी आधुनिक नगर से कम नही है। अंडमान द्वीप पहुँचने के लिये भार्तीय महासमूह से सागर अथवा हवाई रास्ते से होकर आया जा सकता है। पोर्ट ब्लेयर का वीर सावरकर हवाई अड्डा अंडमान का एकमात्र हवाई अड्डा है।

IMG_20170406_104036                                         हवाई यात्रा — अंडमान आते वक्त दीपों का सुंदर दृश्य

अंडमान मे कई एक टापू हैं। यहाँ कई वन जनजातियाँ भी हैं जो सैकड़ों वर्षों से यहाँ निवास कर रहीं हैं। इन आदिवासियों को सरकारी संरक्षण प्राप्त है जैसे की सेंटिनेल, ओंगोनेल और जरावा जन जातियाँ। अंडमान की राजधानी पोर्ट ब्लेयर मे सेल्युलर जेल काला पानी के भयावह इतिहास को एक बार फिर सजीव कर देता है।

IMG_20170412_161211                                                       सेल्युलर जेल के अंदर का दृश्य

सेल्युलर जेल अवशय देखें और अपने वीर स्वतंत्रता सेनानियों के बलिदान को नमन करें। पोर्ट ब्लेयर के निकट चिड़िया टापू है, जो वन जीव अभ्यारण भी है, इसके अलावा पोर्ट ब्लेयर से हवेलोक और नील द्वीपों के लिये आधुनिक नौकायान उप्लब्ध हैं। यह फीनिक्स बंदरगाह से नीयमित समय पर इन द्वीपों के लिये प्रस्थान करते हैं।

समुद्री गोताखोरी के लिये हवेलोक टापू मे कई एक प्रक्षिण केंद्र हैं, मैने अपना आरम्भिक गोताखोरी प्रक्षिण यहीं से उत्तीर्ण किया था। इसके अलावा हवेलोक मे समुद्री मोटरबोट सैर, हेलिकोप्टर सैर और वन क्षेत्र का भ्रमण भी किया जा सकता है।

IMG_20170408_061332                            समुद्री गोताखोरी के लिये नाँव पर ओक्सिजेन सिलिंडर चढ़ाये जा रहे हैं

यह मै अवश्य कहना चाहूँगा कि अंडमान आना-जाना और वहाँ ठहरना आपको महँगा पड़ सकता है; अगर आप अकस्मात ही वहाँ जाने की योजना बनायें। २-३ महीने पहिले से अगर आप अपना प्रोग्राम बना ले तो यह बजट मे पूरा हो सकता है।

                               हवेलोक द्वीप के निकट समुद्री गोताखोरी का मेरा एक संक्षिप्त वीडियो

अब और क्या कहुँ ? अगर हो सके तो अंडमान घूमने का प्रोग्राम अवशय बनायें।

Predatory Evangelism

Before getting into this controversial issue I would like to emphasise that I am not against evangelism, but it should be within the bounds of decency. A lot of Indians like me have seen evangelism of the brash American/Western sort being pushed in our faces here. This makes us uncomfortable.

For the sake of brevity, it should be plain and clear to people when others say ‘NO’ once. However, people of some faiths seldom stop at that and continue to push their agendas even going to the the extent of threatening violence and intimidation.

The recent case of an American missionary being tragically killed on an isolated island in the Andaman Island chain is the trigger for this topic. Refer Google for this, it’s a few days old. The Andaman islands have seen plenty of evangelism of the ‘forced’ kind under British rule and then voluntarily under democratic Indian administration too. The Government here has made it pretty clear that the North Sentinel Islands* in the Andamans are off limits and this is because of good reason i.e. the isolated tribe there has refused outside human contact. They have also previously attacked and killed people who tried to get friendly with them. However this loud and resonating ‘NO’ probably hits a wall with some people.

The media here has wrongly portrayed this as laxity on the part of Indian authorities. Authorities can do little when people try to sneak up to the islands behind their backs. The isolated tribe is at great risk when they do come into contact with outsiders who can carry germs and infections against which the Sentinelese do not have any immunity. But, that again doesn’t reach up to the heads of some folks.


Getting ready for scuba diving early morning, Havelock Island, Andaman

By the way, we are trying to preserve this microcosm of a prehistoric culture; by some calculations as old as 60,000 years, on the Sentinel islands. So it would be deeply appreciated if people stop being saviours and just be human instead. Also the rest of the Andaman islands are worth visiting and there are some good scuba diving spots there. I completed my SSI Open Water Scuba Diving certification from DiveIndia, Havelock island, so I can vouch for the pristine beauty of the Andamans and the excellent dive spots there.


Andaman islands from the air, on the way to Port Blair, Veer Savarkar airport. Port Blair is the administrative capital of Andaman Islands.*

Garbage Recycling

It was always a pain to watch litter strewn across roadsides, rivers and waterways. Most of it is of course — PLASTIC, the ubiquitous cancer of this world. Besides plastic there are beer, soda cans and everything else you can imagine. Most of this is thrown out by vehicle/motorbike drivers who couldn’t care less if they had to throw it across your face. They are that brazen !!

For a cyclist like me, it is more painful cause I have to slog several kilometres to get to a scenic spot, only to find it soiled with garbage. Hence, I decided to put some of this garbage to good use. Maybe, people reading this can clean up some of the mess that humanity is getting into. Be a recycling champ and save some money too !

Soda Tin can being used as a electronics tool container, logo blacked out.

Plastic soda/sweet soft drink bottle being used as a wire container, cut up at the top. Logo blacked out.
Beer can being used as a container to hold various electronic tools and wires

Most soda/beer tin cans are thin enough to be cut with normal scissors, but you do need a craft knife to cut out the top. Please be careful while cutting tin cans or you may end up getting a nasty nick, the cutting has to be even and scissors can be used to get an even finish. Jagged ends can be taped as a safety precaution. 

Yoga — No Pretzels Here

Yoga is an ancient Indian form of physical practice. The common man’s definition — yoga involves physical postures and poses that help relax the body, stretch rigid muscles and improve blood circulation. Worse come to worst you end up being a pretzel with limbs winding around your torso. Ok, that was a joke.

To aspiring sports enthusiasts like me yoga is a tremendous exercise to loosen up those taut rigid muscles and improve breathing techniques. I remember starting off yoga in a rush and ending up with discomfort. Yoga is not meant to be played around with. This was a few years back. Down the tunnel of time, I have learned a few things about yoga. Just wanted to share this with the reader. By the way, this article is not going to be a compendium on yoga as I am no yoga instructor or expert. It’s just a few tips on how to go about yoga in a better fashion.


                     Yoga is all about getting your breathing and your posture right.*

That’s lesson number one. Yoga is not meant to be an activity where you do your split leg stance at the first go or happen to have your legs snaking up your torso and the feet jutting out next to your head. Start off with the easiest yogic postures and be relaxed while going about it. It’s more like giving your body a break that it desires. The man in the pic up there has the right cross legged sitting posture, including the arms and fingers. That is a pranayama posture and is a good way to start off on your yoga trail.

The first thing your body needs is slow relaxed breathing and the pranayama posture helps you attain this. Breathe in slowly using your expanding belly to fill in air and then give out a slow relaxed exhale, while contracting your belly. Several variations of pranayama exist. But, your focus should be on easy relaxed breathing. This is important. People start off by breathing fast or holding their breath too long and this can result in complications for some people, like those having high blood pressure.

Lesson number two; if your body is groaning while going into a yogic posture, you are overdoing it and should stop it. Don’t do it even if a yoga instructor is trying to make you take up that posture, have seen this resulting in injury. People with a prior history of joint or spinal injuries are particularly susceptible. Even if you were injury free, it takes years of practice and diet control to get to the point of being a pretzel. Yes, you heard it right, diet control leading to a slimmer physique helps with yogic flexibility.

Which brings me to lesson number three; yoga and simple living are closely tied. Simple living and yoga complement each other tremendously. The simple living principle entails good food and sleep habits. It means checking back with your body almost continuously. Am I sitting at the computer too long ? Maybe that is why my neck is complaining ? Time to take a break and some neck, arm flexibility exercises. There is no gain if you are abusing your body several hours a day, gorge on fatty and sugary stuff, have poor sleep patterns and then hope that yoga would sort all that out.

That wraps up this article on how to go about yoga. You don’t even have to be formal about yoga, just do it where ever you can. Follow this up with more exercises, slowly increasing the tempo and listening to your body all the while. There is a wealth of information on the internet. In addition I will be starting off a video series on ‘simple yoga’ shortly. If you do have pre-existing medical conditions or a history of serious injury, then, you would require a certified yoga instructor and would also need to consult a qualified physician from time to time.

Do keep checking back for more on this !

*Photo by Ruslan Alekso from Pexels